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NBA Sunday: 7 Title Contenders This Year?
Posted By Joel Brigham On April 15, 2012 @ 8:41 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Which Teams Have A Real Shot at the 2012 NBA Title?
For the majority of this season, we’ve looked at the NBA landscape and assumed that three, perhaps four, teams had a legitimate shot at the winning the NBA championship this year: the Miami HEAT, the Chicago Bulls, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and possibly the San Antonio Spurs. Each of these teams have, at times, looked so much better than every other team in the league that it began to feel like a foregone conclusion that someone from that pool would win a ring this summer.
That might not be the case, though. Derrick Rose has a measly seven games to get himself back into the swing of things, and forget how well the team has done without him in the regular season—Chicago can’t win a championship without Rose at full strength and full confidence. The Miami HEAT have gone 6-6 over the course of their last 12 games and have one of the worst benches in the league. Oklahoma City has lost 4 of their 7, all to playoff teams, and San Antonio has even lost 2 of their last 4 after rattling off those 11 straight wins.
In short, all of heavyweights are showing their vulnerabilities right as we close in on the first round of the postseason, which starts in just two weeks. It leads to the question, are there teams outside of those four that have a real shot at winning the NBA championship this year?
There are. In fact, there are more teams legitimately in this thing than many people probably realize. Here’s a look at the most likely longshot 2012 NBA title contenders:
While the HEAT, Bulls, Thunder, and Spurs are the favorites to win this thing come June, none of those teams have been convincing as powerhouses down the stretch this regular season. Realistically, there are 6 or 7 teams that have a shot at the 2012 NBA championship, so despite the fact that we’ve spent all year looking at a small pool of favorites, this thing is wide open. And honestly, that’s a big reason this postseason is shaping up to be really, really exciting.
Paul George Settles Into Shooting Guard
There’s a lot to love when it comes to Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George, who a year ago was thrust into the starting two-guard position towards the end of the season and then thrived defensively in the first round of the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls.
A year later and he very well could be the most promising young player on this Pacers team, but at 6’8”, he might be playing slightly out of position at the two when he’s a more natural small forward. However he, his coach, and the executives that drafted him all say that he’s versatile enough to play either position, and that’s what he’s done with success this year for Indiana.
“I feel like I could find an advantage at both positions,” George told HOOPSWORLD, “so whether I’m playing the two or the three, I still feel as comfortable at either position.”
He added that he’s nowhere near the first player in league history to adapt his game for team need.
“It happens all the time,” he said. “Tracy McGrady came in as a shooting guard, but over time, over the course of his career he’s transformed and moved over to the small forward position. Both of the two positions are interchangeable, so if we got a shooting guard later in my career that came in and had me move to the small forward spot, I’d be for it. I’m fine both ways.”
Indiana head coach Frank Vogel has said that’s exactly how he plans to use him.
“I don’t think it does matter,” Vogel said. “If he’s playing alongside another 6’9” guy, he’ll be a great two. But if we ever had a situation where he was in the lineup with a 6’4” shooting guard, he could be a great three. I just think he’s going to be a great wing.”
With Danny Granger still leading the team in scoring, and with the team’s recent assertion that he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, George looks to get the majority of the minutes at shooting guard for now. Not only is he fine with that, he actually enjoys the opportunity to play alongside Granger, a long-time mentor for him.
“I’ve been around Danny even before I was drafted here,” George said. “We have the same agent, so going through the draft process I was able to work out with Danny during summers. From there it was kind of like a brother relationship, where he would coach me on and off the court, and it just grew over time. From that first summer where I worked with him through now, he’s still coaching me. To see the way he scores, his ability to get to the basket and put the ball in the hoop, those are things I can learn from.”
And it’s that ability to learn so much so quickly that has made George such an asset to what is, right now, the third-best team in the league according to the standings. Both Granger and Roy Hibbert have been All-Stars at one point over the course of the last four years, but George might be the guy with the best chance of making that squad perennially.
For now, though, he’s just happy to be starting for a successful NBA team.
“Coach Vogel has done a great job of putting me in the starting unit so I can grow and learn,” he said. “It’s just a unit where I feel like I have the most success.”
Based on his results so far, it’s hard to argue with that.
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