7 Teams That Could Be NBA Champions in 2014

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With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the thrust of the National Basketball Association’s attention can finally, gloriously, unabashedly turn toward the playoffs. While there are 16 teams that make the post-season every year, there are only a handful that can actually be called contenders — particularly in a year where entry into the bottom half of the playoffs may be because you meant to tank and didn’t (hi, Phoenix!), or simply forgot to lose games — teams that are reasonably expected to make it to the Conference Finals. While it’s fun to arbitrarily root for any given eighth seed to take down the heavy favorite, playoff upsets are rare enough that it’s pretty easy to figure out which team is the real deal.

We’re not going to be talking about the Knicks or the Bobcats, is what I’m trying to say. No. Instead, these are the teams that definitively have a shot at the 2014 Larry O’Brien Trophy, with a couple of dark horse candidates that could make some noise if the light is right and they get all the friendly calls and all the friendly rolls.

Of course, things could change. The NBA could disband over the increased use of sleeved jerseys. Adam Silver could turn into a pumpkin. The Knicks could start being managed competently. Far-out things always happen in the league, so here’s a reminder that this is a look at some teams in February and figuring out where they’ll be in June. Bring some salt. Sell your Carmelo jersey (last one, I swear).

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