NBA Playoffs 2012 Predictions: Sleeper Teams That Will Make Noise in Round 1

Eric BowmanFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 02:  Lionel Hollins of the Memphis Grizzlies converses with his players during a timeout against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on February 2, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Just because a team is labeled the underdog, it doesn't mean they're completely toast in the NBA playoff picture. 

After all, we've seen multiple No. 8 seeds do the "unthinkable" and knock off a No. 1 seed. I don't foresee a ton of big upsets this year, but there are teams capable of big surprises. 

These teams will either shock the world and advance further in the postseason, or they'll at least give the favored first-round opponent a major scare.

With that said, here are three teams that will make some noise in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs. 


Dallas Mavericks 

The defending champs are not the same team from a year ago, but come playoff time, they still need to be feared.

The main reason teams need to worry about them is because of a man named Dirk Nowitzki. Those who watched a year ago saw firsthand how dangerous and clutch Nowitzki is.

He's going to put the team on his back once again, and with the help of veterans Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion, the Mavericks have what it takes to make a deep run in the postseason. 

The road to another championship won't be easy given the Mavericks record, but it's still possible because of their veteran stars. 


New York Knicks 

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks celebrates his game winning three pointer with his teammate Steve Novak #16 of the New York Knicks against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on April 8, 2012 in New York City. NO
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Just like with Dallas, the Knicks will rely on one player to get the job done. Carmelo Anthony has to take over even more so than he has in recent games. 

The hope is that Amar'e Stoudemire will be able to be a big contributor, but with back issues, that's not a guarantee.

Still, the Knicks feel confident with Carmelo running the show, and they'll look to Tyson Chandler to also step up in a major way like he did a year ago for Dallas.

The Eastern Conference is very strong, and even though the Knicks may not make a deep run, they have what it takes to shock folks in Round 1. 


Memphis Grizzlies 

A year ago, the Grizzlies proved all their doubters wrong and pulled off the monster upset over the No. 1 San Antonio Spurs. 

This year, Memphis won't have to worry about being the last man in; the Grizzlies have already locked up a playoff berth. 

Marc Gasol will have to take his game to new heights if the Grizzlies are going to make a deep run, but with help from Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay, Memphis is capable of going far. 

Memphis is likely to play the LA Clippers or LA Lakers in the first round, which will be difficult, but this sleeper team will rise up and make a great deal of noise in the first round once again. 



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