The NBA Playoffs this season may turn out to be one of the most competitive in a while. While there are the obvious favorites, the rest of the playoff field may be able to flex their muscles a bit when time comes around, and show why they deserve a shot at the coveted NBA championship.
Strongest Contenders: 1 Miami Heat, 2 New York Knicks
These are two of the top teams in the NBA right now. They also have two of the best players in the league. One is the reigning champion. The other won their first playoff game in a decade last season. One is the favorite to win it all. The other is expected to choke in crunch time during their series. This just goes to show how alike these two teams are, but also shows their contrasting natures. Yes, some predict the Knicks to lose to the Celtics in the first round, believing that they still don’t have what it takes to be a true championship-caliber team. The way Carmelo Anthony has recently been playing should show otherwise. If he is able to play the way he did in the final 10 games of the regular season in the playoffs, the New York Knicks may have a legitimate chance of going far.
The Heat, on the other hand, are playing their best ball ever during the Big 3 Era. They are so good, they were able to win a game against the Orlando Magic with Juwan Howard starting, and that’s saying something. This may be the most depth a Miami bench has had since the 2006 championship season, with players like James Posey, Alonzo Mourning, and Gary Payton on the bench. This season, the Heat’s bench is loaded with sharpshooters, including Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier. They also have key defensive players on the bench, such as second year PG Norris Cole, and Centers Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Joel Anthony. Such depth will give Miami the advantage they need to repeat as world champions.
Underdog: 6 Chicago Bulls
They may not seem like an underdog to many, but in my eyes they are. Anytime the Bulls are without Derrick Rose, I consider them an underdog. There are rumors that Rose may try to make a return during the playoffs, though this is highly unlikely. If I were him, I would take advantage of the offseason and use as more time to train and heal. But if he does happen to comeback, it would heighten the Bulls chances of going deep in the playoffs so much more. Even without D-Rose, the Bulls have been playing excellent basketball. They were also able to end two late season winning streaks by the Heat and Knicks. Led by Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls are the best pick for an upset in this year’s NBA Playoffs.
Non-Contender: 8 Milwaukee Bucks
There honestly is just no hope for this Bucks team. They have to face the best team in the NBA for their first round match-up. It would be a miracle if they are able to pull off one win against Miami. Having some solid players such as Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, you would think the Bucks would have a shot. But we are the talking about the 2012-13 Miami Heat, owners of the best player in basketball right now, the second best winning streak in NBA history, and the 6th best winning percentage in NBA history. It would take a great deal of extraordinary basketball to defeat Miami.
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