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Three potential NBA playoff sleepers for the first round

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It's April once again, which means the NBA playoffs are upon us, and with it, comes the predictability of the first few match ups between the first and second seeds. This year, that's not entirely the case, because the Western Conference is absolutely brutal. Every team in the playoffs in the West has 50 or more wins except for the 8th seed Dallas Mavericks, who will go up against the San Antonio Spurs, with 49 wins. The Phoenix Suns, who barely missed the playoffs, ended the year with 48 wins. Both teams would have been the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. The East has largely been a two team race between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat, as basically everybody is gearing up for the almost inevitable showdown between the Eastern Conference giants in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The first round in the East will be Indiana/Atlanta and Miami/Charlotte, which will surely be snooze fests. The West will have San Antonio/Dallas and Oklahoma City/Memphis, in what will likely be tough for both the Spurs and the Thunder. As for the other match ups, well, here are the teams that may surprise.

Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors Danny Moloshok/AP Images

Golden State Warriors

This might not seem like a sleeper pick or an upset by any means, however, despite how great the Western Conference is, the 3rd seed Clippers are still the odds-on favorite to take this match up. 

The Clippers are a full 6 games better than the Warriors, and they have the best point guard in the game in Chris Paul, coupled with a top 5 power forward in Blake Griffin. They are a handful for any team, but more so for the Warriors, who will be a tad bit undersized without big man Andrew Bogut. 

However, the Warriors are a team that lives and dies by the three. That may not seem like a good thing, but when it comes to a playoff series, where a hot streak can be the difference between moving on and going home, it sure is great to have the best shooter in the league in Stephen Curry. Curry is the guy who can bury the Clippers with his incredible three point shooting, or bury the Warriors with his turnovers and too many missed shot attempts. 

Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets

The 6th seed Brooklyn Nets will take on the Toronto Raptors, and while the Raptors have been the better team for the majority of the season; the Nets, meanwhile, have some questionable coaching and some very old, very past their prime, players. 

The Nets started the year off terribly, as did the Raptors, however both teams turned it around and ended up having solid seasons. The reason why the Nets are featured is simple: talent. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett may be old and well past their primes, but they are still Hall of Fame talent, and that kind of talent can't be found so easily. Couple that with the talent of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, and you have a team that can potentially knock off anybody. 

Washington Wizards
Washington Wizards Alex Brandon

Washington Wizards

John Wall is the reason why the Wizards might crash the Heat/Pacers Eastern Conference Finals party. The young point guard out of Kentucky has become a force to be reckoned with, averaging 19.3 points per game and 8.8 assists per game, effectively making him a top player at his position. Wall is accompanied by up-and-comer Bradley Beal, who has been amazing from long range, shooting over 40%, and Trevor Ariza, who plays very good defense and hits the long ball. 

When you couple those three talented perimeter players with Marcin Gortat and Nené, two of the most under appreciated big men in the league, you get a group of players that could contend for the Eastern Conference title. When you have John Wall on your team, anything is possible. 

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