Power Ranking the Top 16 NBA Finals Contenders If Playoffs Started Today

Nathaniel UyFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2010

Power Ranking the Top 16 NBA Finals Contenders If Playoffs Started Today

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Power Ranking the NBA's top 16 teams if the playoffs were to start right now is always a hard task. 

    Some teams are big regular-season standouts and turn out to be postseason duds, while teams that somehow underachieve during the regular season are able to turn it up when everything is on the line.

    Am I talking about any specific teams? Well, the Dallas Mavericks come to mind. 

    If the playoffs started today, here's a power ranking of the NBA's best 16 teams.

16. Milwaukee Bucks (10-13)

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    Are East Coast teams that much better than West Coast teams? The Bucks won conference bragging rights today as they defeated the red-hot Mavericks. 

    The same Mavs squad that has run off 12 straight wins was dealt a loss by the Bucks. Young Brandon Jennings could be the guy that leads this team to the playoffs this season.

15. Portland Trailblazers (12-13)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    With a spotty 12-13 record, this Portland squad will just make the playoffs if it started today. But didn’t we expect more out of Brandon Roy and company? 

    Memphis looked like a much better squad in their most recent loss. Give it another week and the Grizz could take their place in this ranking.

14. Indiana Pacers (11-12)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Meet one of two sub-.500 teams that qualify for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference if the postseason started right now. 

    Since the start of December, the Pacers have now lost five of their last seven games. They’re slumping, to say the least, but are fortunate enough just to make the cut. 

13. Denver Nuggets (14-9)

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Is Carmelo in, or is he out? One way or the other, someone better make a decision because this is turning out to be a distraction for this basketball team. 

    The Nuggets are underachieving because of it. It’s time both parties made up their minds. 

12. New Orleans Hornets (14-10)

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Nine fourth-quarter points against the Miami Heat just ain’t going to cut it for the Hornets. 

    This is a solid defensive team with Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza in the lineup, but their offense can’t be stagnant in big moments if they expect to do well in the playoffs.

11. New York Knicks (16-9)

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    It’s only December, and we’re already hearing a lot of Amar’e Stoudemire for MVP talk. 

    We all know that it’s going to be a long season, but the Knicks do look a lot better than they did a season ago. And Amar’e has been a big part of that improvement. 

10. Oklahoma City Thunder (17-8)

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The undersized and slender Thunder overcame big rebounding games by Minnesota’s Kevin Love, New Orleans’ David West and Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao to still come away with wins in those respective games this past week. 

    But the truth is this team can’t continue to be outrebounded by their rivals this season and will need a big rebounding presence to help them if they want to make noise in the playoffs. 

9. Orlando Magic (16-8)

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Size, rebounding and defense become even more important during the playoffs, especially in the Eastern Conference. That’s exactly what this team has in Dwight Howard.   

    Big Dwight is having the most productive season of his career on offense. Now, if only the rest of his team can help him consistently carry the workload. 

8. Atlanta Hawks (16-9)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Without injured star player Joe Johnson, the Hawks have held strong. They fended off the upstart Indiana Pacers over the weekend and even took down the Orlando Magic early last week. 

    Once Johnson comes back, they could be even better. 

7. Utah Jazz (18-8)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    In a battle for Western Conference bragging rights, the Jazz fell to the streaking Mavericks this week. 

    But they’re still top in the Northwest Division, and their biggest threat to the division title are the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    The Jazz rank No. 2 in the league with an average of 24.0 assists per game.   

6. Chicago Bulls (15-8)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    We already know that this Bulls team has the endorsement of Barack Obama, and this week, they kept on their dominance of Western Conference teams by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    With Boozer leading the frontline, this team has a balanced offensive attack.

5. Miami Heat (18-8)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    With nine straight wins, there’s silence now from several skeptics who were already counting the Heat out at the start of the season.  

    So what can we say about them? LeBron and Dwyane seem to have found a way to successfully play with each other on the basketball floor.

    Oh, and Erik Spoelstra appears to have escaped the hot seat, for now.

4. Dallas Mavericks (19-5)

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Mavs were hot and streaking with a recent 12-game win streak and have been playing excellent defense. But there’s one thing that we know about this team: They’re regular-season wonders and are playoff chokers. 

    That’s right, I said it. If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Mavs get a considerable downgrade for their recent history of postseason letdowns. 

3. Los Angeles Lakers (17-7)

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    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Which NBA team has won the last two NBA championships? That’s right—the Lakers have. 

    Normally, the Mavs would have a rightful claim to this spot in the rankings, but IF the playoffs did start right now, that’s when the Lakers know how to turn things up. 

    The combination of Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and a team full of talented veterans makes them hard to ignore as serious three-peat contenders.

2. Boston Celtics (19-4)

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    They’re loaded with veteran talent, play very good defense and distribute the ball quite effectively. This team is very good and is definitely built for the playoffs. 

    If the playoffs were to start right now, this is the Eastern Conference team everyone should be scared of.

1. San Antonio Spurs (20-3)

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    That’s right, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker may be older now, but this aging Spurs team is the best team in the NBA so far this season. 

    The funny thing is, people don’t seem to take notice of this basketball team. Well, one thing's for sure—Gregg Popovich is a great head coach.