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News » Separating the pretenders from the contenders

Separating the pretenders from the contenders

Separating the pretenders from the contenders
With NBA teams sharpening their postseason fangs, we're here to determine just how much bite is supplied by each of the 16 squads currently sitting on playoff seeds.

We'd like to imagine that every franchise has a blind-squirrel's chance of reaching the ultimate prize, but history — and a best-of-seven format — suggest a powerful link between regular season and early summer triumph.

Of course, the Celtics almost wrecked our theory by occupying that dead zone separating shock and eventual glory last season. It also should be noted that prolonged injury and an unexpected funk by a couple of teams could erase what represents chalk in the Western Conference bracket.

Here's a look at the contenders and pretenders, with a quick list of variables in their favor and situations to assist the respective quests for victory:

Eastern Conference

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Potential: NBA champs

  • Main assets: The Cavs have recent Finals experience, championship-level defense, reasonable depth, a nice second fiddle in Mo Williams and an elite closer (LeBron James) surrounded by capable shooters.

  • How to maximize potential: James must be efficient late in games, especially at the free-throw line.

    Boston Celtics

  • Potential: NBA champs

  • Main assets: When healthy, the Celts are an elite defensive team with championship experience and that superstar troika.

    New Orleans Hornets

  • Potential: Conference finals

  • Main assets: New Orleans will go to battle with the game's most complete point guard in Chris Paul, a low-post scorer in David West and world-class shot-blocker in Tyson Chandler.

  • How to maximize potential: The Hornets will ride CP3 as far as he can carry them. He took a less-than-superstar turn when New Orleans lost Game 7 of last year's conference semis at home against San Antonio.

    Utah Jazz

  • Potential: Conference finals

  • Main assets: Utah features one of the league's foremost playmakers in Deron Williams, nice depth and a savvy coach in Jerry Sloan.

  • How to maximize potential: Assuming Carlos Boozer can regain some of his previous form, the Jazz could rise if shooting sub Kyle Korver and Ron Brewer provide solid play at the two.

    Dallas Mavericks

  • Potential: One and done

  • Main assets: The Mavs are experienced and have a couple of proven marksmen.

  • How to maximize potential: Dallas will reach its first-round elimination by riding Dirk Nowitzki and holding off Phoenix for the eighth seed.

  • Author: Fox Sports
    Author's Website:
    Added: March 20, 2009


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