Jason Ross: Want To Pick An NBA Champion? Find The Best Healthy Team

So we all make predictions. I like to see if I can guess who will win games, playoff series and even the whole thing.

The first week of the NBA playoffs was a quick reminder of how it can change in an instant. These teams build their resumes over 82 games and what we think of them can switch quickly based on health. So, when you are deciding on who to pick to win these games or series or even the title start with the best team that is the healthiest.

History has shown this to be true, too.

The “Showtime” Lakers in the late 80’s had won two titles in a row and were going for a three-peat. They swept through the Western Conference playoffs and were in line to stay hot against the Pistons for a third consecutive ring. The starting backcourt of Magic Johnson and Byron Scott both got hurt in the first game and the Lakers competed to the best of the ability but they were involved in a competitive sweep at the hands of the Bad Boy Pistons. Just too much to overcome.

If you need more examples, I’ve got them.

The 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings were cruising right along with the NBA’s best record. They were in round 2 of the NBA playoffs in Game 3 against Dallas when Peja Stojakovic got hurt. The Kings still were able to beat the Mavericks and could have defeated the Lakers but people seem to forget that Stojakovic didn’t play until Game 5 and didn’t start a game in the series.

In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, Hedo started and did not score in 30 minutes of play. Would the Kings have won that game if Stojakovic played? Would they have won the series if Stojakovic played? We will truly never know, but I do know that the Lakers had all their key players for the entire series.

Let’s go to more recent memory.

Two years ago, LeBron James put on a show for the ages in the Finals without Kyrie and Kevin Love. Two huge pieces missing from the Cavs so the “best/healthiest” team won with the Golden State Warriors getting their first title in 40 years. Last year, the Cavs were healthy, the Warriors weren’t 100 percent with Steph not quite right and look who was the last one standing: the Cavaliers.

This post-season the injury to Rajon Rondo has changed the outlook of that series. Blake Griffin is now out again and the Clippers long term run has no road map for success. So here is the overall message, you obviously need to be a good team for starters but after that you could use a lot of luck. Stay healthy and take your chances that your opponent won’t.

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