Latest News, NBA / Mar 11, 2011 / 11:00 am

Top 5 Best Potential NBA Finals Matchups This Year

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Before the season, it was a foregone conclusion. Miami. Boston. One of those two teams was going to play the L.A. Lakers in the Finals for the right to David Stern‘s heart. The talk wouldn’t die, and never did throughout much of this season as the Heat and Celtics rolled and even as the Lakers stumbled.

But going into last night’s matchup between the Lakers and the Heat – two teams perhaps going in opposite directions – it’s interesting to step back and look forward at the same time.

There are eight teams with legitimate aspirations to make the NBA Finals this season: Boston, Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Basketball fans should be happy with any combination of those teams playing in June, except for maybe Miami and L.A. That would turn into more of a circus rather than a basketball series (give that potential series another year before it happens). But for the sake of arguments, here are the five best potential Finals matchups at this time:

Celtics/Lakers
You have to start here. Have to. No other potential series holds the weight of this one. No other series hold the same angst among fan bases. No other series will bring the same intrigue, excitement and tough, playoff basketball as this one. It’s the perfect combatants: the old guard, the geezers looking for one final ring-around-the-rosy as they try to halt the progress of one of the game’s greatest players in his quest to leave his mark as perhaps the best ever.

With the loss of Kendrick Perkins, this series will take on a decidedly different feel than the last two times these teams have met in the Finals. No longer will Boston be the bully. The Lakers would dominate inside. But with the addition of Jeff Green, the perennially awesome Paul Pierce and the biomechanical Ray Allen, the Celtics hold the edge on the perimeter. These two franchises need to settle the score, one more epic series to decide who wins this generation’s battle in the never-ending basketball war between Los Angeles and Boston. Tied at one a piece, the historical repercussions of this tilt would be unbelievable.

Heat/Mavericks
For once, LeBron James wouldn’t be the lone player facing questions about his killer instinct and toughness. Dirk Nowitzki suffers from the same issues. Not only would this series be a remake of the 2006 Finals that saw Dallas completely blow away a championship ring, but it would almost force one of these two players to step up and snatch those unfavorable accusations from out of the public air.

Imagine the storylines with the Heat and the Mavs squaring off for a title shot. The majority of basketball fans don’t want to admit that either one of these teams could win a championship. But obviously in this situation, someone would have to win. Perhaps they would just keeping playing and playing, going five, six, seven overtimes with no one able to put the stranglehold on.

More seriously, this series would feature matchups galore. There’s Nowitzki against Chris Bosh, two of the most talented seven-footers in the game and Dwyane Wade against the entire Dallas organization, with many still fuming from time to time over “foul gate.” And of course, LeBron against, well, everybody.

Celtics/Spurs
A few months back, I had a conversation with the legendary Celtics historian Bob Ryan about the playoffs. This was without a doubt, the series he wanted to see above any other. If you are a basketball purist like Ryan is, a hoop historian, why not? Even as the Spurs have changed their formula from defense and Tim Duncan to three-pointers and speed and quickness, their core is exactly the same as it has always been.

Plus, for so long Kevin Garnett and Duncan were considered the two best power forwards in the game. Duncan was always held to a higher standard because his teams won. But you could’ve argued KG was the better individual player at certain points throughout their careers. While neither player is anywhere close to their peak anymore, it would be incredible to see the two of them matchup for the first time in the playoffs since 2001. Think about that number; that was over a decade ago. It would be a shame if two of the greatest power forwards ever went head-to-head just twice in the playoffs during their careers.

Magic/Lakers
Dwight Howard going up against his future employers. Just playing, Orlando. But the storylines surrounding this series would be wild. Not only the “Where is Dwight going to be in two years?” but, it would also be a chance for the Magic, and most importantly for Howard, to showcase how far they’ve grown in the last two years. When these teams met in the 2009 NBA Finals, Orlando was inexperienced and just giddy to be in this environment. For Kobe and the Lakers, it was basically a must-win series. Bryant couldn’t afford another chink in his armor. And that’s the way the series played out – the Lakers coming up with the big plays in Games 2 and 4 to turn the tide of the series as Orlando did just the opposite to lose it.

Could the Lakers size once again slow down Howard as they did in that series? It would be very fun to watch.

Bulls/Spurs
Are there any two coaches in the league more similar than Tom Thibodeau and Gregg Popovich? Are there any two superstars more mirroring than Duncan and Derrick Rose? Two cities and two teams that are used to, and love, hard, gritty and unselfish basketball would have a lot of fun with this series. Normally, that would result in boredom for much of the basketball fan base. But when you have Rose, excitement is always right around the corner. And San Antonio is no longer a slow, plodding team. Sometimes when watching them, you have to wonder whether Popovich is actually just a disguised Mike D’Antoni. Could they do it against the Bulls, possibly the best defense in the league? That would be more than enough to keep people engaged.

Plus, we know it’s been said before, but this might be the last chance for the Spurs to add one more title with this group. An end to one dynasty and perhaps the start of another would all be on the line here.

What do you think? What NBA Finals matchup are you hoping for?

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  • ctkennedy

    no Thunder vs Heat….Durant vs Lebron who r goin for the best player in the league for the next 5-7yrs….Westbrook vs Wade as a side piece
    Knicks vs Lakers
    Melo could get a ring before Lebron?
    Amare chance to do something Patrick Ewing couldnt do

  • Lost Apostle

    Any matchup involving the Spurs is bad news for the NBA. Bulls-Lakers, Heat-Lakers, Celtics-Lakers, Heat-Mavericks, Knicks-Lakers (fantasy but would be amazing)

  • nizzio

    @ctkennedy hahaha Knicks for real? Gtfo.

  • ctkennedy

    do i think they gon get there…. no…. but its matchups u would like to see…one thing knicks is gon do is put up buckets
    can u imagine what it would be like if Melo won a ring before Lebron

  • Sk

    How fitting would be for the zen to play his old team 20 years later. I vote lakers / bulls over anything. Noah and booz vs Bynum and pau. Rose and Kobe and great defense from both teams. A nicely even match up.

  • Wake

    I want a Bulls-Lakers finals. The first game during the season was epic. Rose unleashing everything in the offense. No one could stop him. But LA took control in the 4th and won. The second game was another close one. But the Bulls pull a win. Plus there’s history there. MJ’s first championship. Phil Jackson. Kobe being an heir apparent. Seeing Phil in and former Bulls players in that arena in the United Center is just gonna give me flashbacks.

  • Vinny Del Negro

    I want the Bulls/Lakers matchup. As a Bulls fan nothing would be better than seeing Phil riding off into the sunset after losing his final game at the United Center.

  • Kalan F.

    I want to see a Heat-Lakers matchup in the finals this year.

  • matt

    lakers and bulls would be exciting. Those backcourts would be interesting: Rose dominating Fish and Kobe dominating Bogans. Odom,Bynum,Pau vs Deng,Boozer,Noah. CJ,Brewer,Korver,Asik,Gibson vs Brown,Blake,Barnes,Artest,Walton. Would be very interesting.I think LAL would come out on top no matter what though.

  • Shot In Ya Face

    Although Spurs play winning basketball, their franchise and style of play is just boring.

    If Lakers don’t make the Finals, I would love to see OKC against Chicago or Miami

  • cvelaSF

    Heat vs Lakers!! Bean Bryant needs redemption. And this time the punk a$$ refs will actually call some fouls!! haha

  • bobby stew

    Thunder/Knicks!!

  • Ian

    spurs vs celts
    spurs vs bulls
    for me

  • QQ

    Magic vs every one else.

    That’s the best IMO. LOL.

    But a Bulls vs Lakers series would just be out of this world.

    Memories of 91, an up and coming monster (Rose/MJ) versus a legend that dominated the decade who some guessed are over the hill (Kobe/Magic)… Damn, that storyline would make everyone cream their pants.

    PS: And before cats here would say ‘ARE YOU REALLY COMPARING DROSE TO MJ???? GTFO!!!’, slow down. I AINT comparing the two. I understand that before 91, MG already had a 37ppg season AND and 32, 8, 8 one. SO NO, I aint comparing. I’m just looking at the parallels, and it seems to quite fit. So slow the fuck down, yall.

  • BK11238

    I’m with QQ on this one…Magic vs everyone else!