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5 Teams with Best Chance to Win It All

By Jesse C.

With the Lakers balling out right now and blowing everyone else out of the water recently, I do not have much to report. However, with all NBA teams playing close to 15 games, we are about a fifth of the way through the season. I know we've heard all of the talking heads on ESPN with their championship predictions, which seem to change everyday with whatever team is looking good at the time. I am going to give you my own Top 5 after 15 games, and barring major injury to one of these teams, they won't change as the season goes on. The best teams are the best teams, I feel, and we have now seen enough to gauge who the best are. Here is something that you can confidently bet on and actually take to the bank:

1) Lakers--They got off to a rather fast start even without Gasol. Now that he's playing, they are really putting a hurting on their opponents. With Bynum back to his pre-injury form from last year, they are a match-up problem for everyone. The one question coming into the year was whether Artest could blend-in with the rest of the team. He's been looking good thus far and the chemistry is there.

2) Boston--They have not looked great as of late, but 11-4 is not a bad start. Rasheed Wallace seems to fit-in nicely and their interior defense was even better than it was before KG got hurt. With their other off-season addition, Marquis Daniels, also playing well, they have the depth and toughness to get back on top in the East. Although many feel the Big 3 is getting long in the tooth, as long as they can stay healthy, they will be playing the Lakers in the Finals.

3) Orlando--I'm sure some would argue that Atlanta should be here, as they always seem to give the Celtics plenty of trouble. However, Orlando challenged the Lakers in the finals without their All-Star point guard, Jameer Nelson. They added another All-Star in Vince Carter and a key reserves in Brandon Bass, Ryan Anderson, and Matt Barnes. Although they will miss the versatility of Turkoglu (now in Toronto), they now have improved depth and are better defensively. Nelson's recent injury does set them back a little, but he is only supposed to be out for 4-6 weeks--plenty of time before the playoffs start. Rashard Lewis still presents a match-up problem for just about every other team in the league, and when Dwight Howard is playing his best, he is pretty much unstoppable.

4) Atlanta--This position came down to either the Nuggets or the Hawks. The Hawks get the nod because they have a much better chance of competing with the Celtics and Magic for seven games than the Nuggets do with the Lakers. The Hawks have the size and athleticism to compete with just about anybody (although I think the Lakers would beat them in 5 games if the Hawks did make it to the Finals). Jamal Crawford was a great addition for them as he gives them another big-time scorer who can create his own shot. If Atlanta can end up with home court advantage, both Boston and Orlando really need to watch out. The main problem for the Hawks is that they always seem to have problems against Cleveland, but they have a much better chance of beating the Magic and the Celtics than the Cavs do.

5) Denver--The Nuggets have come out this year with a chip on their shoulder. They came out strong right out of the gate and have not slowed down at all. They looked great even without J.R. Smith and he just adds to their ability to score. Arron Afflalo does make a huge difference for them as he is an outstanding perimeter defender. They also made the deal of this year's draft, trading up to get Ty Lawson. Lawson looked faster than anyone else on the court while in college; now that he's in the NBA, it pretty much looks the same. Despite all this, they have little chance of beating the Lakers in a seven-game series. Unless Kobe is injured or the Lakers suffer a series of other key injuries, the Nuggets getting past them just isn't going to happen this year.

I'll admit that some teams in the NBA will improve as the season goes on and others may fall from grace. However, these 5 teams currently have the best chance of winning the NBA title and I don't expect anything to change by the end of the season. Cleveland may be a trendy pick to make it to the Finals but they did not do enough in the off-season to improve their team. Shaq's a nice addition for them but he can't play all that many minutes. They need another shooter that can light it up from the perimeter as well as upgrades on their frontline. In the Western Conference, Portland, Dallas, and Phoenix all look good. However, none of them are as good as Denver, and like the Nuggets, none of them have much of a chance against the Lakers in the playoffs. San Antonio is one of the teams that will improve as the season goes on, but they are still long in the tooth despite the additions of Richard Jefferson and Dejuan Blair.

My prediction for the NBA Finals: Lakers in 6 games no matter who they play, maybe less.


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