Put a Ring On It: The 10 NBA Teams Most Likely To Pull Off a Title Run
This weekend is the All-Star break for NBA teams, but there is still work to be finished for the squads in the postseason race. Who has the edge? Which team has the star power and the statistics to put themselves over the top?
And most importantly, can anyone dethrone the back-to-back kings of the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers?
Take a look to see which 10 teams are the most likely call themselves champions in June.
10. New Orleans Hornets
Current Standing: 33-25, sixth in the West
Why They Will Win: The tandem of David West and Chris Paul is one of the best to watch in the West, and their strong leadership could be enough to make an epic postseason push.
Why They Won't Win: Let's face it: Paul has only won one playoff series in a Hornets uniform, and this team is made up of mostly the same guys who flopped against Denver in the opening round in 2009.
9. Atlanta Hawks
Current Standing: 34-21, fifth in the East
Why They Will Win: Top four scorers Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Jamal Crawford are all averaging more than 15 points a game. If they get on a shooting spree, who is going to be able to "D" up against these guys?
Why They Won't Win: The conference semifinals have been kryptonite for the Hawks. After taking down Miami and Milwaukee in 2009 and 2010, respectively, the Hawks had their wings clipped in the next round both times. These Hawks are 0-8 in second round games.
8. Orlando Magic
Current Standing: 36-21, fourth in the East
Why They Will Win: Orlando has recent winning experience in the postseason, and Orlando GM Otis Smith has pieced together a nice roster with "newcomer" Hedo Turkoglu and the jaded Gilbert Arenas joining the Dwight Howard show this year.
Why They Won't Win: Although this team possesses a solid core of players, their talent may not be up to par with other front-runners in the East. The conference is very top heavy, and Orlando is not considered the team to beat.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder
Current Standing: 35-19, fourth in the West
Why They Will Win: The Thunder were the darlings of last year's postseason, nearly taking down the vaunted Lakers in the first round. Big things were expected this year, and Oklahoma City has mostly come through, improving under the close watch of coach Scott Brooks and the playmaking of young stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Why They Won't Win: Oklahoma City is just not on the same level as their elite counterparts in the West. It would be a major playoff upset for Durant and company to take down Kobe or Duncan this spring. They will be contending for titles soon enough, but the dynasty probably does not start now.
6. Chicago Bulls
Current Standing: 38-16, third in the East
Why They Will Win: Point guard Derrick Rose is on another level this year and is a primary candidate for the MVP award. With the off-season addition of big man Carlos Boozer, a healthy Joakim Noah, and the hot play of Rose, the Bulls could be bringing the O'Brien Trophy back to the United Center.
Why They Won't Win: Boozer and Noah have both missed a lot of time due to injury, and health could definitely be an issue for the Bulls as they try to take the East.
5. Dallas Mavericks
Current Standing: 40-16, second in the West
Why They Will Win: Dirk Nowitzki has piled up the accolades in his Dallas tenure, but a ring still eludes him. The Mavericks have been running strong this season, and Nowitzki knows that he may not have too many more seasons ahead of him. His desire, along with a solid supporting cast of playoff savvy vets like Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic, could get the job done.
Why They Won't Win: As great as the Mavs have been playing, they are unquestionably average when Dirk misses a game due to injury or just plays at a low level. As he goes, the team goes, and its dangerous to head into the playoffs with that philosophy.
4. Miami Heat
Current Standing: 41-15, second in the East
Why They Will Win: Who has more leaders than the Heat? Nobody. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh were all the captains of their respective squads at this time last year. If/when the Heat find that perfect niche, they will be impossible to stop in the postseason.
Why They Won't Win: The Heat will face the most pressure out of any team in the postseason, because they were built for the specific goal of bringing a trophy to Miami this season. Big ego stars like Wade, James and Bosh on the same squad during crunch time could lead to disastrous results under that kind of intense pressure. Remember the regular season opener?
3. Boston Celtics
Current Standing: 40-14, first in the East
Why They Will Win: Been there, done that. After being counted out of last year's championship race, the Celtics stormed through the East to reach another Finals. They are the most experienced team in the league, and will not fold under pressure. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett provide an extremely strong and talented backbone for Boston.
Why They Won't Win: The Celtics are old men playing a young man's game in the East. Strong, youthful teams from Miami, Chicago and Atlanta could easily trip up Boston when it matters most.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Current Standing: 38-19, third in the West
Why They Will Win: As has been covered over and over again, the Lakers are back-to-back defending champions of the NBA. Kobe Bryant still looks like one of the league's elite players, and Phil Jackson might be the best head coach of all-time. The Lakers simply know how to win the big one.
Why They Won't Win: Bryant is aging and is not at the level he was even two years ago. The supporting cast has been shaky this year with the exception of Pau Gasol. Besides, after winning two championships, how much do the Lakers really care about getting a third? Probably not more than the other nine teams on this list.
1. San Antonio Spurs
Current Standing: 46-10, first in the West
Why They Will Win: The Spurs absolutely rolled through the first half of the season, and with the veteran leadership of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili, not much seems to phase them. When a team this talented and smart starts out this hot, it means trouble for everybody else trying to claim the crown.
Why They Won't Win: The Spurs' veterans are both a blessing and a curse. Can Duncan and Ginobili hold up throughout an entire playoff push? Logic says that they will be slowed eventually, and it can be tiring to have a target on your back for the entire rest of the season. Everybody wants to beat the Spurs, and somebody just might do it in the playoffs.