NBA Sleeper Teams That Could Win the Title

Tyson Agbayani@tysonagbayaniCorrespondent IFebruary 12, 2013

NBA Sleeper Teams That Could Win the Title

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    What if I told you that neither the Miami Heat nor the Oklahoma City Thunder would be playing in this year's NBA Finals? That's ridiculous right?  

    Well, it isn't.

    Since last year's dogfight between the Heat and the Thunder, the competition in both the Eastern and Western conference has begun to heat up. Unlike past years in the NBA, the clear distinction between elite championship teams and playoff fillers has become a bit fuzzy.  

    While some may argue that the road to the championship still runs through teams like the Heat, Thunder, Knicks and even the Clippers, a group of sleeper teams could change that. Here are four teams that could shock fans and make a run at the title this coming June.  

Golden State Warriors

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    One of the biggest surprises of this season has been the emergence of the Golden State Warriors as a potential playoff threat.

    The Warriors are exceeding many fans' expectations so far this season with a record of 30-21 putting them in the sixth seed in the Western conference. The play of Stephen Curry and balance of David Lee have made the Warriors a team that other title contenders don't want to see come playoff time.

    While the Warriors have recently dropped four straight games, they still are a team capable of making a run at this year's NBA Finals. With Andrew Bogut slowly working himself back to full strength in games, the Warriors could finally be getting that defensive presence at the rim they've been waiting for.

    The Warriors have a great mix of youth and proven skill players this season that could prove to be a menace to this year's title contenders. If Curry and Lee are able to continue their stellar play into the playoffs, this team has the potential and capability to go all the way. 

Chicago Bulls

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    The Chicago Bulls are once again having a great season this year even without their star point guard Derrick Rose playing a single game.

    The Bulls have been more than able to keep pace in the East as they currently hold the fourth seed with a record of 30-21. Chicago's defense through 51 games has been stellar and the main contributor to the team's success. The Bulls currently rank third in the league in points allowed per game with 91.9 points.

    While the Bulls have had success in this year's campaign, if they want to contend for a title, they need Rose and they need him back healthy. Although it isn't clear when Rose will in fact return or even if he will be that same explosive player he was before the injury, the Bulls are no doubt a much better team with Rose in the lineup.  

    If Rose comes back healthy and is able pick up where he left off, the Bulls would shed the current sleeper label and easily be a contender come playoff time.     

Denver Nuggets

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    The Denver Nuggets have always been a tough team to play in the playoffs in recent years, but they have never really been able to fully break through. This year could finally be the year they change that. 

    Through 52 games this season, the Nuggets currently hold the fifth seed in the West with a record of 33-19. Denver has been playing exceptional ball since starting the season with an 18-16 record and is beginning to put the league on notice.  

    While the Nuggets don't have that one superstar to carry the load or go to at the end of games, they arguably have the deepest team in the league, which makes up for that. With the addition of Andre Iguodala this summer, the Nuggets added a defensive stopper and capable scorer to an already solid team.

    The Nuggets have continued to show throughout the season that wins don't stem from one specific player but from the team as a whole. Denver is a serious threat and has a legitimate shot at contending for the title this year. 

Indiana Pacers

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    If defense wins championships, the Indiana Pacers are a team capable of taking home this year's title.  

    Sitting in the third seed in the Eastern conference with a record of 31-21, the Pacers are having a great season thanks in large part to their exceptional play on defense. Indiana's defense is currently ranked second in the league in points allowed per game with just 90.2 points.

    Along with their great defense, the emergence of Paul George in Danny Granger's absence has propelled the Pacers into the list of serious title contenders. With the ability to not only defend the ball but also score it, George could be the X-factor when Granger returns that puts the Pacers over the top.

    While the Pacers offense hasn't been nearly as good as the defense this season, it is something that could soon see improvement. With news that Granger could be returning to the court as soon as this Wednesday, the Pacers are looking like an obvious contender.