Bulls, Thunder have skills to reach NBA Finals

Raul Magana

AGILITY: Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (1) drives to the basket against New Jersey's Jordan Farmar on April 13. Rose has taken Chicago back to prominence this season. Photo Credit: Courtesy of MCT.

If there is anything that jumps out about the 2011 NBA playoffs is that anybody can win.

Okay well maybe not anybody, but there has been a growing trend where top-seeded positioning in the playoffs no longer equals an automatic ticket for the next round.

Every team from first through eighth in both the conferences pose a different threat with different weapons to opposing teams.

With so much parity in the NBA this postseason, it is not difficult to see.

Think about unfamiliar teams making a deep run in the playoffs and possibly dethrone the usual names, which have had a stranglehold at the top of their conference like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.

Setting the stage for the team I like to come out of the Western Conference: the Oklahoma City Thunder.

I am well aware that the road to a championship, especially in the Western Conference, must go through the defending back-to-back champion Lakers, but that is also the biggest reason why I feel the Thunder will reach the NBA Finals.

The Lakers have shown an inability all season to match up against premier guards and the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, who is playing at the top of his game, can prove be a nightmare for the Lakers’ defense.

With the midseason acquisition of gritty center Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder has sealed up its biggest hole in their quest for a championship: the front line.

Perkins is not only another big body and one of the best post up defenders in the league, but his toughness on both ends of the court is valuable, especially in the playoffs where it is inevitable to find a game that comes down to heart and attitude.

There will be times when the game gets ugly and a team will have to scratch and claw their way to victory and those are the games where Perkins will shine and show his true value.

All this and let’s not forget about All-Star Kevin Durant, the Thunder’s biggest star. The young forward can score on command, just look at his numbers from game one against the Denver Nuggets this year.

Durant exploded for 41 points and he is only going to get better.

In the Eastern Conference, I look for the Chicago Bulls to reach the championship round.

The Bulls have shown that sometimes it is best to grab opportunities and dictate your own path.

It is often said the two most important positions in basketball are the point guard and center positions and if that’s true, then it is no secret how the Bulls were able to play their way to the best regular season record in basketball.

You will have a tough time finding any two players who are more valuable to their team than the Bulls’ All-Star point guard and MVP candidate Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah.

Rose has propelled himself into arguably the best point guard in a league riddled with premiere point guards.

Rose is an explosive playmaker that can get to the front of the rim at will and can finish with both his left and right hand or most notably a combination of the two.

He finds ways to contort his body in mid flight to avoid a probable charge and/or finish for a three-point play.

Noah does much of the same for the Bulls as Perkins does for the Thunder except more energetic and enthusiastic.

Noah is the anchor on a top-ranked defense, which finished second in points allowed by giving up 91.3 points per game. His length and athleticism has helped him become a monster on the glass, averaging more than 10 rebounds per game during the regular season and an enforcer in the paint with averaging 1.5 blocks per game.