NBA Title Chances
by: Derek Li
The end of the NBA all star weekend marks the point in the season when it’s clear of each team’s intentions by the end of the season. For the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, for example, the goal is to tank as much as possible to get a high pick in the 2019 draft. At the same time, many teams are currently in a tight playoff race in hopes of ultimately reigning victorious and raising the golden trophy in May. Here are the teams with the best chance of winning the NBA championship this year.
Golden State Warriors (65%): Over the past decade, the Warriors have assembled arguably the most talented and star-studded superteam in NBA history. Last summer, they added the cherry on top by signing all-star center DeMarcus Cousins for a shockingly cheap 1 year, $5 million contract from the New Orleans Pelicans. Notwithstanding Cousins’ better-than-expected comeback from his Achilles Injury, the Warriors are still by far the favorites for winning it all. After easily sweeping the Cavs last year (which factored into LeBron’s decision to move to the Lakers), the Warriors have the utmost confidence in themselves to continue this historic dynasty.
Milwaukee Bucks (15%): Everything has gone right for the Bucks this season. The rebuilding process is over, new head coach Mike Budenholzer is a coach of the year candidate who perfectly understands his players’ strengths and weaknesses, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has risen to become a face of the entire NBA. The Greek Freak is currently averaging over 27 ppg, 12 rpg, 6 apg while shooting near 60% from the field for a team that is currently at the top of the Eastern Conference with an impressive 45-14 record. The Bucks are no doubt one of the favorites to come out of the East in the playoffs, but the big question still looms: do they have enough talent and firing power to overcome the Warriors? To answer that, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Philadelphia 76ers (8%): Ben Simmons, J.J Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid. There’s no doubt that the 76ers have one of the most talented starting lineups in the entire league. From three point shooting to post ups to lockdown defense, these five players give the Sixers a level of versatility that is rarely seen in the modern NBA. For them, however, there are two major concerns heading into the playoffs: team chemistry and health. The season has been quite turbulent, as Butler and Harris are still trying to find their place and fit into the system after only getting traded this season. The weak bench depth is also worrying, as both Simmons and Embiid have histories of being injury prone. However, if the 76ers can put everything together by the end of the season, they undoubtedly have what it takes to win a championship.
OKC Thunder (8%): Paul George is having an MVP season, and would probably be the favorite to win the trophy if not for Giannis. Russell Westbrook, although struggling with his shot, is finding ways to contribute in other ways, through assisting and rebounding at elite levels. Steven Adams and Jerami Grant have also been putting up solid seasons, complementing the two stars and doing much of the dirty work on both ends of the floor. And although the Thunder may have no glaring weaknesses other than a lacking bench, they may not have enough firepower (especially three point shooting) and talent to make it through the Western Conference playoffs.
Denver Nuggets (4%): The Nuggets’ success has been one of the most surprising stories this season. Nikola Jokic has stepped up his game to become the face of the franchise and numerous role players, such as Malik Beasley and Monte Morris, have been performing way above expectation. The stellar team play has allowed the young Nuggets team to maintain 2nd place in the extremely competitive West despite major injuries to Isaiah Thomas, Paul Millsap, and Gary Harris. The only obvious weakness for the Nuggets heading into the playoffs is a lack of playoff experience, and this is a big one, as the increased defensive intensity in the playoffs will almost certainly give the team issues. However, with more experience, this underdog team has what it takes to ultimately raise the trophy.