NBA Question Of The Day: Who Are The Darkhorse Candidates To Make The NBA Finals?

The NBA season kicked off its 2012-13 campaign last night, and everything for a moment felt right in the world. Twitter/Facebook/G-Chat/text messages were on fire, basketball bloggers everywhere had purpose again and the chances to see the greatest athletes in the world on center stage was the coronation of day one of the season.

Of course, the talk of who will win the NBA title has already been narrowed down to five teams: Miami, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers. Well, two of those teams lost yesterday, with one of them getting ran out of their own building. (Hi, Lakers fans.)

So in part three of our NBA Question of the Day series, we ask a simple question. Can anyone in the league crack the "Top 5" squads and make a run at the NBA Finals? Our debaters will be G. Hylton of Durham, North Carolina, and Matt Whitener of St. Louis, Missouri. Let the debate begin.


Garfield: Pacers and Nuggets

The big 5 are obviously LA, OKC, San Antonio, Miami and Boston. Asking me who is going to the Finals outside of any of these teams ... I’m not even sure that’s possible. In the East, I think the most obvious pick would be the Indiana Pacers. They played the Miami Heat extremely tough last year (even though Bosh was absent for a portion of that series). The Pacers aren’t intimidated by the Heat, and I expect the team is more mentally tough after the loss last year. They could also be one of the most balanced teams in the East if you consider the fact they don’t have a superstar, so everybody has to do his job. That can definitely be a strength since the team recognizes it’ll need full effort night in and night out. But the key will be who steps up on a team with no real superstar when the game goes into crunch time.

In the West? The Denver Nuggets are the first team that comes to mind. They have a very athletic team, and it’s all about the matchups. The Nuggets gave the Lakers quite the scare last year, and from what I’ve seen, they’ve only improved in their athleticism. I also think Andre Iguodala is going to flourish in the wide-open system out west. Ty Lawson, Iggy, Faried, Gallo, Javale McGee ... I mean this team has the opportunity to be really scary on the court. In Corey Brewer you have a lengthy wing defender to pair up with Iggy. The Nuggets appear to have a pretty good backcourt and a couple guys who can get buckets by the boatload. I like the Nuggets' chances far better than I like the Pacers’ chances, but either way, both teams will be climbing mountains in order to find themselves in the NBA Finals.


Whitener: None of the Above

I believe that anything is possible for the most part in pro sports. That if you hit that level and take the field, you’ve got a chance to win it … unless you play for one of the 27 NBA squads that doesn’t reside in Miami, Boston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio or the non-trendy side of LA. It’s not happening for you; you’re playing out the season in the absolute best-case scenario to the conference semis. Because today’s NBA has the least parity of any league. It is pro sports' answer to the Republican Party.

It’s easy to see why too. In this era, the chase for a title has been deemed work that can only be done with at least two other All-Stars walking the entire way with a superstar. But now there are the elite fantasy league squads like the Heat and Lakers, and then the pretend ones like the Knicks, Nuggets, Sixers, Pacers and the new-money, same-but-new city, Nets. Let’s be clear right now, they don’t stand any more of a chance than the Magic, Bobcats or Kings do at springing to the top. As if finding some way to hold off a LeBron/Wade/Bosh charge wasn’t enough, now they’ve got Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to pick up all the open work. The Spurs' and Celtics' scripts are still solid, the Lakers have four Hall of Famers still in All-Star form, and the Thunder have gotten better each year of the Durant/Westbrook era … and there’s only one more step to go up from where they finished last spring. All of these squads are problems, the kind that the imitators are still a few lingering borderline All-Star trades away from even tickling.

Maybe a squad like Denver or a re-energized, Rose-returned Bulls squad to could make it interesting enough to watch them for a little while, but in the end there’s the cool kids and then the rest of them. It’s exciting to think everybody has a shot, but we’re just going to keep it real from the jump: Even half of the squads in the Big 5 don’t stand a chance of REALLY getting to the peak. But that’s a whole different debate.

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