With the NBA set to resume next Thursday in Orlando, FL with 22 out of the 30 NBA teams, a lot of questions come up. One of the main questions is which teams are title contenders? Let's take a look at the 22 teams and rank them based on how much damage they can do in the playoffs.
With the best record in the league and one of the best players in the league, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have shown how great they can be. To go along with Giannis, All Star Chris Middleton is having one of his best seasons in his career. The Bucks have surely separated themselves from the rest of the NBA, earning them the top spot in my power rankings.
The Lakers are no doubt one of the top teams in the NBA. With two top 5 players, the Lakers can do some damage in the Western Conference Playoffs. Now, with the addition of NBA champion JR Smith, the Lakers now have experience that will help them down the road. With the best record in the West, watch out for the Lakers in the Western Conference.
The Clippers have been one of the favorites to win the NBA title ever since they traded for Paul George and signed Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers have had a small sample size, as PG and Kawhi have only played about 35 games together. They are capable of greatness, as long as everyone stays healthy. As we saw last year, Kawhi is dangerous in the playoffs. Don't be surprised if we see that same Kawhi in this year's playoffs as well.
Coming off a season in which the Raptors won the NBA Championship, they have continued their great run in this year's regular season. As of right now, they hold the 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, being 6.5 games back of the Bucks. The Raptors are not being talked about enough; and for a 2 seed, they are a sleeper in the playoffs. They don't have a big star to propel them, but with multiple young talents the Raptors can make it far in the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics have multiple stars on their roster in Tatum and Walker. The Celtics currently hold the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and are 3 games back of the Raptors. They are a complete team and have good players for every position. The Celtics are in a better position to win a championship then they were in years past. It will be tough to come out of the East this year, but the Celtics are one of many teams that can do it.
The Houston Rockets are my sleeper team for the NBA playoffs. With the league's leading scorer in James Harden, plus Russell Westbrook, the Rockets are a complete team. The only problem I see with the Rockets is the "small ball" lineup. You need size to compete with top teams, but with top guards, the Rockets are one of the few teams that can compete.
Another sleeper this year is the Miami Heat. With Jimmy Butler and rising star Bam Adebayo, the Heat are another complete team who will be competing in Orlando. As of now, the Heat are the 5 seed in the East but with the 8 seeding games, the Heat could get "home court advantage" in the playoffs.
The Nuggets are one of the more interesting teams in the NBA. With Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, this Nuggets duo is very talented and works well together. The Nuggets hold the 3 seed in the Western Conference, and it will be very tough to make it out of the 1st round because they will most likely be playing the Rockets or the Thunder.
When I saw the Mavericks were the 7 seed in the West, it shocked me. The Mavs have one of the top players in Luka to go along with Porzingis. Those two players alone will make a difference for the Mavs in the playoffs. Like I have said with almost every Western Conference team, it is going to be very tough to make it past even the first round. The Mavs are a good enough team that we may even see an upset in the first round.
For the Sixers, chemistry is the only issue. The talent is there but they just can't mesh. With Simmons and Embiid to go along with Harris and Horford, shooting is what lacks. The Sixers roster is there, that's why they are in the top 10, but to really go above a 5 seed, the Sixers need shooting. Horford can make shots every once in awhile, so that's a positive. If the Sixers can mesh together, they can be one of the top teams in the NBA.
The Thunder have been one of the surprise teams in the league this year. Chris Paul is having a good year, which is all the Thunder asked for out of the 35 year old. Paul is that superstar the Thunder needed and now that they have that, the Thunder can make it past a loaded Western Conference.
The Jazz have one of the best big men in the league in Rudy Gobert; they also have a young star in Donovan Mitchell. As of now, the Jazz hold the 4 seed in the West and will try to surpass the Nuggets for the 3 seed. The Jazz are a great team and have a great duo with Gobert and Mitchell. That will certainly help them in this year's playoffs.
The Indiana Pacers don't have a star, but they work great as a team. Victor Oladipo has opted out of the season, but is considering returning to the bubble. The Pacers have Sabonis, Brogdon, and Myles Turner to get them through the playoffs. This team is good enough that they don't need a star. They know how to play together and that will work in the playoffs until they run into a top team.
14. Trail Blazers
The Blazers are the first team on the list that are not currently in a playoff spot. The Blazers are 3.5 games back of the 8 seed in the West. The reason they are this high is simply because of 3 players: Lillard, Mccollum and Anthony. Trevor Ariza opted out of the season, but I think the Blazers can win without him. The Blazers in terms of the roster is up there with playoff teams. After the 8 games, if the Blazers are less than 4 games back of the 8 seed, they will play in the play-in tournament and will have a chance at the 8 seed. The Blazers are one of, if not the only, team I think can win a play-in tournament if there is one.
The Pelicans are one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. With Zion Williamson and All Star Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans might have a shot at a playoff spot. They are currently 3.5 games back of the 8 seed, and just like the Blazers, will most likely have a shot at a play-in tournament. The Pelicans are an exciting team with lots of young talent and will most likely be in contention for an 8 seed.
The current team to hold the 8 seed in the Western Conference is the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies control their own destiny, but will probably have to participate in a play-in tournament. The Grizzlies have a lot of young talent, most notably Ja Morant, who is a favorite for ROTY. As long as the Grizzlies can win a few games, they will most likely be the 8 seed in this year's playoffs.
The hometown team in this tournament is the Orlando Magic. The Magic are the current 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and also control their own destiny. There will be no fans in attendance so this advantage is little to none. The Magic don't have a lot of veteran talent, which will make it tough in the playoffs, thus earning them the 17 spot on this list. However, they are looking to get into the 7 seed as they are only .5 games back of the Nets. Let's see if the Magic can pull off an upset in the playoffs.
The Sacramento Kings are another team in the West who is trying to get into the playoffs. They have young talent with Fox and Hield to go along with veteran players. The only issue for the Kings is just how many teams are better than them. The main target for the Kings in Orlando is to get experience to younger players and to force a play-in tournament.
It's going to be tough for the Spurs and Gregg Popovich in Orlando. With LaMarcus Aldridge out with an injury, all that's really left is DeRozan. DeRo can't do it alone and it will be really hard to get past the 4 or 5 teams ahead of them to get into a playoff spot.
The Brooklyn Nets are one of the worst teams coming into Orlando. They are without Irving, Durant, Dinwiddie, and Jordan. That's going to make their chances of getting out of the first round near impossible. The Nets, as of now, are the 7 seed in the East. Don't be surprised if we see a drop down to the 8 for the Nets in Orlando.
Let's be honest, the Suns are not one of the best teams in Orlando. However, there are a lot of positives here. Players like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton haven't really had playoff experience before. This could be meaningful later down the road in years to come. The Suns do have a few young stars which gets them to 21 on this list.
Coming into the year, the expectations were not the best for the Wizards. With the only star on the team being Bradley Beal, the Wizards have been a slight surprise. However, Beal opted out of the season with an injury, so that makes the Wizards' chances of making the playoffs little to none. The Wizards are 5.5 games back of the 8 seed and if they want a chance, they need to start winning right out of the gate.
With the games starting on July 30, we will see all these teams in action. Let's see who will prevail after the 8 seeding games and secure a spot in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.