Charley Rosen: NBA Championship Odds
Thirty teams but only one will win the last game of the season. Which teams, then, have the best chances of emerging as the 2011 champion?
Notwithstanding injuries and radical trades, these are my highly subjective odds-to-win-it-all with only those teams that are currently above .500 being considered.
Boston Celtics 1:2 -- This a veteran team with championship experience. They play intimidating body-to-body defense anchored by plenty of beef in the middle. Boston's offense is precise, unselfish, and resourceful with the key factor being the ability of Ray Allen to plug 3-balls to keep the defense spread. They also might be the hungriest team in the running.
San Antonio Spurs 1:1 -- The only team whose discipline at both ends can compare to Boston's. In the past, San Antonio's postseason success was hugely dependent upon the accuracy of their outside shooting. But Richard Jefferson has found his niche and his jumper, plus the bull's-eye shooting of undrafted rookie Gary Neal has been a significant factor off the bench. The clutch play of San Antonio's old reliables -- Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and (to a lesser extent) Tony Parker -- should not be underestimated. Nor should Gregg Popovich's strategy of limiting his starters' minutes until the minutes really count.
Los Angeles Lakers 2:1 -- After mostly treading water through much of the regular season, the Lakers believe they can turn on their "A" game come the playoffs. This is easier said than done. The Lakers' biggest disappointment has been Ron Artest, who has lost a full step and some of his focus. The return of Matt Barnes should ameliorate this problem. The Lakers' offense is much too Kobe-centric, but the odds of three-peating could get shorter should they commence the money season on the crest of a surge.
Miami Heat 3:1 -- Not enough stuff at the point guard position at both ends of the floor. No post-up scoring threat. Too much one-on-one play, and way too much ball domination by LeBron. There's no way Miami can get past Boston.
Orlando Magic 5:1 -- Too many defensive weak spots for Dwight Howard to single-handedly erase. The miserable play of Gilbert Arenas translates into a subpar bench that has difficulty creating shots off the dribble. Orlando remains a few players short of being an odds-on choice to win a title.
Dallas Mavericks 6:1 -- Tyson Chandler's presence in the paint helps, but Dallas can't play championship-caliber defense. Also, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry have yet to prove they have the heart to pull out close games deep into the playoffs.
Chicago Bulls 10:1 -- Rely too much on Derrick Rose to generate scoring opportunities. Carlos Boozer is at best inconsistent against elite teams. Like a team full of rookies, Chicago struggles to win on the road. At some point, however, the Bulls will take a better team to seven games.
Oklahoma City Thunder 10:1 -- Depend too much on Kevin Durant to make shots that would be risky for anybody else. Russell Westbrook overhandles, forces shots, has poor range and still can't run an offense. OKC is also weak in the middle.
New Orleans Hornets 15:1 -- Chris Paul and David West make up an effective one-two punch. Too bad the rest of their teammates are relatively punchless. Because the Hornets are so stingless away from home, it's hard to imagine them surviving the second round unless they manage to grab the fourth seed.
Atlanta Hawks 20:1 -- An erratic, underachieving squad that still hasn't lived up to its potential, and probably never will.
Denver Nuggets 20:1 -- If Carmelo Anthony doesn't get traded, he'll already have his bags packed when the playoffs commence. If he does get sent elsewhere, Denver will have a lost team halfheartedly playing out a lost season.
Utah Jazz 20:1 -- Al Jefferson doesn't fit. Deron Williams tries to throw too many passes through (instead of over or under) defenders. And despite Jerry Sloan's perpetual motion offense, Utah lacks another player who can score on his own recognizance.
New York Knicks 50:1 -- Amar'e Stoudemire will be exhausted come mid-April, and without him at full strength New York's offense is inconsistent. The absence of defense will be fatal as the Knicks lose in the opening round.
Portland Trail Blazers 100:1 -- Given the plague of injuries to critical players, Portland's season will be a total success should they qualify for the championship tournament.
The ultimate pick here?
A 50-50 chance that the Celtics triumph in six games over the Lakers.