Friday, February 10, 2006

Finding the Surprise Contender

Every year an NBA team emerges in the second half of the season, rattling off winning streaks and striking fear in the hearts of would-be opponents. Last year it was the Nuggets. Who will it be this season? It's an interesting question, because every NBA expert has seemingly narrow the field of "contenders" to seven (Detroit, San Antonio, Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland, and the Clippers). Obviously, the Pistons loom largest, followed by the Mavs and Spurs. The other four teams are more "conference finals" type of contenders. But seriously, there isn't anyone else? How can that be? I decided to select one "outsider" franchise to tab as my sleeper pick for the 2006 Playoffs. I flirted with the Nets, but ultimately, I can't embrace any team with a Collins Brother starting at power forward. Indiana is a team that always seems to bounce back. Memphis plays good defense. And the Sixers have some talent and Mo Cheeks teams always seem to do better in the second half of the season. However, my choice is the Sacramento Kings. They haven't had their entire team on the floor for a game since the Artest trade and I think when they do, they are going to look pretty good. Artest and Bonzi Wells are tough (and crazy) players that can provide post scoring while Brad Miller and Abdur-Rahim work in the high post. Bibby is as clutch as they come. Peja's mopey attitude is gone. Kevin Martin is emerging as a Peja-like deep threat. Francisco Garcia can't shoot, but plays defense like Andrei Kirilenko. Kenny Thomas cleans the glass. I'm telling you, this team is going to round into shape.

The best part for the Kings is that not only are they a mere three games out of the playoff picture in the West, but they are only four and a half games out of the all-important sixth seed. The team that snags the #6 seed will avoid both Dallas and San Antonio until a potential Conference Finals matchup. Remember where you heard it first.


Anonymous said...

Are you crazy? The Kings are still horrible, even with Artest. And how long before he goes nuts? By the way, they lost tonight to the Suns, right after you annointed them as the sleeper. Solid job.

Adam Hoff said...

Well, 24 hours can make things look a little differently. Sacto put the hurt on Atlanta tonight and made it look easy. Artest had six steals and was a lightening rod of activity. Look, all the Kings need to do is win 4 of every 5 at home and half their road games the rest of the way and they are in. Get hot for a week or two and they could get all the way up to #6. Then, who knows? I'm just saying watch out for them.

Anonymous said...

Dude, the Kings look pretty good, man. You might have made a nice call on this one. For once.