The NBA season has started off strong despite the ongoing spread of Covid-19. Let’s look at five teams and determine if they are a true contender or a pretender.
After resigning Giannis Antetokounmpo to a max contract and adding Jrue Holiday via trade with the Pelicans, the Bucks were seen as a contender in not only the Eastern Conference but the entire NBA. This has not been the case so far as the Bucks have been struggling mightily. They are 5-5 in their last ten games as of February 19 and are on a five-game losing streak.
Excuses are made that the absence of Jrue Holiday has caused them to go 1-5 in their last 6 games. The Bucks stand at 5-0 against the Cavaliers and Pistons while 11-13 against everyone else. These stats alone demonstrate Milwaukee’s early struggles. If the Bucks don’t turn this around they will certainly continue their unsatisfying strand of playoff runs.
Los Angeles Lakers
After winning the NBA championship last season it didn’t seem like the Lakers could get that much better. This offseason, however, the Lakers managed to acquire great depth in Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, and Dennis Schroder. These acquisitions alone put the Lakers at the forefront of the Western Conference. It is clear the Lakers are a contender for the NBA championship.
Lebron James seems to always be getting better and is having an MVP-type season. The only issue the Lakers may have is if Anthony Davis can not return to one hundred percent this season. If Davis does return and plays relatively well, Lebron James will be able to lead the Lakers back to the NBA finals.
The Brooklyn Nets are undoubtedly the favorites to win the NBA title. They are the Eastern Conference’s top contender. The other teams are no match for the Nets high powered offense. The Nets were already seen as a top contender with only Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving but once they acquired James Harden they quickly changed the landscape of the NBA.
The Nets also have solid depth in players like Joe Harris, and veteran Deandre Jordan. The only major flaw the Nets have is their defense. The Nets defense has been among the worst in the NBA recently but if they turn it around they will be in the driver’s seat to win the East and the NBA finals.
Los Angeles Clippers
After last season’s playoff disaster the Clippers are looking to rebound. If the Clippers’ top players Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can perform well then they will surely be a contender. The x-factor for clippers that would push them into NBA championship-caliber range is the play of Serge Ibaka. If he can play solid defense on opposing big men like Nikola Jokic, the clippers will be in good shape. Ibaka can also stretch the floor and has NBA championship experience.
Overall if the Clippers’ stars play up to par and their bench contributes the Clippers will be a contender to win the NBA finals.
The Utah Jazz has gotten off to the hottest start in the NBA. They are 24-5 and have won 19 of their last 20. Despite the fact that the Jazz has been consistent this season, I can’t see that lasting in a playoff series. The Jazz don’t have the superstars to be a contender for the NBA title. Donovan Mitchell is great but he is no Lebron James or Kawhi Leonard.
When the Jazz reaches the playoffs they could face experienced teams like Stephen Curry’s Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs coached by legendary Gregg Popovich. The Jazz will remain a great team in the western conference but as of now are not a top contender.