February 9, 2013

NBA: Don't Sleep on the Sleepers

By - Jaquan Murphy

With the second half of the season right around the corner, the playoffs will begin to be a major focal point in the NBA. Teams wheeling and dealing to make a move or adjust their rotations to make them as strong as possible for a deep postseason run.

There are going to be teams that are no-doubters, and some that will be question marks. Then, there are the sleeper teams that can sneak in, and in some cases, make long runs in the playoffs.

The Eastern Conference may have two of the more dangerous sleeper teams in the NBA. The Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors are two clubs that could sneak in under the radar and not only make the postseason, but make some teams sweat as well.

Photo by: Gary Dineen
The Bucks can easily slip into the 7th or 8th seed this year. With a backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, the Bucks throw one of the more dynamic backcourts in the NBA on the floor. With the roster as is, they can most likely ride a hot streak to a low seed in the East. However, if they are able to swing a deal for a big man at the deadline, or if one of their young bigs step up, Milwaukee could be a formidable team in the conference.

Another silent but potentially dangerous team in the East is Toronto. The acquisition of Rudy Gay now has the Raptors looking like a team that could make some noise this year. His presence brings leadership to a young, inexperienced squad, and a go-to scorer the team has been lacking. Teamed up with the young explosive duo of Kyle Lowery and DeMar Derozan in the backcourt and a soon-to-be healthy Andrea Bargnani, Toronto is a club capable of sneaking in virtually unnoticed, and if matched up with the right team, making a pretty interesting first round match-up.

The Western Conference has a few quality sleeper teams as well.

Although they are already in the playoff mix, the Golden State Warriors are a sleeper team simply because they are not getting the respect they deserve. Led by Stephen Curry, the Warriors are a team that is young, scrappy and resilient. They do not back down from anyone. Their team toughness may be one of the things that helps them sneak up on a team and surprise them in the first round of the playoffs. Match them up against a team that likes to get into shootouts and the Warriors may be responsible for sending a powerhouse home early.

Another team that may end up surprising some people is the Portland Trail Blazers. The duo of veteran forward LaMarcus Aldridge and rising star Damien Lillard make Portland a team that should not be taken lightly. As long as role players like Nicolas Batum and J.J. Hickson pull their weight, and the bench steps up when their numbers are called, the Blazers are a team more than capable of getting in the playoffs and possibly making some noise once they do.

Every year there is a Cinderella that emerges out of the woodwork and catches a team by surprise. Sometimes it may only be a fluke, but others it's a coming out party for the team. Whether one of these squads will be that team this year remains to be seen. But in the meantime, take a look at teams other than the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder; clubs further down the list. You may find a team that will be sending your favorite squad home this postseason.


  1. I think for Toronto it's too little too late. They're 8 games back, I doubt they'll even come close to a playoff spot. I like the other dark horses you've picked here and I hope you're right that they do make some noise. I don't think they can, because the big dogs are way better than the rest of the teams in the NBA and it's not that common for an 8 or a 7 to beat a 1 or a 2 in the NBA (barring injury). It would be nice to see some new teams in the Finals though, that's for sure.

  2. The Raptors have too much ground to make up. They won't make the playoffs.

  3. The Raptors are a stretch, but I don't see the 6-7-8 seeds in the East really being capable of seperating themselves from the rest of the pack, so if the Raptors can get hot in the second half of the season they may be able to catch that those teams. I like Golden State as well. Solid team that nobody is talking about.

  4. Doesnt even matter who the "sleeper" teams are because no one is stopping the Heat from repeating.