NBA Power Rankings: 7 Teams with a Legitimate Title Shot

Garrett Jochnau@@GarrettJochnauCorrespondent IIApril 18, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: 7 Teams with a Legitimate Title Shot

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    The regular season is in the final stretch, and just months from now, a new team will be crowned champion.

    Some of these contending teams you could have predicted early, and some did not come alive until recently.

    Which team will bring home the hardware depends on many factors, but these are the seven teams with a strong shot at a title.

7. Boston Celtics

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    The Celtics have come alive of late, as Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce seem to have found the fountain of youth.

    Rajon Rondo is playing better than any other point guard in the league, and the Celtics record has reflected it. Most impressively, the team recently dominated the Miami Heat, pulling off an impressive 115-107 win.

    At the start of the season, the team was labeled "too old" to compete, and even at the midway point, they were marked as pretenders. However, they have since silenced everyone and become one of the hottest teams in the league.

    Still, their road to glory would consist of them first having to beat either the Heat, or the Bulls, before even reaching the finals. There is a chance, but it is not very strong. 

6. Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Memphis Grizzlies have become one of the most feared teams in the league. Ever since knocking the first-seeded Spurs out of the playoffs last year, and taking the Thunder to a Game 7, they have earned themselves a spot amongst the league's best.

    Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay have been two of the most talented players in the league, and along with the return of Zach Randolph and the addition of Gilbert Arenas, the once strong team is now even deeper, and a more fierce competitor than ever.

    Still, the Spurs proved too much to handle in the regular season, and the Lakers' big men are no match for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

    They may make a deep playoff run, but a Finals appearance would be very surprising.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    At the start of the regular season, the Thunder were labeled as the favorites in the West. Since then, they have continued to hold that title, however many are rethinking their prediction.

    The San Antonio Spurs are giving them some competition for the No. 1 seed, and a pair of losses to the Los Angeles Clippers are making fans wonder whether Oklahoma City has what it takes.

    Last year, the inexperience of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was a major factor, almost handing them a loss at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies.

    While the team may have matured, they no longer are the team to beat in the Western Conference.

4. Chicago Bulls

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    Whether or not the Bulls can reach the Finals comes with a major "if."

    Derrick Rose, last year's MVP, has been injured as of the late, and the team is playing the worst it has all season.

    After a loss to the Washington Wizards, their future seems very questionable, and a pre-Finals exit would not be very shocking.

    If the team wants a chance at glory, Rose will have to remain healthy, and the team will have to get back on track.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

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    The Lakers have finally received a full year out of Andrew Bynum, and believe me, it was worth the wait.

    Bynum has quickly become the second best center in the league, and along with Pau Gasol, the big man tandem in L.A. may be too much for other teams to handle.

    Still, after a win against the Spurs in San Antonio earlier in the week, the team was defeated by those same Spurs at home last night, in a game that they never had control of.

    While Kobe would have made a difference, Bynum was the key to stopping the Spurs, and if they have figured him out, the Lakers are not the team to beat in the West.

2. San Antonio Spurs

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    Like the Celtics, the Spurs entered the season considered too old to be fierce competitors.

    After a crushing loss to Memphis in last year's first round, the team was thought to be done. However, Tony Parker has played the best basketball of his career, and the Spurs currently sport the best record in the West.

    They have won 15 of their last 17, and currently are one of the hottest teams in the league.

    The Thunder proved no match for the veteran Spurs as San Antonio won the regular season series 2-1. If the Spurs can clinch the top seed and get home-court advantage, then the Thunder will have difficulty beating them.

    Expect one final run from the San Antonio Spurs.

1. Miami Heat

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    I will be surprised if the Heat don't win the title.

    Let me rephrase that. 

    I will be shocked if they don't win the title.

    After guaranteeing multiple titles, the Heat suffered a loss in last year's Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. Now, the Heat want revenge. LeBron is the current favorite for the MVP award, and with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh playing at a high level, few will be able to beat them.

    While they may not sport the best record, they certainly have the most talent, and this year, their postseason run will have a different ending.