The Miami Heat. Every season they come back with more and more pieces. Who thought it couldn’t get better after the acquisitions of Jesus Shuttlesworth and Chris “Birdman” Andersen last season? Well they came back this offseason fresh off another NBA championship, and signed former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden and former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley. Safe to say, the Heat are ready to defend their crown this season. King James and company have all the tools to win yet another ring. San Antonio gave them their best shot this past season, nearly toppling the dynasty in the process. But they folded in the end, and with the Spurs growing older, there are five other teams in the NBA that have a legitimate shot at taking down the Heat. Remember, I’m talking about defeating the Heat in a playoff series.
So the Western Conference teams would have to meet them in the Finals and the Eastern Conference in the semifinals or Eastern Conference Finals most likely.
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5. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Oh, the Dubs! How I love this team. I’m still confused as to how they didn’t take down San Antonio in last year’s Western Conference Semifinals. This team isn’t just flashy shooting though, they are seriously a legitimate title threat. The core remains intact in Golden State with splash brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, along with Harrison Barnes. Don’t get lost in all the lights out shooting though — David Lee and Andrew Bogut can bang in the paint.
Oh yeah, did I mention that the Warriors inked Olympian Andre Iguodala to a long-term contract? Imagine Iggy bringing the ball up with Curry and Klay waiting on the perimeter. That’s going to create some serious problems. Seth Curry (brother of Steph) also inked a contract with the Warriors this offseason. He may be something, he may be nothing. At the end of the day, the kid can shoot the leather off the ball, which can only help the Dubs.
Against the Heat, the Warriors can stand their ground. The shooting stroke of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry can keep them in any game, honestly. If David Lee and Andrew Bogut stay healthy, that could create some serious problems in the frontcourt against Miami. Who knows how much Greg Oden will play, but I don’t see it working out long term. We even saw Harrison Barnes grow leaps and bounds in the playoffs last season. He actually started to look like the player everyone thought he would be. Expect more improvement on his performance this season.
Iguodala really is the key here, though. Last year, if the Warriors made it to the Finals, Harrison Barnes would have been handled by LeBron James. Iguodala is one of the best wing defenders in the NBA, if not the best. He is capable of disrupting and frustrating LeBron. If Iguodala can tame LeBron and the shooters get hot, watch out for the Dubs.
4. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
The Clippers are going to get better and better every year. “Lob City” might still be there, but Chris Paul wants a ring. He deserves one too. Paul wouldn’t have signed a long-term deal in L.A. if he didn’t believe this team had a serious shot at contending for a title. Coming off the team’s first ever Pacific Division title and a 59-win season, the Clippers want playoff success.
The addition of Doc Rivers really can push the Clippers to the Finals. He’s one of the best coaches in the NBA, bar none. Doc doesn’t accept anything that isn’t producing wins. If it came to down to the Finals, I can bet that Doc Rivers will out-coach Erik Spoelstra. The Clippers obviously have the big men to dominate the Heat down low with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, almost in the way we almost saw the Indiana Pacers beat up the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals this past season with Roy Hibbert and David West.
Plus, let’s be honest. Mario Chalmers can’t check Chris Paul. Norris Cole can’t check Chris Paul. No guard on the Heat can check Chris Paul. Advantage to Los Angeles in that department. Add sharpshooter J.J. Redick into the equation and things begin to get a little more interesting. Don’t discount the additions of Antawn Jamison, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison and Byron Mullens either. The Clippers improved one of the best benches in the NBA, that already had deadeye shooter Jamal Crawford. With another season of chemistry for Chris Paul, if the pieces fit into the puzzle, watch out as the Clippers take control of Los Angeles and possibly the NBA.