While every team enters the NBA season with an equal chance at making the postseason, it generally only takes a few games to separate the true contenders from those that just don’t have what it takes to raise a banner when all is said and done.
Heading into the 2012-13 campaign, there are a slew of teams that look, on paper, like they could be gearing up for a title run. From retooled teams like Los Angeles and Boston to up-and-coming young squads like Indiana and Philadelphia—and of course the reigning conference champions Oklahoma City and Miami—there are no shortage of quality teams in today’s league.
However, just because a team looks strong in August does not mean it will still be playing in May or June. With plenty of activity this offseason, it may be difficult to tell at a glance who is a real threat versus who is on the outside looking in, but closer investigation can help clarify who has a true chance at earning a ring.
Although there is always the potential for a dark horse to emerge, here are the contender and pretender designations for eight playoff-bound NBA teams next season.
Note: I didn't leave out the Clippers, I spent hours mulling over that team and couldn't come to any kind of definitive decision.