The NBA is just past the midway point, so I’d like to present my top 5 title contending teams.
5. Detroit Pistons – Now that they’re back to full strength, and their coach has stopped eyeing the Knick coaching vacancy like a teenage boy and his first Playboy, Detroit is back as a serious title contender. Staying atop of the Central is critical for their playoff chances. Just one game behind, King James and his sovereignty won’t make it easy for them. There are a group of intelligent people that think last year’s post-Rasheed Detroit was one of the best defensive teams in history. If the Pistons are running on all cylinders, they may get a chance to prove it in June.
4. Dallas Mavericks – For years the basketball team playing in the “Big D” was missing just that. This year is a different story. Dallas is ranked 6th both on offense and defense. The last time a Maverick team was that good on defense, it was anchored by Aguirre, Blackman, and Harper. Just like the modern day Mavs, that team also had a seven foot German on the roster: “Groovy” Uwe Blab. The Mavericks have learned that a fantastic offense without a defense can’t win it all. Now they’ll find out if a very good offensive and defensive team can take the crown.
3. Phoenix Suns – The Suns no longer have the best record in the league, and they can blame it on their defense. They’ve just broken a streak of 7 straight games in which their opponent scored 100 or more points. Fortunately, Phoenix’s offense is so good that they won 5 of those 7. When I wrote about them in December, they had the 6th overall defense and the best offense in the league. Today they still lead the league in scoring, but their defense has fallen to 17th. To win it all this year, the Suns need to improve on defense, either by adding personnel or by getting a better effort from the current roster. If not they can look at either the 2002 or the 2004 Mavericks to see their fate.
2. Miami Heat – No one else has an easier road to the Finals than the Heat. The West has 5 teams with a winning percentage greater than .675. The Heat is the only Eastern team that meets this criteria. Just imagine what their record would be if Shaq weren’t saving his best for the playoffs! If the playoffs started today, Miami would play Philly, then the winner of Washington/Cleveland, and at best the Pistons – all on their home court.
1. San Antonio Spurs – 1st in defense, 4th on offense. No other team in the league is in the top 5 in both categories. The Spurs have the best record in the league, and are the cream of the crop in the NBA. San Antonio must be thrilled of L.A.’s demise, seeing that Diesel’s Lakers ended their season in 3 of the last 4 years. Getting home court advantage throughout the playoffs would be a big advantage for the Spurs who are 23-1 at the SBC. Eventually the mainstream media might catch on that for the past two seasons they have been watching the best defensive team of all time.