Monday, January 27, 2014

Consensus NBA Power Rankings, Week 14

Now that we are at the midway point of the 2013-14 NBA season, we asked our power rankers for a midseason pick to win it all.

Here are their responses:

John Trifone: Miami Heat

At the midway point of the season, it's tough to pick any team to come out of the West. Teams like Memphis, Denver, and Minnesota, who would be vying for the three seed in the East, are currently on the outside looking in. If I had to pick right now, I would take Oklahoma City to come out of the West, although San Antonio, Portland, and Golden State are not too far behind. The Clippers and Rockets also certainly have a shot, but I think they are just a bit more of an underdog to do so.

The East is much easier, at least, to get down to two. It's pretty clear that barring a major upset, it's going to be Miami and Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Indiana has been the most impressive team in the NBA all year, but I'm still going to take them to fall short again this year to the Heat. Miami knows what they're doing, and they don't need to prove that they can win 70 games in the regular season. They can comfortably rest players whenever needed, and can still lock up the two seed without much of a problem. That means that they will have to be able to beat the Pacers in Indiana this summer, but they know that they can win on the road.

This might be the year that Indiana knocks off the two-time champs, but I believe that the Heat are still too strong, and will manage the team the way they need to in order to be playing their best ball when it matters most.

In a matchup of the NBA Finals two years ago, I like the Heat to come out on top once again. Although KD is having an MVP season, and will likely bring home that hardware, I expect LeBron James to take home another ring. Miami won their previous Finals matchup in five games, and although this one may be more competitive, I like the Heat to win in six games.

Kevin Hanson: Indiana Pacers

While winning the regular season may not be as high on the list of other contending teams, the Pacers clearly want the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs — and that makes sense. After all, the Heat have advanced to the Finals in the past three seasons and have won it all two years in a row. In addition, the Pacers were one game away, which was ultimately a loss in Miami, from getting to the NBA Finals.

The Pacers lead the NBA in scoring defense (90.2 points allowed per game) and have held their opponents to a league-low 41.3 percent from the field. Only the Thunder have a better rebounding differential than the Pacers.

Although LeBron James is still the best player on the planet, Paul George is one of the league's best defenders — and best all-around players, for that matter — to help contain LeBron. With Dwyane Wade (knee) not the same as he was several years ago, I think the Pacers get over the hump this year with a Game 7 win in Indy.

The Western Conference is much deeper and it seems that any team could emerge, but I think the Pacers will face the Thunder in the NBA Finals. However, the Pacers will win it all in six games.

Sean Beazley: Oklahoma City Thunder

I like Oklahoma City to beat Miami in 5.

I love OKC's supporting cast this year. Reggie Jackson has been playing great with Russell Westbrook out with injury, and Jeremy Lamb has been knocking down shots from outside. Their interior defense is very good with Serge Ibaka. And Kevin Durant has taken this team on his back the past couple of weeks and I think he will continue to do so even when Westbrook is back in the lineup.

The Heat are good enough to make it to the finals in the East, but I don't think their Big 3 is as dominant as in years past, and I think this is one of the reasons why King James leaves Miami at the end of his current deal.

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Dan Yanotchko: Indiana Pacers

I think this year will see a new NBA champion crowned, and it will go to the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers certainly have one of the best rosters in the league, led by their trio of Roy Hibbert, Paul George, and David West. The Pacers have the best lockdown defense in the game, and they lead the league in only allowing 90.2 points per game. The Pacers have the best depth, the defense, and they will have learned lessons from losing to Miami in the playoffs the last two years.

- See our full 2013-14 NBA Power Rankings for Week 14 here

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