Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Simple: Best team in the NBA? Clippers, Heat, Thunder or …? Why?
Steve Aschburner: Miami is the best team in the NBA because it has, by far, the best player in the NBA. That still matters most in this league. Not in a vacuum, obviously, but when he – LeBron James – is surrounded by the level of competence and confidence that the rest of the Heat provide, that’s formidable and unbeatable come the playoffs. For sheer talent and depth, the Clippers are impressive. For fit, chemistry and upside, it’s hard to argue with the Thunder. But for championship readiness, resiliency and resolve (can we retire the term “killer instinct” in sports, please?), no bunch is better in my view than the Heat. James has a legacy to ice, Dwyane Wade has a growing cadre of skeptics to hush and the rest of that crew provides the highest possible grade of caulk available.
Fran Blinebury: Miami. James, Wade and Bosh are still the best threesome in the league and can lock you down defensively. In addition, LeBron, already a three-time MVP, is now even better.
Jeff Caplan: Talking right now, this very second, it’s the Clippers, hands down. No team can score in as many ways, is as deep, has an always-in-control floor general at point guard to handle every situation or is having as much fun as the other L.A. team.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The Clippers at the moment. Yes, the competition has been pretty soft, but the Clips can’t be penalized for that. They are mostly dominating the teams they should be dominating, the sign of a team locked in, in play and attitude. And when the winning streak was threatened at Utah, down big, on the second night of a back-to-back, when they could have just been satisfied with all the victories that had come before, the Clippers showed a champion’s heart by instead adding another victim. They are defending, they are pretty efficient on offense, and they have the intangibles of leadership and composure.
John Schuhmann: OKC. I don’t want to take anything away from the Clippers for a loss in Denver, but their winning streak, though very impressive, was also schedule-fueled in the first place. The Thunder lost to the Heat on Christmas, but they’ve obviously been more consistent otherwise. Even though L.A. won 17 straight, the Thunder are ahead of them in the standings this morning. OKC has had a relatively easy schedule, but they’ve done the best job of beating the teams they’re supposed to and they lead the league in point differential (+10.5 points per 100 possessions).
Sekou Smith: Is it really that simple? No team has played better, of late, than the Clippers. But we all know what the Heat and Thunder are capable of based on the way they finished last season and the fact that they sit atop the standings in their respective conferences this morning (you can check here). As much as I love what the Clippers did to finish off 2012 and the Thunder’s resolve since losing in The Finals, the Heat remain the best team in the NBA based on the presence of one LeBron Raymone James. As long as he’s healthy and in uniform, it’s hard to pick against the Heat.