NBA Playoff Team Previews

THE NBA UPDATE
OUR PLAYOFF OVERVIEW BREAKS DOWN THE FAVORITES, THE SLEEPERS AND THE REAL LONG-SHOTS TO WIN IT ALL THIS YEAR

The clock is tickin' down to the end of this 2014-15 NBA regular season - we know, we know it's been a long and grinding road - and we'll put this current campaign to bed come Wednesday night when there are some 14 games on the docket. Then, the real fun begins!

No matter what any of the so-called experts may be saying, this year's battle to win it all is wide open with - conservatively speaking - as many as seven or eight teams quite capable of snagging the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Remember: The NBA Playoffs will begin on Saturday, April 19th.

THE FAVORITES

CLEVELAND (51-27) - It's gonna be interesting to see if the Cavaliers can "play nice" together this post-season after all the LeBron James/Kevin Love drama this season but at least Cleveland's boned up its bench play and can trust PG Kyrie Irving to take command when/if James gets double-teamed. James has been in the past four NBA Finals (all with Miami, of course) and five of the last eight Finals, so is there really any doubt he can point the way here?
Odds to Win it All: 9-to-5

GOLDEN STATE (64-15) - The best in the West really never hit a bump in the road this year with guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson leading the three-point brigade (they're shooting an amazing 44 and 43 percent, respectively, from beyond the three-point arc) but the $64,000 question here is can/will the Warriors get enough in-the-paint points to survive the gauntlet of the Western Conference playoffs. Hey, if you tell us Draymond Green and underrated Marreese Speights can combine for their regular-season average (21 ppg between 'em) and we'll tell you G-State has a shot to win it all.
Odds to Win it All: 9-to-5

SAN ANTONIO (53-26) - Nobody's storming down the end-of-season tracks quite like the defending champion Spurs who entered Friday night's game in Houston on a nifty nine-game winning streak and sure seems as if genius head coach Gregg Popovich has this club peaking - again - at precisely the right time. No doubt the Spurs can look old at times but the fact that youngster F Kawhi Leonard has perked up his game in recent days has San Ant fans thinking of a sixth title since 1999. Hey, doe anyone share the ball any better than the here-and-now Spurs?
Odds to Win it All: 5-to-1

ATLANTA (59-19) - Okay, so we haven't had a runaway #1 seed in either of the two conferences become so "dis-respected" over the course of time as these Hawks who entered the weekend eight full games ahead of King James and the Cavs, yet everywhere you turn folks are saying Atlanta can't win it all because of this-or-that reason. P.S., there's great offensive balance on this squad with three players averaging 15.2 ppg or more including lead dog Paul Millsap (16.8 ppg) and the thought that there's no "go-to guy" at the end of games is silly - PG Jeff Teague is ready/willing/able to hit all the crunch-time shots.
Odds to Win it All: 15-to-1

CHICAGO (47-32) - It's all about having all the parts in place ... simple as that as PG Derrick Rose has played just 48 games this season, All-Star Jimmy Butler's missed 17 games and board-banger Joakim Noah has been sidelined for some 13 contests and so we'll count the Bulls among "The Favorites" here but gotta have all hands on deck or this could be a one series-and-done deal for the Windy City gang.
Odds to Win it All: 18-to-1

THE SLEEPERS

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (53-26) - Make no mistake about it, these athletic Clippers have the folks to make a long run into this post-season and they zoom into this final week of regular-season play having won nine of their last 10 games with PG Chris Paul at the top of his game but it's quite possible that Doc Rivers' squad will have to open any/all playoff series on the road - usually a bad recipe when you wish to win it all. Hey, the biggest question here may be what to do with shot-blocking/rebounding star C DeAndre Jordan (14.9 rpg) late in games because his abysmal free-throw shooting could be a series killer.
Odds to Win it All: 22-to-1

HOUSTON (53-25) - There's no denying the fact that the Rockets have been an under-the-radar team out West ... shoot, James Harden (27.6 ppg) may be the most prolific scorer in this man's league and a healthy Dwight Howard (he's missed half his team's games this year) can be a major stat-sheet stuffer when healthy but seemingly few folks "trust" Kevin McHale's team and that could be a major mistake as Houston has another go-to guy in lefty Josh Smith but we'll concede the season-ending wrist injury suffered by pest Patrick Beverley is a bummer.
Odds to Win it All: 25-to-1

MEMPHIS (53-25) - The NBA's second-best defensive team (allowing just 95.1 ppg) never gets its due nationally but we say the below-listed 25-to-1 odds to win it all is a bargain when you consider how this team can put a stranglehold on opponent's top scorers and lest we forget PG Mike Conley gets everyone involved with paint scorers Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol quite capable of taking control of games late. A true sleeper, indeed.
Odds to Win it All: 25-to-1

THE REAL LONG-SHOTS

DALLAS (47-31) - Is there any more post-season magic left for Mavericks' mega-star Dirk Nowitzki (17.2 ppg)? The 2011 NBA champs have not come close to sipping champagne since and these days the aforementioned Nowitzki plays second-fiddle to G Monta Ellis (19.2 ppg) who can either shoot you in or shoot you out of games faster than you can say Mark Cuban!
Odds to Win it All: 50-to-1

PORTLAND (51-28) - This year's Trail Blazers often have resembled walking-wounded types with top scorer LaMarcus Aldridge (23.5 ppg) battling a thumb injury for more than half this season and you simply get the sense that nagging injuries all around - to say nothing of the year-ending Achilles Heel injury to shooter Wesley Matthews - makes this club a proverbial real long-shot with the listed 70-to-1 price no bargain at all!
Odds to Win it All: 70-to-1

TORONTO (46-32) - Whether or not the Raptors can make any noise at all in this year's playoffs likely depends on the fragile back of PG Kyle Lowry (he has not played since March 24th) but if Lowry's A-OK come the post-season and if G DeMar DeRozan (team-leading 19.9 ppg) gets on one of his hot streaks, than this North-of-the-Border crew could stage a major playoff run.
Odds to Win it All: 75-to-1

WASHINGTON (45-33) - Our final "real long-shot" here is this Wizards team that, quite frankly, most folks expected a lot more from following last season's playoff series win against Chicago and rough-and-tumble series loss to Indiana. Instead, PG John Wall and Company spent much of the year fumbling around but this four-game winning streak may be a sign ahead that Randy Wittman's crew is for all. Can PF Marcin Gortat be a dependable numbers guy? 
Odds to Win it All: 90-to-1

WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR

OKLAHOMA CITY (42-36) - The season-ending foot injury to Kevin Durant officially kayoed this club from any serious championship talk but in case you're wondering we'd put PG Russell Westbrook third in the MVP race behind Curry and then Harden ... got it?
Odds to Win it All: 150-to-1

INDIANA (35-43) - The Pacers continue to plug away at one of the East's final two playoff berths but even the return of Paul George ain't saving 'em.
Odds to Win it All: 200-to-1

NEW ORLEANS (42-36) - The Pelicans are that prototypical NBA team that has to learn how to crawl before they walk.
Odds to Win it All: 200-to-1

BROOKLYN (36-42) - This wasn't a "feel-good story" until the past couple of weeks and C Brook Lopez and PG Deron Williams have energized this bunch but don't expect anything but a one-and-done scenario if the Nets make it to the post-season.
Odds to Win it All: 250-to-1

MIAMI (35-44) - The Heat's hanging on in a fight for the final playoff berth but no Chris Bosh, no real hope.
Odds to Win it All: 250-to-1

BOSTON (36-42) - Not bad that a team "tanking" winds up with a shot to make the playoffs.
Odds to Win it All: 300-to-1

MILWAUKEE (38-40) - Again, just the fact the Bucks appear pretty locked in at the sixth seed in the East without the services of rookie star Jabari Parker for much of this year says something about the coaching of Jason Kidd. Still, a likely see-'ya-later first-round exit here.
Odds to Win it All: 300-to-1

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