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Updated 2013 NBA Title Odds for Every Playoff Team Still Standing

Jimmy SpencerNBA Lead WriterMay 20, 2013

Updated 2013 NBA Title Odds for Every Playoff Team Still Standing

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    Nope, no one is shocked by the final surviving teams of the postseason.

    And no, it should come as no surprise how this chase for a title will likely end.

    The reigning champions and favorite Miami Heat still stand, looming over a field of the mostly expected.

    The San Antonio Spurs eliminated the only remaining dark horse, the Golden State Warriors.

    As for the other two less-anticipated series, it soon became clear the Oklahoma City Thunder couldn’t compete without Russell Westbrook, and the New York Knicks offense was no good with an ineffective J.R. Smith.

    So the No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies and No. 3 Indiana Pacers both bullied their way into their respective conference finals.

    While the Grizzlies and Pacers may not qualify as “predictable,” the advancement of the nettlesome defenses is no surprise.

    But as the final stages play out, could one make the NBA Finals?

4. Indiana Pacers (10 Percent)

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    Why They Could Win

    The Indiana Pacers are the last remaining threat to the Miami Heat's walk-through of the Eastern Conference.

    It starts with the defense of Indiana. The Pacers move into the conference finals allowing just 41.6 percent shooting through the first two rounds. Indiana is also allowing just 89.4 points per game, the second-lowest output of any team remaining in the postseason.

    Indiana won two of three against Miami in the regular season. The Pacers' strength is their physical defense and postseason-best 55.8 rebound percentage, a seemingly direct contrast to the interior weakness of the Heat.

    Miami plays small; Indiana has the 7'2" Roy Hibbert.

    LeBron James averaged 5.8 points and 3.0 assists less against the Pacers than he did overall in the regular season. If the Pacers make James into a mortal, their odds increase to "perhaps possible."

     

    What Can Trip Them Up

    The Heat can play defense too, and Indiana's offense is far less threatening. In fact, it's the worst of the offensive teams remaining against the best defensive team.

    Last postseason, the Heat won in six games in a series against a Pacers team with a healthy Danny Granger. This time around, the Pacers offense is working without its best scorer from last season.

    Indiana's 92 points per game and 42 percent field-goal shooting are each the worst of the four remaining teams. Meanwhile, the Heat have allowed the lowest points per game (84.7) and the lowest field-goal percentage (40.9) through their nine games against the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks.

    Miami can swallow the Pacers defensively, and the superstar core of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be more difficult to stifle than the offensive core of the Pacers.   


    Important Stat Moving Forward

    In the regular season, the Pacers were ranked No. 26 in turnover ratio, the percentage of their possessions that end in turnover. That's the highest per game of the remaining four playoff teams.

    The Heat feast on turnovers, and the Pacers will need to control the Heat's transition scoring.

     

    He Needs to Be a Star

    Paul George was the Most Improved Player of the the regular season, and he'll need to find a way to be more efficient in scoring his 19.1 points per game.

    George shot just 41.9 percent in the regular season, and he has shot just 40.4 percent through the first two rounds. 


    X-Factor

    Lance Stephenson won't help the Indiana Pacers much as a scorer, but he has committed to his role as a glue guy. He will attack the basket, and he's being lauded as the "energy guy," a player every postseason team needs.

    “He just didn’t want to lose,” New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert said of Stephenson, according to The New York Times. “He was going to push the ball until someone stopped him, and we didn’t stop him.”

     

    Sleeper

    Tyler Hansbrough has averaged just 14.2 minutes this postseason for 4.1 points and 3.3 rebounds, but he has a gritty style that can give Miami fits.

    Though he is a one-dimensional player who pretty much just throws himself at the rim, that kind of play could be effective against Miami.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (15 Percent)

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    Why They Could Win

    With apologies to the Indiana Pacers, the Memphis Grizzlies have the best interior remaining this postseason.

    Between Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies feature a versatility of two post players who can score from a variety of spots from mid-range to at the hoop. Randolph shot 52.8 percent in the regular season from inside eight feet, and Gasol shot 54.1 percent from within eight feet and 47.7 percent from mid-range.

    Gasol clogs the lane, and Randolph's average of 9.1 rebounds per game ranks third among remaining players. Only Indiana's Roy Hibbert (9.6) and San Antonio's Tim Duncan (9.3) are averaging more rebounds than Randolph.

    When Mike Conley and Tony Allen are scoring and defending at the perimeter, the Grizzlies offer a balance that has led them to the Western Conference Finals.

     

    What Can Trip Them Up

    Even the Grizzlies superb defense couldn't cover the entire arc and the middle. It wasn't ready for the Spurs' execution in Game 1, as San Antonio hit 14 three-pointers to bury Memphis 105-83.

    The Spurs' shooters lined the arc, and if the Grizzlies helped in on a driving Tony Parker, San Antonio hit open three-pointers. Memphis struggled to decipher how to help on Parker and defend the multitude of perimeter threats.

    The Grizzlies don't have the extra gear to match the high point totals, either.

    If Memphis gets down early, there isn't a superstar scorer who can rally the team back. This postseason, Mike Conley is shooting just 38.7 percent from the field and 28.6 from three-point range.


    Important Stat Moving Forward

    The Grizzlies have now dropped all three opening games in each round this postseason. Memphis was down 0-2 to the Clippers before winning in six games.

    Losing the first game against Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies then won four in a row.

     

    He Needs to Be a Star

    The Grizzlies can't survive when Randolph goes missing. Randolph averaged 19.7 points and 9.3 rebounds before being held to two points on 1-of-8 shooting in Game 1.

    His plus/minus of minus-28 was the worst of all Grizzlies; the next lowest was Tony Allen at minus-16.


    X-Factor

    As Conley goes, so does this team. The Spurs were able to hassle Randolph inside without fear of the Memphis offense finding other options in the same way San Antonio does.

    If Conley isn't making opponents pay, the Grizzlies will struggle to beat the Spurs and certainly won't compete against the Miami Heat.

     

    Sleeper

    Quincy Pondexter has been the most efficient shooter for Memphis this postseason, hitting 1.4 three-pointers per game at 45.9 percent and shooting 46.9 percent from the field.

    No Grizzlies player who made at least one three-pointer per game this regular season shot a higher percentage from three-point range than Pondexter (39.5 percent).

    He did lead the team in Game 1 scoring, though, so maybe he can't be a sleeper? Or maybe that just says more about the Grizzlies offense.

2. San Antonio Spurs (20 Percent)

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    Why They Could Win

    The San Antonio Spurs became the favorites to win the Western Conference early in the postseason when Russell Westbrook's injury weakened the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    No one has more championship experience than the Spurs. Gregg Popovich has San Antonio back in contention following a six-game series victory against the Golden State Warriors. It was San Antonio that found a way to cool the three-point shooting of Stephen Curry and take away fellow shooter Klay Thompson.

    In Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs brought the hot shooting, connecting on 14 of their 29 three-pointers in a 105-83 blowout victory. If San Antonio continues to spread its offense as it did in Game 1, Memphis will struggle to keep up.

    If San Antonio moves ahead, its coaching and shooting could threaten the Miami Heat. Miami is susceptible to the three-point shot, allowing 7.6 three-pointers per game this regular season, the highest of any remaining playoff team.

    The Spurs' scoring can keep pace with the Heat.

     

    What Can Trip Them Up

    The Spurs cleaned house against a Los Angeles Lakers team already cleaned out of its talent due to injuries. After looking vulnerable against the Golden State Warriors through four games, the Spurs were much more convincing in the end.

    But the Grizzlies also lost Game 1 in each of the first two rounds, and teams that rely on the three-point shot eventually cool off. If San Antonio does cool, the Grizzlies proved against the Oklahoma City Thunder that they can grind out wins.

    The Spurs' lopsided victory could quickly become an aberration versus Memphis, but if San Antonio does roll into the finals against the Heat, the fast pace of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could be too much to contain.

    The smaller, versatile lineup of the Heat is a dramatically more talented version of the Warriors that gave San Antonio some trouble.

    While no remaining defense allowed more three-pointers in the regular season than Miami, the Spurs shot just 32 percent on three-pointers in two matchups against the Heat.

     

    Important Stat Moving Forward

    The Spurs are averaging an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.07, better than any team this postseason. If they can continue to move and take care of the ball, San Antonio will have higher quality possessions than its opponents.

    Also of note: San Antonio only has one technical foul this postseason, the lowest of any team in the playoffs, including those that bowed out in the first round. That shows a high level of composure. 


    He Needs to Be a Star

    Tim Duncan had a regular season that mirrored the great seasons of younger years. The 37-year-old averaged 17.8 points on 50.2 percent shooting and 9.9 rebounds per game.

    His shooting percentage has dropped to 45 percent, but he's maintaining 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in the postseason. Like Spurs teams of old, Duncan will drive San Antonio's success moving forward.

    X-Factor

    Not only is Kawhi Leonard scoring 14.1 points on 56.9 percent shooting and grabbing 7.8 rebounds this postseason, he's also become an incredible defensive asset.

    If the Spurs advance to the NBA Finals, he'll be expected to help lead the team's efforts against James. 

     

    Sleeper

    Matt Bonner entered Game 1 against Memphis averaging 4.3 points on 0.8 of 1.4 three-point attempts per game in the postseason. But then he went off, hitting hit four of six three-pointers for 12 points.

    His ability to hit from atop the arc helps San Antonio stretch defenses. 

1. Miami Heat (55 Percent)

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    Why They Should Win

    Nothing has changed for the defending champions—except they've grown stronger.

    As expected, Miami has plowed through the Eastern Conference thus far and, of course, it starts with LeBron James. But escaping the big-name flair, Miami is actually getting it done with defense.

    Miami held the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls to an average of 84.7 points per game, winning by a margin of 13.9 points per game. While the Heat shot 49.1 percent, they held opponents to a 40.9 shooting percentage, the lowest returns of any defense in the postseason.

    While Dwyane Wade’s knee health has been a question mark and has limited him, the difference this season compared to last is what the Heat reserves are getting done.

    Miami’s bench has been excellent, and at 36 points per game, it is scoring more than any remaining team's bench. The Heat’s bench only scored 18.2 points per game in last season's championship run.

     

    What Can Trip Them Up

    Miami is susceptible to the three-point shot, and the San Antonio Spurs' 14 three-pointers in Sunday's Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals poses a potential threat in the NBA Finals. The Heat could also struggle to stop the inside play of the Memphis Grizzlies.

    But first, the Heat must deal with the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    The Pacers are equally as challenging defensively as Miami. The Heat dropped two of three this season to the Pacers. In those games, Miami scored 90.3 points per game, down from its 102.9-point average.

    If Wade isn't healthy and the Heat struggle to score, the Pacers could steal games and potentially claim what would be a monumental upset.


    Important Stat Moving Forward

    The Miami Heat are not as bad at rebounding as many believe. Sure, in the regular season, Indiana's league-best 45.9 rebounds per game outdid Miami's last-place 38.6 rebounds.

    However, the Heat's league-best 49.6 shooting percentage and Indiana's No. 26-ranked 43.6 percent shooting may have something to do with that.

    The Pacers grabbed more offensive rebounds at 12.9 to 8.2, which makes sense because they missed more. But the margin tightens on defensive boards, as Indiana out-rebounded Miami by a slighter 33 to 30.4.

     

    He Needs to Be a Star

    James will be the difference maker if the Heat are to repeat as world champs. 

    Of the four teams remaining, the Heat would fall the farthest without their best player. Of course that’s easy to say when he’s also the best player in the game. No one player is more important through the conference finals and into the championship than James.

    James' averages through nine playoff games: 24 points on 51.8 percent, 7.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists.


    X-Factor

    Chris Bosh breaks the notion that an All-Star can't be an X-factor. 

    Bosh is going to be asked to play tougher in the interior against a physical frontcourt of Roy Hibbert and David West. Bosh is averaging 13.2 points per game on 51.6 percent shooting and 8.3 rebounds this postseason. 

    Bosh did well in the regular season against the Pacers, averaging 17 points on 58.3 percent shooting, topping his regular-season averages of 16.6 points on 53.5 percent shooting.

     

    Sleeper

    Norris Cole could be the point guard of the future for the Heat. He is averaging 8.8 points on 60.4 percent shooting in the playoffs.

    With so much attention being paid to James, Wade and Bosh, point guards Cole and Mario Chalmers could combine for a strong series.

     

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