Playing Pretender or Contender with the NBA's Elite Teams

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Playing Pretender or Contender with the NBA's Elite Teams
D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

The weeks leading up to the start of the regular season are normally spent racking our brains over which teams have a legitimate shot at the NBA crown and which are merely paper champions. Offseason moves and storylines are overanalyzed, and we convince ourselves that we have a grasp on how the season will go. 

In the end, nobody knows anything until the players hit the court and the ball is in the air. 

For instance, last year's Los Angeles Lakers were heralded by many as the favorites to come out of the Western Conference and challenge the Miami Heat in a star-studded NBA Finals. As it turned out, the Lakers weren't even the best team in their own city and were easily swept in the first round. 

The team that eliminated the Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs, was perceived as too slow and too old to compete in a much younger and more athletic conference. Inevitably, they came within a Game 6 collapse of hoisting the trophy. 

This season, a number of teams have the talent on paper to be considered championship contenders. However, of the NBA's elite, which ones are legitimate threats and which are just byproducts of hype? 

To help break this down, I took the projected five best teams from each conference and weighed in on whether they are contenders or pretenders. 

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