NBA Playoff Contenders

NBA Playoff Contenders

Dylan Pulver

In today’s NBA league, there are the teams that will fare well in the Playoffs, there are the Finals contenders, and then there are the Miami Heat. While many suspect that the Heat, who recently won 27 games in a row, a record second only to the 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers’ 33-game winning streak, will go on to win the 2013 NBA Championship, the Heat are certainly not the only team gunning for an NBA title. Here is a look at what winning the 2013 NBA Finals would mean for some of the league’s top teams:

Miami Heat: No, the Heat are not a one-and-done team. Pat Riley’s master plan of bringing the likes of LeBron James and Chris Bosh together with Dwyane Wade has worked and solidified this Miami Heat core as one of the most successful groups the league has seen since Michael Jordan left Chicago once and for all. In addition, LeBron has almost solidified himself as one of the NBA’s top 10 greats ever, with many more years of basketball ahead of him to make that fact.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Who says that you can’t make a great NBA team from scratch anymore? Sam Presti, with the help of his scouts, has put together arguably one of the NBA’s greatest young teams ever, with 24-year-olds Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as its centerpieces. Despite trading James Harden, who has become a superstar with the Houston Rockets, the Thunder have still been able to win it all, starting what could perhaps become a dynasty for this relatively new franchise. And, Kevin Durant will now start to be considered among the likes of the greatest players ever, and as more than just a scorer.

San Antonio Spurs: Who knew that the San Antonio Spurs, led by their “Big 3” of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, had one more title in them?  After losing to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, at the start of the last two seasons, the Spurs were counted out of the main-title contender pool. But in each of those seasons, they proved their doubters wrong, as they defied old age to make it far in the playoffs. This title, both the Spurs’ and Duncan’s fifth, solidifies Duncan as the greatest power forward of all time, and proves coach Gregg Popovich’s continuous excellence.

And how about some teams that are less likely to win it all, just for kicks?

Denver Nuggets: After losing Danilo Gallinari for the season, no one thought that these Nuggets could pull it together. But their team-style play and dominant offense won it all. NBA G.M.s are starting to take notice, and as opposed to building around one superstar, some teams might try to bring many solid players together and emphasize team basketball, just as George Karl has been doing with these Nuggets for a while now. Speaking of Karl, it is his first NBA title after so many tries, and he can now be safely talked about as one of the all-time best NBA coaches. Trading Carmelo Anthony away brought them great

assets in Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, allowed Ty Lawson to strut his stuff and led to the eventual trades for Andre Miller, JaVale McGee and Andre Iguodala, all of whom make this Denver team more than it ever was with Carmelo.

Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies only need a strong start and a strong finish. In a season filled with trade rumors and the eventual departure of perennial All-Star snub Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies gritty defense and trust in one another has led to the franchise’s first championship. In an era when teams are beginning to experiment with smaller lineups, the Grizzlies dominant front line of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have proved that two bigs beat one, especially when one (Randolph) rebounds like it is nobody else’s business and the other (Gasol) can pass out of the paint like almost no other center in the league.

Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have a long way to go if they want to catch up to the Lakers’ titles, but having one banner to hang up on the Staples Center’s rafters is not bad at all, right? Chris Paul has led a former laughingstock of the NBA to its first championship, and the former Wake Forest player can now move up from being considered one of today’s best point guards to one of the NBA’s best point guards ever. In addition, Blake Griffin will be seen as one of the league’s most dominant bigs, as opposed to just a one-man dunk show and an overrated overall player.

New York Knicks: Ah, how that Larry O’Brien championship trophy would shine under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. The Knicks’ roster moves that brought them back to contender status, such as the signing of Amar’e Stoudemire in the 2010 offseason, the trading of a Pu Pu platter of talent for one of the league’s best scorers in Carmelo Anthony and even the decision to bulk up on veteran experience in the 2012 offseason, are now all worth it. New York could have its first NBA championship since the dominant Knicks of the early 1970s. And now Carmelo Anthony, who has been criticized by many for being just a scorer and not being able to take his game up a notch, can be viewed alongside Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant as one of the truly elite ballers in recent history.

Indiana Pacers: After coming so close but never obtaining an NBA title with Reggie Miller, and a long rebuilding period from 2003-2010, the Pacers have finally made it. Paul George’s rise to superstardom is not even finished, and the Pacers have already won it all. Their lock-down defense, headed by the frontcourt of George, David West and Roy Hibbert, has shaken up opponent after opponent, and is the main cause for this Indiana championship. Who knows how many more championships the Pacers will reach with the combination of these elements?