1. Golden State Warriors (#1 Seed, West)
Five All-Stars (last year at least). Need we say more? The Warriors are the number one seed in the West, they rank first in offensive rating, and while they’re just 15th in defensive rating, this team can definitely ramp it up when they need to with great defenders like Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Most importantly, they pose nightmare match ups for the opposing team every night. It’s truly an uphill battle to match the Warriors scoring output for four quarters.
2. Milwaukee Bucks (#1 Seed, East)
The Bucks rank sixth in offensive rating and first in defensive rating. Giannis Antetokounmpo requires a whole team to stop him, and once he collapses the defense it leaves snipers like Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez wide open from deep. Moreover, Eric Bledsoe is one of the best perimeter guards in the game, and with the addition of Nikola Mirotic, the Milwaukee bench is frightening for any opposing second unit.
3. Toronto Raptors (#2 Seed, East)
Any team with Kawhi Leonard is bound to be great on both ends of the floor. When combining Leonard with other two-way talents like Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, a team is produdced that ranks in the top seven for both offensive and defensive rating. Needless to say, the Raptors looks like true contenders this year.
4. Denver Nuggets (#2 Seed, West)
The Nuggets rank third in offensive rating, and they’re above average in defensive rating as well. Nikola Jokic is an MVP candidate, and the team has gotten great output from Malik Beasley, Monte Morris and Torrey Craig in the absence of Gary Harris. Jamal Murray is excellent on the offensive end and Paul Millsap holds it down on defense. Furthermore, with the return of Isaiah Thomas, an already strong Nuggets bench has likely only gotten stronger.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (#3 Seed, West)
Paul George has a case for MVP and DPOY, while Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double (again). Furthermore, this team is full of great pieces like Steven Adams, Dennis Shroder, Terrance Ferguson and the recently acquired Markieff Morris. Definitely look for OKC to make a splash in both the final 25 games and in the playoffs.
6. Boston Celtics (#4 Seed, East)
Despite chemistry concerns, the Celtics are a tremendously talented team and they’re led by someone who knows how to win in the playoffs in Kyrie Irving. Al Horford matches up well with nearly every center, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown are all great contributors and Gordon Hayward looked good in the C’s last three before the break. The Celtics’ bench is solid as well, and Marcus Smart is one of the best guard defenders in the game.
7. Philadelphia 76ers (#5 Seed, East)
Philly’s starting five rivals Golden State’s in terms of difficult matchups. Every starter one through five can put up a show offensively, and Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid are all elite on the defensive end. The main concerns for the 76ers are their somewhat lackluster bench that ranks in bottom ten in terms of points per game, however, the additions of Jonathon Simmons, James Ennis, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott should bolster their second unit.
8. Portland Trail Blazers (#4 Seed, West)
Lillard and McCollum are one of the best backcourts in the game, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jusuf Nurkic are great defensively and the team has some great bench pieces in Seth Curry, Zach Collins and Rodney Hood. The Blazers have a great chance to finish in the top four and should perform well in the playoffs this year.
9. Utah Jazz (#6 Seed, West)
The Jazz rank third in defensive rating, and while they’re 20th in offensive rating, Donovan Mitchell is an elite scorer that can go head to head with the best in the league. Utah has Joe Ingles and Kyle Korver who can both stroke it from deep at a high clip, and opposing offenses have to think twice before taking it inside against the Stifle Tower, Rudy Gobert.
10. Houston Rockets (#5 Seed, West)
James Harden is having a historic season scoring the basketball and Chris Paul has been great since returning from injury. Once Clint Capela returns, the Rockets should climb this list a bit. They’ll have an excellent two-way center back in the starting lineup, and Kenneth Faried, who’s been great during his Rockets tenure, will be a great addition to the second unit.
11. Indiana Pacers (#3 Seed, East)
The Pacers are 6-5 since Oladipo went down for the season and 13-9 without Oladipo on the year. Their big man rotation is exceptional between Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young and Domantas Sabonis. Furthermore, Bojan Bogdanovic is an absolute sniper from deep, which creates a nice inside-out attack, and Darren Collison is the perfect floor general. Even without a bonafide star on the roster, the team works well together and should still be a tough opponent in the playoffs.
12. San Antonio Spurs (#7 Seed, West)
The Spurs are excellent in the mid-range and paint between the star power of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. Furthermore, while Gregg Popovich dislikes the three, the Spurs do lead the league in three-point percentage, albeit on the second least attempts per game. When Aldridge and DeRozan command double teams, it leaves players like Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, Rudy Gay, Derrick White and Patty Mills open from three.
13. Sacramento Kings (#9 Seed, West)
The Kings have a great young core between De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marvin Bagley. Willie Cauley-Stein is a solid center, Harry Giles has had some good games, and the addition of Harrison Barnes makes the Kings a near lock for the playoffs this year.
14. Los Angeles Clippers (#8 Seed, West)
Even without Tobias Harris, this Clippers team has a lot of great contributors and they play solid team basketball. Their starting lineup is solid, but where they really shine is their bench. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrel could both start on a lot of teams, but by coming off the bench, the duo is able to terrorize second units around the league.
15. Los Angeles Lakers (#10 Seed, West)
While the Lakers haven’t looked good, even after LeBron returned, they’re still a better team than a lot of the squads in the East, and they should be solid in their last 25 as they make a push for the playoffs. Kyle Kuzma has scored the ball well all season and Brandon Ingram is a solid playmaker and scorer. Once LeBron gets back into game form and Lonzo Ball returns from injury, the Lakers will likely string together some wins and they have a chance to make it to the seventh or eighth seed.
Featured image courtesy of NBA.com
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