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NBA Power Rankings: The 4 Overlooked Teams That Could Make It to the NBA Finals

Joseph FafinskiCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: The 4 Overlooked Teams That Could Make It to the NBA Finals

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The talk of the NBA at the moment has to deal with all these "super franchises" who go out during trade season and scoop up the best players in the league.

    In the West the favorites have seemingly become the Lakers, Spurs, Thunder and Mavericks.

    In the East all the love goes to the Heat, Bulls, Celtics, Magic and now the 'Melos—er, I mean the Knicks.

    So who do I think can overtake these guys?

    In order to go deep in the playoffs, a team must have great intensity and chemistry, and most importantly it must be potent on the defensive end.

    With all that in mind, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!

4. New Orleans Hornets

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The image on the left of Chris Paul alone basically tells the tale of the New Orleans Hornets' 2010-11 season.

    Standing at 35 wins and 26 defeats thus far, the Hornets are clinging to the fifth position in the Western Conference playoff race.

    A top-tier point guard, Paul is considered the main reason for this surprisingly successful season so far in NoLa. His 16.1 points averaged to go with his 9.6 assists clip support that reason. He also shoots 47 percent from the field and an impressive 89 percent from the charity stripe.

    Paul has made guys like David West relevant in the frontcourt. West, who is teamed up down low with the hand-me-down that is Emeka Okafor, is leading the team with 19.1 points per, to go with a much improved 51.8 percent shooting from the field. Okafor contributes a double-double at 11 points and 10.1 boards per contest.

    Along with Paul in the backcourt is Marco Belinelli, an Italian who is a decent shooter and defender to compliment CP3's incredible skills.

    The fifth starter is Trevor Ariza, another defensive masterpiece who can also shoot.

    This makes up for a solid starting lineup, but the fact of the matter is that the Hornets bench is not all that much deep. Players like Jarrett Jack and the newly-acquired from the Sacramento Kings Carl Landry might bring a little spark off the bench, but the guys in New Orleans will need a little more help come crunch time. Paul can't do it all, you know.

    This is the main reason why they might be so "low" on this list.

3. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Memphis Grizzlies, at a surprising 33-28, currently are placed in the eighth position in the Western Conference.

    They have five guys who average at least 11.8 points per game, and behind those men there are defensive masterminds like Tony Allen and the newly-acquired Shane Battier from the Houston Rockets.

    Mike Conley is the point man, and he is having himself a solid season in playing in all 61 contests, sporting 13.8 point and 6.5 assist averages.

    The troubled O.J. Mayo is opposite him in the backcourt, and the Grizz should be happy that they saved his contract, for now at least.

    Rudy Gay will return from injury soon but should be back to full form and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc once more.

    Zach Randolph and Pau Gasol's younger brother Marc head the frontcourt of the hardwood. Randolph was a key offseason addition last summer, and his 20.2 points and 13.1 rebounds (a career high in boards) might be enough to keep him in Tennessee for a while.

    Ultimately, if they could get up a spot or two to avoid playing the Spurs or the Mavs, they could take down someone upset style, and I honestly wouldn't be all that surprised. Look at the starting lineup, and then take a look at the depth.

    The fact is that the Memphis Grizzlies finally have a team that can compete thanks to off(and in)-season moves and the avoiding of long-term injuries.

2. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Portland Trail Blazers have been winning under the radar all season long, and despite losing Brandon Roy and Greg Oden for the season, they are still an impressive 33-26.

    When you come to realize how big the trade deadline was for the Blazers, then you will come to know why they are second on this list.

    In addition to acquiring Gerald Wallace, division rivals such as the Jazz and Nuggets traded away their franchise players, effectively setting them in reverse for a season or two.

    Andre Miller and the underrated Wesley Matthews, pictured above, anchor the backcourt, and both members of the duo have been surprises this season in the Rose City. Matthews, a Marquette University graduate, is second on the team with 16.5 points per game while taking over the starting shooting guard position early on in the season. 

    LaMarcus Aldridge, whose 22.4 points and 9.1 rebounds averaged per game suggest he was the biggest All-Star snub this year, is a beast up front.

    Nicolas Batum and Marcus Camby bring about defensive intensity that isn't seen in most teams' starting fives.

    All in all, this team could be matched up against a team like the Lakers in the first round. If something big happens in that series for Portland, don't be surprised.

1. Atlanta Hawks

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Hawks are 36-24 and currently hold the fifth spot in the East, but they aren't getting any love from anyone.

    Kirk Hinrich is the starting point guard after a swap that saw Mike Bibby take his remaining talents to our nation's capital. The move was a smart one on behalf of management, as Hinrich brings much more intensity and skill to the defensive end of the floor and additionally is a better offensive weapon than the aging Bibby.

    Throw in Hinrich to a Joe Johnson-led backcourt, and you have yourself a formidable guard duo, even better than the one they had with Bibby.

    The frontcourt is exceptionally good on the defensive side. Josh Smith is one of the best all-around players in the NBA, and he excels at nearly every asset of the game. Al Horford is a two-time All-Star and is very underappreciated.

    The bench is one of the best in the league and is led by Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford.

    The only Eastern Conference team on the list, the Hawks are the only team in the league that sports four players averaging 15 points per game in Johnson (18.9), Smith (16.8), Horford (15.9) and Crawford (15.1).

    The center position, in terms of depth and size, is seemingly the only tragic flaw of Atlanta's finest.

    They will go far in the playoffs. I repeat: They will go far in the playoffs.

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