NBA Stretch Run...Just in Time for the Playoffs

John LewisSenior Writer IFebruary 28, 2008

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone and several teams added new faces in an effort to make the playoff push. As teams jockey for position, which playoff contender has to the best trio of starters to win it all?

First, we start with the jumbled Western Conference and the defending champions, the San Antonio Spurs. Their three best players are Tim Duncan, Mano Ginobili and Tony Parker, but do they have enough left in the tank to defend their title?

The Spurs are quickly being pushed for top team honors by the Los Angeles Lakers. With Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and a soon to be returning Andrew Bynum the Lake show has returned to excellence.

The next tier of teams, Hornets, Suns, Mavericks, and Jazz are in a virtual scrum to be the third best team in the Conference. The Hornets are led by Chris Paul, David West and Peja Stojakovic. The Suns counter with Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa. The Mavericks bring Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Kidd and the Jazz have Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur to go to battle with.

So what does all this mean?

It means there are a lot of great teams that can raise the trophy this year.

In the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers overhauled their roster in an attempt to help LeBron and close the gap on Boston and Detroit. Of course we all know the big three in Boston, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but Detroit counters with a big three or four of their own. The Pistons bring Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince.

My prediction, a month before the playoffs start, is that the Lakers and Celtics will play for the NBA championship.

And Boston will hoist the trophy.