By Dennis Berry
With the start of each new season, every team feels they can win a championship. While all teams feel like that, the truth is there are only a handful of teams that can actually do it. This year they will have to navigate a full 82-game season and hope that no major injuries take out a key player.
Going into the start of the 2012-13 season, here are eight teams that have the pieces to make a run at a NBA Title.
The key to the Nets being title contenders began when they were able to resign Deron Williams. If they would have lost him in the free agency, they would not be on this list. They were not successful in acquiring Dwight Howard, but did make some solid moves in the offseason. They resigned three important parts to their roster in Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, and Brooke Lopez. Those three players combined to average 46.8 points a game last year. Add in Williams and new shooting guard Joe Johnson and the Nets' starting lineup averaged close to 86.6 points a game last year. If they can get anything from their bench, they can be a threat during the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers
When you are talking about the Clippers, the first name that comes to mind is Chris Paul. The fortunes of the Clippers changed when they traded for the All-Star point guard before the start of last season. With Paul the Clippers went 40-26 in the strike- shortened 2011-12 season, which was an improvement from the 32-50 they went in 2010-11. Of course the Clippers are more than just Paul. There is Blake Griffin, who gives the Clippers a 20 points and 10 rebounds guy in the post. There is also Chauncey Billups, who should be ready to go after a season-ending knee injury last February. The Clippers went out and upgraded their roster with the additions of Ronny Turiaf, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, and Lamar Odom.
After last year’s playoffs you cannot dismiss the Boston Celtics when it comes to playoff runs. In the playoffs last year, Boston was one win away from a return to the Finals. This year the Celtics should factor into the playoffs again. The key was resigning Kevin Garnett, who was considering retirement. They did lose Ray Allen to free agency, but added Jason Terry who should be a great addition to their bench. The Celtics have such a nice mix of young and veteran players that they should finish near the top in the East.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have finished the last two seasons with the best record in the NBA. Unfortunately for them it has not translated to post-season success. They will look to change that trend this season. The Spurs still have all the key pieces that have lead them the past few years; Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan. All the key pieces from last year’s team are still there. Plus Gregg Popovich is on the sidelines. Much like Boston, you cannot count out San Antonio from a Finals run.
Los Angeles Lakers
When it comes to rising up the title contender ladder in the NBA, the Lakers did it the fastest. That is because the Lakers went out and upgraded their starting five with the best players they could get. The additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard make the Lakers instant contenders. The major concerns are when Howard will be back to 100%. He is still rehabbing his surgically- repaired back. Next is the questions of how will Kobe Bryant mess with his new running mate in the back court and will he allow Nash to control the offense. Finally the last concern is if the Laker's bench can contribute anything to this team.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Like the Spurs, the Thunder did not make any major roster moves in the offseason. The only major addition to their roster is Perry Jones III, who they got in the NBA draft. Many are down on the Thunder coming out of the West, considering the moves that the Lakers made. That would be foolish to do. They still have the best young player in Kevin Durant. They also still have Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The Thunder are still a young, explosive team that now know what it takes to reach the NBA Finals. Plus they still have the taste of defeat in their month.
The Miami Heat did not sit on a roster that won a NBA championship. They went out in the offseason and made it better. The additions of Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen give the Heat ligament outside shooting threats. They should benefit from plenty of open looks with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James attacking the basket. Plus, many of the key contributors from last year’s NBA Title team are back; Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, and Chris Bosh. Don’t forget that the Heat still have the best player on the planet in James. Miami is in prime position to repeat as NBA Champions.
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