1. San Antonio Spurs, 61-21. The Spurs lost their last two games of the season to finish with the second-best record in the National Basketball Association(NBA) after pacing the league the entire season. It gets worse. Shooting guard Manu Ginobili is doubtful for Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies after an MRI revealed a sprain in his right elbow, an injury suffered in the final game of the regular season when he hyper extended his right elbow. Ginobili averaged 17.4 points this season and, along with Tim Duncan, has led the team all year. Spurs fans should be worried about the team limping into the playoffs. A faster-paced offense that uses a deep rotation is the biggest factor in their success. Their championship pedigree makes them a serious threat to win it all. Health of this older team will be a major key in their success. The Spurs face the 46-36 Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
2. Los Angeles Lakers 57-25. The Lakers, led by All Stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, are striving toward their third-straight NBA championship. The Lakers are sometimes unfocused, as Bryant said earlier this season when I asked if it was difficult for the veteran team designed to win a championship to get motivated for regular season games The Lakers regained their focus in the second half, where they went 17-1 in the first 18 games, only to lose five in a row after, before winning the last two of the season. This inconsistency is a reason for alarm for Lakers fans, but I would expect the highest level of focus going into the playoffs. The Lakers face the 46-36 New Orleans Hornets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
5. Chicago Bulls, 62-20. The Chicago Bulls head into the NBA Post Season having won nine in a row, led by All Star guard and NBA MVP candidate Derrick Rose. So why are the Chicago Bulls ranked so low? The first two teams have combined for nine championships in recent years, and the Boston Celtics have won a championship as well. Dwyane Wade has also led the Miami Heat to championship in 2006. The Chicago Bulls had a great regular season, but I’m uncertain of their ability in the playoffs. They will face the 37-45 Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder, 55-27. All Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook lead a Thunder team that is poised to take their next step in the playoffs, after intensely battling the Lakers in the first round last season. The February acquisition of Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson for Jeff Greene and Nenad Kristic shows that the Thunder are prepared with size to battle the best in the Western Conference. The Thunder will face the 50-32 Denver Nuggets, who are 18-7 since the Carmelo Anthony trade. Should be one of the more entertaining match ups of the first round.
9. Denver Nuggets 50-32. The Denver Nuggets are 18-7 since trading Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, and have had nine different players lead them in scoring, including new additions Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, and Danilo Gallinari. The team concept of having starters and players off the bench who are all capable of going for 20+ points on any given night make the Nuggets tough to guard. The Nuggets will play the talented 55-27 Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA playoffs, which should be one of the more entertaining series.
10. New York Knicks. The Knicks have had an up and down half season after acquiring Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups in February, following up a six-game losing streak from March 18, 2011, to March 26, 2011, with a seven-game winning streak from March 28, 2011, to April 10, 2011. With Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks have two of the six top scorers in the NBA and are a dangerous playoff foe for any team in the league. They will face the 56-26 Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, a series that includes six players from February’s All-Star game.