Meet the contenders for the NBA title

Kevin Durant

A look at the teams in the mix for the NBA title as we approach the annual All-Star break, which takes place next weekend in Orlando.

There are really only two teams in the Eastern Conference with a legit chance of winning the tile … as of today:

Front-runners

You can hate the Heat all you want, but you can’t argue the fact that they’re probably the best team in the NBA, and that’s with injuries too. They just swept a back-to-back-to-back on the road by 15-plus points each. Ho hum.
 
The Thunder have to be the favorite out of the West, and with guys like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, it’s easy to see why. Those two are great, but it’s the supporting cast — James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, and Kendrick Perkins — that will put them over the top.
 
If it’s Bulls vs. Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, nobody will be surprised. Chicago is solid across the board, have the best record in the East, and now play 12 out of the next 16 at home. They’ll need a healthy Derrick Rose though.

After a rocky start to the season, the defending champ Mavericks look to be back on track. It’s just a matter of time before the Lamar Odom trade starts paying huge dividends. And don’t forget Dirk Nowitzki either — one of the all-time great scoring power forwards.

Puncher’s chance

The Sixers were thought to be decent, but this good? It’s true. The second unit, or “The Night Shift” of Thadeus Young, Louis Williams, and Evan Turner has separated the Sixers from the pretenders. They are extremely deep, and it will show in the postseason.
 
You would be crazy to write off the Lakers. They’ve got maybe the best frontcourt in the NBA with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and Kobe Bryant is somehow still at the top of his game. Trading for a point guard could be the missing piece.
 
“Lob City” has lived up to the hype so far, and if the Clippers can stay healthy, athleticism alone is enough to shoot them to the Western Conference finals. With Chris Paul and two beasts in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, they can win any given night.
 
There are many questions ahead, for the Knicks, but mainly, “Can Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony coexist?” The answer better be yes, because they lucked out with Lin. He won’t keep up this pace, but he’s the point guard they desperately needed and he saved Mike D’Antoni’s job. Add on Amar’e Stoudemire, and the Knicks could make serious noise.



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