Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NBA Defenders, Contenders & Pretenders

According to a recent Page 2 article by ESPN's Bill Simmons, there's a clear six-team list for this season's NBA title contenders: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavs, LA Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz & New Orleans Hornets. Simmons contends that the Celts, Cavs & Lakers are high probability with the other 3 less likely to win it all.

Defenders: Moreso than last season, Boston is playing with targets on the players' backs as reigning NBA champions. The Celtics have just 2 losses this season and seem to be on pace for a possible return, once again plowing through competition. Many analysts questioned whether not holding on to James Posey would hurt the team. They still have the big 3, an emerging Rajon Rondo, and last year's success to build upon.

Contenders: If you peruse through the latest NBA standings, the Lakers are ahead of the pack with a 12-1 record, and are on fire this season. Most likely they are still hungry after losing to Boston in the Finals, and with Andrew Bynum's return they are definitely improved in the paint. The also have that pesky #24, the reigning MVP, Mr. Kobe "Killer Instinct" Bryant..

Then comes the Cavs, and we all know that Lebron continues to lead the way in Cleveland along with his supporting cast. Not only that, but he is going to be the most sought-after free agent in some time and is under constant scrutiny to perform. Most free agents up the level of their game, and Lebron is constantly on the rise. The Knicks recently cleaned up their pricey roster for a chance at acquiring the young phenom. Expect Lebron's Cavs to give the Celtics serious challenges come playoff time as Lebron continues improving, which is scary at his age and level of talent.

Simmons mentions that the Hornets seem to be faltering, making them the possible Western Conference pretenders. He argues that perhaps the team isn't in love with coach Byron Scott anymore. ">Read the full article here

In addition to Simmons' 6 contenders mentioned, you could argue that there's several teams in the league capable of getting hot near playoff time. The Lakers 1 loss came at the hands of the Pistons who now enjoy the services of one Allen Iverson. The Mavs are on a 6 game win streak right now, and they were in the Finals several years ago. Dirk is a former MVP while Kidd was nearly a former MVP. There's also the new-look Nuggets with Billups at point guard, the new look Rockets with Artest helping on D, and those Phoenix Suns with good ol' Shaq & Nash.

If the NBA playoffs started today, here's the teams competing:

Eastern Conference:

1) Boston 13-2
2) Cleveland 11-3
3) Orlando 10-4
4) Detroit 8-5
5) Atlanta 8-5
6) Miami 7-7
7) Philadelphia 7-7
8) New York 7-7

Western Conference:

1) L.A. Lakers 12-1
2) Houston 10-5
3) Denver 9-5
4) Phoenix 10-5
5) New Orleans 8-5
6) Utah 9-6
7) Portland 9-6
8) San Antonio 7-6

Perhaps the Knicks have the most to be thankful come Thanksgiving 2008; a .500 record, a chance at the playoffs, and a major chance at landing King James in a season or so.

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