With the NBA playoffs right around the corner, there is growing speculation on which team can win the NBA championship this year. With so many teams playing championship level basketball and all players prepping their minds and bodies for the NBA playoffs, it will be stimulating to see which team can win the playoffs this year. Here is a list of 4 frontrunners in the NBA championship race this year.
#1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have finally completed their rebuild process with King James as their centerpiece along with their recent signings of Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith.
Many analysts believe that they have all the perfect pieces to win the championship this year. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been playing some great basketball and putting up some great stats and getting wins for the Lakers.
The last finals run LeBron had with the Cleveland Cavaliers proved that he is more than capable of carrying a team to the Finals and playoff LeBron has been a nightmare for teams like Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics for the last decade.
But shockingly for the first time in his 17 years long career, LeBron James is not the best player on his team. Anthony Davis, a contender for the Defensive Player of the year, has been putting up some crazy numbers on both ends of the floor.
Anthony Davis, aka ‘The Brow’ who is playing at the power forward position is a walking mismatch for any other player in that position. He has really done it all for the Lakers this season from hitting three-pointers to dunking the ball while also supporting transition defence, being clutch and rejecting shots. The Los Angeles Lakers currently hold the top seed in the Western Conference.
Offensively the Lakers have it all. Good ball movement and a high shooting percentage in the regular season have been some significant aspects of the Lakers game this season. Lakers have the dynamic duo of ‘King James’ and ‘The Brow’ which has been compared to the iconic duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaq.
Veteran players like J.R. Smith, JaVale McGee, Dion Waiters and Dwight Howard can ball out in intense pressure situations which is much needed during the playoffs. The main concern for the Lakers this season has been their shooting from the three points line despite having some outstanding shooters in their rotation.
Frank Vogel has been trying multiple offensive combinations in the bubble to find the perfect fit for the upcoming playoffs. Offensively the main concern for the Lakers in the playoffs would be the lack of a skilled playmaker when LeBron is off the floor.
Lakers Offensive Stats: 113.3 points per game (13th overall),25.3 assists per game (10th overall), 10.6 offensive rebounds per game,47.9% FG (1st overall).
Best Offensive Player: Anthony Davis
Defensively the Lakers have four great shot blockers: Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, JaVale McGee. They are more than capable enough to host themselves a block party at their will.
They have blocked 457 shots this season which is the highest by any team. The rest of the Lakers squad is also filled with excellent perimeter defensive players like Danny Green and J.R Smith and hustle players like Kyle Kuzma(Kuz) and Alex Caruso (The Goat).
The Lakers lost one of their prime defenders Avery Bradley before entering the bubble, but they will have to make the best with what they have on their hands.
Lakers Defensive Stats: 606 steals, 467 blocks, 45.7 rebounds per game (9th overall), 35.1 defensive rebounds per game.
Best Defensive Player: Anthony Davis
No team can win championships without great coaches. Frank Vogel, Jason Kidd, and Phil Handy have an imposing resume and can really contribute to the Lakers’ playoff run.
The only thing that the Lakers fans should be worried about is their current rusty form of the team in the bubble and their shooting percentage; otherwise, nothing can stop them from winning this one for Kobe.
#2. LA Clippers
The LA Clippers have been making some big moves this season. From planning to get themselves a new arena (Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center) to making signings that have shocked the league, the LA Clippers have been in the limelight even before the season started.
They also are one of the major frontrunners to win the NBA championship this year. The Clippers are doing it all to take it to the next level and what’s better than to win a ring to start it all.
The LA Clippers had made two significant signings at the start of the season (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George) to a team that already made the playoffs last year. Kawhi and Paul are two of the top five two-way players in the league right now. The team also has two 6th man of the year candidates. The Clippers currently have the second seed in the Western Conference.
Defensively the Clippers are one of the strongest teams in the NBA right now. For instance, the opposite side needs to hit a basket in a final minute situation of the playoffs.
Their prime scorer would be guarded by Kawhi. Even if they manage to get a screen they get switched to Paul George or Patrick Beverly. If the opponent can pass the ball the other players would be guarded by Montrezl Harrell or Lou Williams. This is how tight the Clippers defense really is.
For teams like Houston Rockets or the Milwaukee Bucks whose offense is majorly based on specific players, the Clippers defensive prowess can be a nightmare during the playoffs. They also have the best’ LeBron Stoppers’ (Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverly, Joakim Noah) too if we get to witness a Clippers vs. Lakers playoff series.
Clippers Defensive Stats: 501 steals, 336 blocks, 47.5 rebounds per game (3rd overall), 36.8 defensive rebounds per game.
Best Defensive Player: Kawhi Leonard
But the team needs to score to win, right? The Clippers have a number of players who can run the floor. Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams or Paul George can easily lead the scoring. They have great ball handlers like Patrick Beverly and Reggie Jackson.
The number of options for scoring and ball handling can become the major plus factor for the Clippers in the playoffs. In the absence of Montrezl Harrell or Ivica Zubac rebounding has looked like an issue but the signing of veteran big man Joakim Noah will help them a lot in the playoffs this year. Landry Shamet and Marcus Morris Sr. are good role players who have been spacing the floor very well for the team.
Clippers Offensive Stats: 116.5 points per game (4th overall),23.7 assists per game (21st overall), 10.6 offensive rebounds per game,46.7% FG (10th overall).
Best Offensive Player: Kawhi Leonard
The Clippers head coach is Doc Rivers who is a fantastic coach and probably a hall of fame. Tyronn Lue, who has coached the Cleveland Cavaliers to many NBA finals, is also a part of the coaching squad. Together they can coach the team really well for high-pressure playoff situations.
Overall the team has performed well inside the Orlando bubble, but making clutch plays and man to man defense seemed a significant issue. The Lou Williams strip club visit also caused a negative impact on the team’s overall morale and reputation. Everyone knows that Kawhi Leonard is going to play hard in the playoffs which worked for him last year in Toronto but the real question is, will he have enough steam to roll through teams like the Lakers, the Rockets, or the Bucks.
#3. Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks rest on the top seed of the Eastern Conference and to be fair enough the Eastern Conference is theirs to lose. Giannis is having another MVP + DPOY level season this year. The stats that Giannis has been putting up in just an average of 30 mins per game that he plays in is out of this world.
The Greek Freak has made his intentions pretty clear about winning the NBA championship and completing a dream season. After a tragic loss last year in the playoffs to Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors the Greek Freak has improved his game in each and every aspect. His agility and athleticism have been off the charts this season.
But the Bucks are not entirely dependent on Giannis this year. The Bucks have so many underrated players who have performed extraordinarily well in the regular season.
Offensively along with Giannis, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Eric Bledsoe have made the Bucks an offensive powerhouse. The Bucks have been shooting from the three points line, dunking the ball, hitting mid rangers as well as grabbing offensive rebounds.
But the lack of playoff experience has hit this team time and again because playoffs are a completely different ball game. Yet good ball movement and nerves of steel can win any basketball game and the Bucks have had both this season.
Bucks Offensive Stats: 118.8 points per game (1st overall),25.9 assists per game (6th overall), 9.5 offensive rebounds per game,47.7% FG (2nd overall).
Best Offensive Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Being the tallest team in the NBA right now the Bucks have some excellent defensive capabilities. Their team is full of defensive stars. The Bucks allow their opponents to score only 107.9 points per game.
The Lopez Brothers (Robin Lopez and Brook Lopez) have contributed a lot along with the Greek Freak and have turned the Bucks basket into a fortress. The Bucks also have a net rating of 10.2 which is way more than anyone in the league.
Bucks Defensive Stats: 518 steals, 426 blocks, 51.8 rebounds per game (1st overall), 42.3 defensive rebounds per game.
Best Defensive Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Michael Vincent Budenholzer (two times coach of the year) along with Chad Forcier and Vin Baker and Darwin Ham will be coaching the Bucks through the playoffs. The lack of playoff experience in the coaching staff will also be a matter of concern for the organization if they want to win the championship.
The Bucks have recorded an embarrassing defeat against the Rockets in the bubble. It was a regular season game but losing a game against a small ball lineup was a bit unexpected. Looking at it from the perspective of a potential NBA finals matchup the Bucks should watch some film to identify and rectify their mistakes
The Bucks are the first team in NBA history to lose a game in which they:
– Scored 110 pts (116)
– Held opp under 40% shooting (39.6%)
– Had a +25 rebound diff (+29).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 3, 2020
The Bucks must handle the pressure of the playoffs well this year. This could very well be the last season of Giannis playing for the Bucks if they don’t win the championship. Losing this year’s playoffs could result in a massive scar on the legacy of Giannis and also the Bucks. Yet the Bucks are looking pretty solid right now and the other teams should really ‘Fear the Deer.’
#4. Houston Rockets
No other team in the NBA right now has more to prove than the Houston Rockets do this season. Russell Westbrook and James Harden are two of the best players of their generation to never have won an NBA championship.
This season the rockets made a tough move to trade away veteran point guard Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. The gamble worked as both these MVP’s have been collectively putting up insane numbers and scoring more than 60 points per game together.
Both of them have had no trouble adjusting with their counterpart’s playstyle (due to their stint together at OKC) and sharing the ball. Harden has been balling all season long, dropping 30 points clips regularly. Westbrook has been playing his natural game, facilitating other players to score and play their game effectively.
Offensively the Rockets have one of the best lineups. They have arguably the best scorer the league has ever seen, James Harden. The Beard has been cooking other players hitting his step-back three-point shot and drawing fouls.
The only problem with the Rockets offense during the playoffs last year was their low field goal percentage and it is probably going to be a problem for them this year too. But the Rockets have some really clutch players who can make the big shots in pressure situations.
The Rockets traded Clint Capela for Robert Covington which shows that they focus entirely on their offensive prowess. Russell Westbrook, P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon and Robert Covington will have to perform in the playoffs to get through defense powerhouses such as the Clippers and the Bucks. It is impressive to see that James Harden is not the only player responsible for running the offense.
Rockets Offensive Stats: 118.1 points per game (2nd overall),21.6 assists per game (29th overall), 9.5 offensive rebounds per game,45.1% FG (22nd overall).
Best Offensive Player: James Harden
On the defensive end of things, the Rockets had made a big gamble by trading away their star center Clint Capela and running a small ball lineup. It has seemed to work well until now but it could be a significant problem during the playoffs.
The Rockets with an average height of 6’5″ can become a straightforward target for the Bucks or the Lakers. Shockingly James Harden has been leading the Rockets defense with 118 steals this season.
Robert Covington has proved to be an essential piece in this championship-level team with his stellar defense. The Rockets also have some great shot blockers and stud defenders such as Russell Westbrook and P.J Tucker.
Rockets Defensive Stats: 617 steals, 362 blocks, 44.5 rebounds per game (15th overall), 34.4 defensive rebounds per game.
Best Defensive Player: Robert Covington
The Rockets have one of the best coaches in the NBA Mike D’Antoni (2x Coach of the Year, 2x All Star Game head coach) along with a fantastic support staff with assistant coaches such as Elston Turner and Brett Gunning. They have ample playoff experience and can help the Rockets to win the championship this year.
Judging by their performance in the bubble, the Rockets look really serious and committed to winning the NBA championship this year. It was a magnificent sight to see James Harden, who has had defensive troubles in the past, clamping up Giannis during their last game. But to compete in the playoffs the Rockets must put their foot on the gas and play hard to complete their ‘One Mission’.