We all knew that the teams from Los Angeles will be among the main competitors for the NBA Championship after the summer. The Lakers got Anthony Davis and a bunch of veterans, while the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
That was enough for the best online sportsbooks to declare them favorites and the regular season so far has proven them right. Both LA teams are doing well, without playing to their full potential.
That begs the question if someone can stop them on the road to the NBA title. Let’s take a look at the main contenders.
The Eastern Conference is certainly weaker but there is a certain team that looks ready to challenge. The Milwaukee Bucks failed to reach the NBA Finals last year but they have managed to keep most of their roster.
Giannis is getting better every season and they have more playoff experience this year. The Bucks seem like a team that won’t have any issues winning the top seed in the East and the Conference Finals look certain.
The question is what happens when the teams start to focus mostly on Giannis in the post-season, like the Raptors did last year. The Greek Freak is having an excellent campaign so far and his stats are better in multiple categories, including his outside shooting.
But would that be enough? It might be for the Eastern Conference crown but the NBA Championship is another story. Both LA teams have at least two superstars and the Clippers have a much better bench.
The Bucks might be the favorite in the East but they seem to be a step behind the big guns in the West.
For some reason, the Denver Nuggets have been under the radar since the start of the season, despite their excellent performance. The team is one of the best defensively and below average offensively. I don’t think that anyone expected that.
It was vice versa last season but the important point is that the Nuggets look strong. If they improve slightly offensively, they will be among the toughest teams to beat in the playoffs.
All of their stars, including Nikola Jokic, have room for improvement and they have playoff experience after the 2018-19 season.
They are one of the dark horses this season and might be one of the few franchises that could go all the way against the LA teams.
There were plenty of questions about the Houston Rockets before the season. Most of them were related to the potential partnership between Russel Westbrook and James Harden. Some people expected them to be the best team in the NBA, while others thought that the Rockets will fail.
So far, the truth is somewhere in between the extremes. The franchise is solid and in contention for a high playoff seed in the Western Conference. Harden is having another historical season, so at the very least, Russ is not harming his game.
At the same time, Westbrook showed flashes of brilliance at times. His shooting from the outside hasn’t been good enough but was to be expected.
The problem with the Rockets is that their style is great for the NBA regular season and not so good in the playoffs. They have a below-average defense and they will stop getting so many calls, once the post-season comes.
They don’t seem like a team ready to challenge the big guns in the West, so it seems that the second round of the playoffs is their limit.
I don’t think that anyone would’ve thought that the Dallas Mavericks might be a contender in the 2019-20 NBA season. And yet, Luka Doncic is one of the best players in the NBA and the Mavs are flying.
They have one of the best first scoring and playmaking options in the Slovenian. Tim Hardaway Jr. is having a solid season and the bench has been excellent.
The only guy that has been underperforming is Kristaps Porzingis. The big man needs to improve his efficiency, but he has plenty of time by the playoffs. After all, he’s coming back after a long-term injury and you can’t expect the best of him from day 1.
If he steps up, the Mavericks have a realistic chance for a top 4 seed in the West. They don’t seem ready to challenge the LA teams, but would you bet against Luka Doncic right now?
According to most fans and specialists before the season, the 76ers were poised to challenge Bucks in the Eastern Conference. The problem is that the team seems worse compared to last year.
The roster is full of talent but they don’t seem to fit very well. The lack of outside shooting creates a lot of problems with the spacing because of the likes of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and other players that operate in the same areas.
If you add the weak bench, the 76ers don’t seem like a team that could realistically challenge for the NBA Championship. In fact, even going out of the East would be a monumental success for the franchise.
The Boston Celtics are one of the pleasant surprises of the NBA season so far. Gordon Hayward looked like his old self before the injury and Kemba Walker looks like a great fit. The point guard is not only scoring a ton of points, but he’s also helping the young roster improve.
If you add the strong defense, it seems like the Celtics are one of the sides that could surprise many of the favorites. They might be a year or two early in terms of attacking the NBA Championship, but any team that underestimates them will suffer.