The NBA postseason has arrived, the byproduct of a grueling 82 game regular season whose sole purpose is to establish seeding in the race to the Larry O'Brien trophy.
That positioning is important because it gives the higher seeded teams the privilege of starting their second season from the comforts of their home courts, but in some cases that is not always an advantage.
The more dominant teams will usually materialize in the course of a seven game series, and that team is usually the higher seeded team, unless the series is dictated by matchups.
Matchups were the bane of the Cleveland Cavaliers in last season's Eastern Conference Finals, and even though Cleveland had the better regular season record, they were undone by fundamental flaws.
The first round of this season's NBA playoffs offers a handful of teams who could benefit from those same advantages in the matchups, and the overall parity of the league.
Especially in the Western Conference, where all eight teams won at least 50 games, and seeds Nos. 2-8 were not established until the very last day of the regular season.
That type of parity could make the seedings misleading, and a much lower seeded team in the West could pull off what would seem to be a monumental upset, when in reality the teams were not that far apart anyway.
I have compiled a list of five teams who are the most likely to capitalize off advantages in matchups or similar talent, and pull upsets in the first round.
There is no guarantee they will happen, but under the right circumstances and conditions, these teams have the best shot at pulling off the unlikely.
The teams are listed from most improbable to most likely, and I welcome any feedback or differing opinions on the matter.
Feel free to offer your own picks for likely perpetrators of an upset as well, as there are sure to be other elements I may have missed which could change the course of a series. Please enjoy.
I don't think the Charlotte Bobcats can win this series, but there are some factors to take into consideration that could make this more interesting than at first glance.
Coach Larry Brown has won one NBA championship and guided Philadelphia to the Finals, so he understands what it takes to achieve on that level.
The Bobcats are a mirror image of their coach, and they play with energy, passion, and discipline on both ends of the court, giving the type of effort that makes Brown proud.
They also happen to be the league's best defensive team, and they excel in that area because their roster is filled with long athletic players who buy into their coach's philosophy.
One of those players is Stephen Jackson, who was a member of the Golden State Warriors when they pulled off their improbable victory over the Dallas Mavericks in 2007.
Jackson remembers how that felt and you can be sure he has relayed that message to his teammates, but there is one huge obstacle standing between the Bobcats and history.
Dwight Howard is the one player the Bobcats have no answer for, and in order for them to have a shot, someone will have to step up and offer adequate defense on Howard.
Charlotte can't afford to double-team Howard and hope to win because Orlando's outside shooters are too deadly, so the Bobcats' hopes rest in efficient man-to-man defense on Howard. Can they do it?
The Atlanta Hawks have the type of talent and athleticism that is capable of winning an NBA championship, but they have a problem maintaining focus, especially in end-game situations.
The Hawks would seem to be the easy pick over the Milwaukee Bucks, especially considering the season-ending injury to center Andrew Bogut, but the Bucks are well coached and could prove to be a challenge to Atlanta.
Scott Skiles places a premium on tight defense, and if the Bucks can prevent Atlanta from running in transition, they have a chance to advance as a sixth seed.
Rookie point guard Brandon Jennings also has a clear quickness advantage over Mike Bibby, and if he can exploit that and get to the rim, he could create countless opportunities for his teammates.
The veteran experience of John Salmons and Jerry Stackhouse should keep the younger players centered, and if the Bucks play with discipline and purpose, an upset is not out of the question.
The fourth-seeded Boston Celtics are clearly a more talented team than the fifth-seeded Miami Heat, but their recent performances at home must give Miami hope in their endeavors.
The Celtics actually won more games on the road, and although the playoffs are a different matter, this is obviously something Miami will try to exploit.
Then there's the age factor for the Celtics, and the fact they have no one who can stay in front of Dwyane Wade and prevent him from penetrating the lane.
It's hard for me to imagine this once proud Celtics' team losing to the one-man show that is Dwyane Wade, but based on the regular season's final sequence of events for Boston, it wouldn't surprise me.
The Denver Nuggets began the regular season as the best threat to supplant the Los Angeles Lakers in the West, but poor play down the stretch dropped them to the fourth seed in the playoffs.
The Utah Jazz had a similar opportunity to grab the second seed in the West. But a loss in the final game of the regular season dropped them to the fifth seed, where they will open against the Nuggets on the road.
This is one of the more intriguing series in the first round because the two teams are mostly evenly matched, with Utah having a slight edge in the interior.
Carlos Boozer, Paul Milsap, and Mehmet Okur could dominate in the paint, but the series will be won by Utah if point guard Deron Williams is able to win his matchup with Chauncey Billups.
Carmelo Anthony will get his points, that's a given, but Utah must be able to prevent anyone else from having Carmelo-like games, and Williams must dictate the tempo of the series.
Utah has historically been a poor road team, but they have shown the ability to win away from home this season, and they have a veteran playoff roster that shouldn't be rattled by the raucous atmosphere in Denver.
This could be one of the best first round series in the playoffs, and if Williams can control the rhythm and the pace of the series, it is one Utah is capable of winning.
The San Antonio Spurs open the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the West, but the playoff tested and championship approved Spurs hardly resemble a lower tier postseason team.
The Spurs' core of Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker are all healthy, and they have the right mix of talent, youth, and experience to make a deep playoff run.
The Dallas Mavericks are the second seed in the West, and their roster appears capable of making the same type of run which carried them to the NBA Finals in 2006.
The Mavericks scored definite upgrades to the perimeter and post when they acquired Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood from the Washington Wizards, and they have excellent depth and scoring ability.
But, do the Mavericks have the mentality and defensive capability to prevent a possible Spurs upset? The specter of the Mavericks' epic playoff defeats in 2006-2007 still loom large over the franchise.
They have beaten the Spurs the last two years in the postseason, but the pressure on the Mavericks to succeed is amplified, and there is a chance they can be crushed by the weight of expectations.
The Spurs are a grizzled, veteran team, and even though they are the seventh seed, the disparity in talent between them and the Mavericks is little to none.