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This is an exciting time in the NBA. With the playoffs on the horizon, everyone is anticipating an incredible postseason. Across the league, coaches and coordinators have had time to regroup and strategize their game plan and there are many teams that are in fierce competition for a playoff spot. Here are the five best teams from both conferences and why their futures are looking bright heading into the 2020 playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have been fighting neck and neck with the Lakers for the title of “best in California.” While the Lakers have an incredible lineup, the Clippers certainly have some of the best talent in the league. The combination of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George has proven to be a dynamic duo, making the Clippers one of the best NBA futures Western Conference picks.
Los Angeles Lakers
The LA Lakers may very well be able to claim the title of best team in the league. At the top of the standings in the arguably more competitive conference, you cannot deny that they were a force in 2019. It seems their biggest challenge is the Milwaukee Bucks, though they managed to beat them and conference rivals the Clippers in the same weekend. With an all-star lineup of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and they reportedly have J.R. Smith on the way, the Lakers are the team to beat.
Oklahoma City Thunder
When you review this team, it’s clear to see they have a lot going for them. When they have the playmaking trifecta of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder on the floor, they are hard to beat. With many games coming down to the last five minutes, they have shown they can play under pressure and pull out the win. Their top-ten defense is tough to get past, and OKC could easily rise up the rankings.
More than anyone, the Rockets needed time to regroup after a losing streak, but this team has everything they need to be a top contender in the near future. The much anticipated combination of James Harden and Russell Westbrook has yet to take off, but they could flip the switch and be exceptional in this conference. James Harden has been criticized for his cardio and fatigue, and presumably has used this time to improve his conditioning and come back strong. Among the top five teams in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets could easily be the sleeper pick to win.
Across the immensely competitive Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets are holding strong and consistently showing that they are a tough team. Their center Nikola Jokic has quietly become one of the best and most consistent players in the entire league. Point guard Jamal Murray may be a breakout star in his own right, and we are waiting to see how he pans out. While their upcoming schedule is not easy by any means, matchups are what matters and if the Nuggets keep performing like they are, they have a clear path to the championship.
The Milwaukee Bucks are on a mission to prove that they are the best team in the NBA. Going 53-12 thus far in the season, they have shown that they are the most consistent team thus far. Their standout power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is clearly hungry to win his first championship and doesn’t intend to let anyone get in his way. Khris Middleton is a mid-range sniper that nicely compliments the Bucks aggressive playstyle. Behind Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have Eric Bledsoe and George Hill who both have demonstrated that they can help participate late in the game. The Bucks are clearly the strongest team in the Eastern Conference right now and are easily one of the favorites to win the championship.
As the old saying goes, defense wins championships and the Raptors have a better defense now then when they won last year. With that said, the Raptors definitely have their work cut out for them going forward. They have a tough schedule against many teams with 39 or more wins, and all of their opponents are in a playoff position. While they have been battling injuries throughout the season, most of their key players are healthy as of now. The power forward Pascal Siakam is their best player, and he mixes nicely with Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet. If the Raptors want to be the champions again, they will have to struggle through the rest of the season to come out on top.
The Boston Celtics are the only team in the Eastern Conference to be in the top five in both offense and defense, a notable feat that makes them the most well rounded team out of their rivals. Not only will they be able to come back healthy, but they also have a greatly beneficial season against some of the weaker teams in the league. From here, they’ll face the Blazers, the Grizzlies, Wizards, Magic and Nets. All of these teams are under .500, and with a consistent streak of wins, the Celtics will be in a position to steal the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference from the Raptors. Keep an eye on them as a possible sweeper team heading into the playoffs.
This is the first time since the departure of LeBron James in 2014 that the Miami Heat are a better than average team. After several seasons of rebuilding and refocusing their efforts, they currently hold the #4 spot in the Eastern Conference, just behind the Boston Celtics. While the Celtics have one of the easier schedules left, Miami has one of the hardest. Power forward Bam Adebayo has been called one of the NBA’s fastest-rising stars and is the new face of the franchise. Heat president Pat Riley has gone as far as calling him “the next Dwayne Wade.” At only 22 years old, Adebayo’s career is looking especially bright, and he may help the Heat really take off during the upcoming playoffs.
The 76ers are possibly the biggest wildcard in the Eastern Conference right now. Currently sitting neck and neck with the Pacers, it’s time for them to shift into gear if they want to push through to the playoffs. After they face off with the Pacers in Orlando, they play against five straight teams with under .500 records like the Spurs, Wizards and Magic. With their team mostly healed up and ready to play, the 76ers are in a good spot right now.