The 2013 NBA season is in full swing and has already provided fans with the usual basketball excitement of buzzer beaters, fast break throw downs, blocked shots, and the occasional flagrant two foul. Yet I can’t keep saying to myself, when do the playoffs start? I’m all for the NBA “where amazing happens” in which every game can provide a new level of excitement, but it gets to the point where some teams just produce a level of mediocracy that you want to see the real contenders face off against each other. This poses the question of, who are the real contenders?
I consider a contender to be any team with a very good chance of making a deep playoff run, which means they make it to their respective conference finals. This means that there are really only four contenders in this league, more or less, that are actually competing for a championship. The other 26 teams are just filler, there to showcase the little talent the team has and provide entertainment for the spectators that attend and watch their games. Yes, the playoffs consist of sixteen teams, eight per conference, yet half of these teams probably don’t belong in the same breath as the top seated teams, considering these are not one playoff games. Sure, a team like the Wizards can sneak in a win against a team like Miami once in a while, but in a seven game series we all know who we’re betting are money on. Not to say that a team hasn’t fought and clawed their way to that precious eighth seat, but more then likely beat out the rest of the teams swimming in the pool of mediocracy that will be watching basketball from the couch come April.
The ultimate goal, as in any sport is to win that coveted championship, yet only one team can be named champions. So what about the other 29 NBA teams? Not every team enters the season with the same goal of winning a championship, simply because their wise and know that they can’t. The Boston Celtics are a prime example of a team that knows better then to have championship aspirations, but like many other teams facing similar situations (Bobcats, Bucks, Suns, [Insert Your Favorite Team Here]) competing for a bottom dweller playoff spot is just as good. After all this is the NBA where teams will “tank” a few games late in the season, so to say, to get a playoff spot that they really want, to avoid facing a certain team in the first round. It’s a nice strategy to say the least, especially for those teams in the East trying to avoid facing Miami in the first round, but it goes to show that they are nothing but pretenders. Remember last season when Brandon Jennings stated that the Bucks would beat Miami in six? We all know that was foolish optimism, but what was he to say? We don’t stand a chance, Miami is going to sweep us. No, he rose to the challenge and competed as the Bucks were the eighth playoff spot, attempting the biggest upset since Golden State beat Dallas in 2007. Yes the Bucks made the playoffs and yes, Brandon Jennings pretended as if the team was any good to actually beat the defending champs. So you see, that is what pretenders do, they pretend as if they are really contending for a championship, all the while fooling the loyal fans as if they really have a chance to make it past the second round. So let me state my opinion on who are the real contenders and who are the same old pretenders. (If a team isn’t mentioned then it’s simply because their so bad that labeling them as a pretender should be a compliment)
In the East the REAL contenders are: The Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers
In the East the top pretenders go to: The Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets
Why are the Bulls pretenders, they just got Derrick Rose back?Well boys and girls, the Bulls are pretenders because they lack another scorer to compliment Rose in the backcourt. They are a good defensive team and have good depth coming off their bench, but don’t be fooled by all those regular season victories against Miami in the past. This team cannot compete with Miami in a seven game series because they don’t have the offensive firepower to do so. Rose is a one man army come playoff time.
The Knicks: self explanatory, Melo is destined to be the Charles Barkley of this era, should’ve stayed out West!
The Nets: Father Time and an inexperienced coach will answer this question when April rolls around.
Now to the West, where the playing field is more leveled. The West is always a surprise because the sixth seated team can be just as good as the third in many cases. Separating the pretenders from the contenders is easier said then done. I only see the Spurs as the real contenders, but I won’t count out the Thunder or Warriors just yet either.
The pretenders as of now go to the Rockets: this team still needs time to mesh and find their identity with Dwight Howard.
The Grizzlies: we all saw the western conference finals last year.
The Clippers: the fans at Staples have gotten weary of chanting DEFENSE DEFENSE, because it just doesn’t get through.
The remaining teams in the West are all on an equal playing field (give or take a few) but I don’t see most of them making out of the first or second round, or making the playoffs for that matter. When the regular season ends however, I am positive that the eighth seat in the West will be the equivalent of a sixth seat in the East.
Now the season is young and anything can happen from now until the start of the playoffs. Injuries and trades play a factor, playoff upsets are always up for consideration as well. But at the end of the day will the real championship contenders please stand up.