After the trade deadline has passed and the buyout period is drawing to a close, there are five teams that are legitimate title contenders. No offense to the rest of the league, but no one else has enough talent to compete.
The Knicks don't have the offense. The Clippers don't have the defense. The 76ers don't have the go-to guy. The Mavericks don't have the depth any more that sustained them so well last year. None of those teams are going to be crowned the champions.
Here are the five teams that have a serious shot at winning the title.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder added some big help when they signed Derek Fisher, albeit more in the locker room than on the court. On the court he's still as much of a "threat" as he was in Los Angeles, but the most valuable asset he brings to the Thunder is a player with multiple rings. Sure Perkins has one, but he wasn't a leader on the Celtics when he won it. Fisher brings championship leadership.
While the Thunder have improved on defense and can really lock it down late, they don't play for a full 48 minutes. When they get into a series with teams that do, it's going to haunt them.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: The addition of Ramon Sessions makes this team so much better than they were. It's not so much about the quality of the player as it is how well he fits in with the rest of the team. He's the catalyst the Lakers so desperately needed. Everyone on the team, even Kobe Bryant, is better because of Sessions.
While the Lakers remain one of the most dominant teams in the NBA at home, they still struggle on the road. Eventually they are going to have to overcome that if they are going to get Kobe some jewelr to put on his other hand.
3: San Antonio Spurs: Kobe's not the only player in the NBA with a fist full of rings. Tim Duncan would tie him with five if the Spurs win, and suddenly he seems to have a ton of help to do it. Tony Parker is getting MVP consideration and this team is looking impressively deep.
Kahwi Leonard stepped up in Manu Ginobili's absence and is looking strong. Danny Green is playing well. Now Ginobili is back and they swapped the unproductive Richard Jefferson for the suddenly productive Stephen Jackson.
2: Miami Heat The Miami Heat are the presumptive favorites, and with plenty of good reason. LeBron James is playing out of this world this season and should win the MVP. The Heat are the NBA's best transition team and are rated second in offense and fifth in defense respectively.
However, they are still a team which struggles in half-court offense and are watching the Bulls pull away with the top seed in the East. It's not impossible to catch them, but if Chicago wins just win two-thirds of their remaining games, the Heat would have to win 80 percent of theirs.
1: Chicago Bulls The general spin on the Bulls is that they are winning with their depth and their defense. The Bulls' starting five of Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose is a plus-19.4 per 100 possessions. That's the best of any five-man unit in the NBA with at least 250 minutes of play.
They also rank third in the league in both offense and defense. If the season ended now, they would be the third team in NBA history to post the league's best record in consecutive seasons while also finishing in the top three in both offensive and defensive ratings. The other two are the 96-97 Bulls and the 86-87 Celtics. Pretty good company don't you think?
The concern for the Bulls is whether they can stay healthy or not. Their backcourt of Richard Hamilton and Derrick Rose have missed a total of 48 starts in 49 games. If they don't get healthy, the Bulls will be hard pressed to make it to the conference finals, much less win it all.
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