Let’s just acknowledge what everyone else is thinking — this year’s NBA championship is for the Miami Heat’s taking. Nothing significant has changed from last year, when they rolled to an easy victory over Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals. If anything, the Heat have gotten better, as referenced by their jaw-dropping winning streak down the final stretch of the year.
Could someone else steal the title this year? Crazier things have happened. If that does happen, these are the teams that are going to do it.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
If the postseason plays out like most pundits are expecting it to, we will see a rematch in the NBA Finals between the Thunder and Heat. The Heat squashed the Thunder in last year’s series 4-1, but that was a younger, greener, Oklahoma City team. While it certainly did not help that the Thunder lost top-notch sixth man James Harden, they still have arguably the most effective player in the NBA in Kevin Durant. This is in addition to shifty point guard Russell Westbrook and solid inside guys. They match up the best with Heat, and if they reach the Finals, will definitely give Lebron James and his crew a better run for their money.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
You can’t discount experience when it comes to the postseason. And, when it comes to experience, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli have pretty much made their living in the postseason. The Spurs do not play for the regular season — they place all the emphasis on the postseason, even if it means giving their studs prolonged periods of rest much to the dismay of the NBA. San Antonio has taken a 2-0 lead on the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers but will have their hands full with younger, quicker teams like Golden State and Oklahoma City.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Speaking of the Warriors, Golden State gets our nod for the upset special. Generally, it is not wise to trust teams that live and die by the 3-point shot. However, when you shoot it as well as Steph Curry and the Warriors, you can start believing. The Warriors put on a shooting clinic when they split 1-1 at Denver. The probability that this team has what it takes to reach the finals is rather far-fetched, but anything is possible if they keep pouring it in the way that they are.
NEW YORK KNICKS
A lot of NBA enthusiasts have labeled the New York Knicks as a one-trick pony, led by Carmelo Anthony. While Anthony is certainly the key cog for the Knicks, he is surrounded by an athletic, talented, and most importantly, an underrated supporting cast. New York has taken a 2-0 lead on an aging Boston team, and if they survive the Celtics, should not have a problem taking care of the winner between Indiana and Atlanta. That would set up a match with New York and Miami in the semifinals. We’ve seen this story before, and know how it plays out…but if New York can get hot, they could steal the series.