The Western Convention has been dominating the league as soon as once more, when it comes to high quality groups from prime to backside. The thirteenth worst workforce within the West can be a playoff workforce within the Jap Convention. Although their depth is missing, the East nonetheless has a couple of groups which are championship contenders this season.
The Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks all have a professional likelihood of reaching the NBA Finals this summer season. It’s championship-or-bust for these franchises who’ve emptied their wallets with the intention to pursue the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Every of those groups has not less than two star gamers and one other All-Star caliber participant to assist them attain their final purpose. Every one in every of these groups has a professional MVP candidate. In Brooklyn’s case, they simply may need the best offensive three-headed monster the league has ever seen.
Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo are what separates these three groups from the remainder of the convention.
This season there’s loads of parity among the many remaining groups within the East. The standings change each evening as these groups battle with practically equivalent information. It could be a surprising shock to not see one in every of Brooklyn, Philly or Milwaukee make it to the NBA Finals.
Odds are that two of those three groups will meet within the Convention Finals, however is there one other workforce lurking that would upset the apple cart? Do any of those groups within the second-tier have sufficient expertise and firepower to upset one of many East’s elite? Listed below are 4 groups that would play spoiler.
After reaching the NBA Finals final season within the bubble down in Orlando, the HEAT have positively cooled off this 12 months. That they had a gradual begin originally of the season, then had an extended pause as well being and security protocols wreaked havoc on their roster. Not having Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic accessible actually damage them, however the tide might be turning.
Butler himself has been on a tear since returning to the courtroom — and his teammates have adopted his lead. Bam Adebayo has quietly had one other excellent 12 months and so they lastly acquired their man Victor Oladipo earlier than the commerce deadline handed. Sadly, his current damage put a critical damper on their hopes of getting again to the Finals.
UPDATE: Victor Oladipo is not going to be accompanying the workforce on the west coast street journey and will likely be additional evaluated.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) April 9, 2021
Miami wants Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson to play extra constantly, particularly with Oladipo out. Veterans Andre Iguodala and Trevor Ariza ought to assist in the postseason as they incorporate one other perimeter shooter in Nemanja Bjelica. They’ve the star energy and the expertise wanted to make one other run, however the odds are stacked in opposition to them.
After a dismal begin to the season, the Hawks seem to have discovered their identification. Very like the state of affairs in Boston, this workforce was tasked with making an attempt to construct chemistry throughout a pandemic with out basically any apply. That could be a tough proposition and one thing that was going to take time. In addition they nonetheless wanted to develop their younger guys like Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter and Onyeka Okongwu.
After turning issues over to Nate McMillan, he has been in a position to coach up this younger squad, even with out a few of their prime expertise. Each participant on the workforce has missed a piece of time this 12 months and so they have needed to critically depend on their depth to get them via many of the common season. Having won 15 of their last 20 games, they now discover themselves able to have home-court benefit when the playoffs start.
The imaginative and prescient that Travis Schlenk had within the offseason is lastly turning into clear. The unimaginable play of fellows like Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic and even Solomon Hill has been important to their success. They may nonetheless lean on Trae Younger and John Collins for his or her offense however the proficient items round them are what’s going to make this workforce powerful to beat in a seven-game sequence.
The Hornets have been one of many nice surprises this season, even after the acquisition of All-Star ahead Gordon Hayward. Charlotte is the true definition of a workforce, as they’ve a number of guys which have stepped up and performed nicely in spots all through the season. PJ Washington, Malik Monk, Miles Bridges, Bismack Biyombo, Jalen McDaniels and the Martin twins of Cody and Caleb have all contributed to their success.
The play of LaMelo Ball had him sitting on the prime of the rookie class earlier than he suffered his damaged wrist. His phenomenal first season could also be over, however the group is holding out hope that he might be able to return within the playoffs ought to Charlotte earn a spot within the postseason. Hayward can be again on the shelf as he continues to take care of a sprained foot. Charlotte has been in a position to keep afloat throughout their absences, which is a big credit score to James Borrego.
Yet one more main difference-maker for the Hornets this season has been Terry Rozier. The electrical guard is one of the top 40 scorers in the league this season and has been among the best clutch performers as nicely. He’s taking pictures a career-best 41 p.c from behind the arc and 46 p.c total from the ground. They could be a darkish horse come playoff time, however they are going to want their two finest gamers wholesome with the intention to have any likelihood.
It has been a really unusual season for the Celtics, who entered the 12 months with excessive expectations. They’ve been the best thriller this season and a puzzle that Brad Stevens remains to be making an attempt to place collectively. Jaylen Brown has taken his recreation to a different stage and Jayson Tatum has had his moments as nicely. Each have cooled off for the reason that All-Star break and Kemba Walker has been cold and warm from recreation to recreation.
Marcus Good missed quite a lot of time and so they introduced in Evan Fournier on the commerce deadline however he has but to slot in like many thought he would. Chemistry might be the problem, however nobody has actually been in a position to put their finger on their kryptonite. The excellent news is that Tatum seems to lastly be returning to well being after his battle with COVID.
Jayson Tatum stated he’s been utilizing an inhaler earlier than video games since testing optimistic for COVID-19. Stated he’s nonetheless not fairly again to one hundred pc, however that he’s “shut.” Tatum examined optimistic again in January.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 14, 2021
The middle place has been a revolving door for this workforce all season, with Tristan Thompson, Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, Tacko Fall, Moritz Wagner and Luke Kornet all making an attempt to fill the void left by Enes Kanter. They might have had the league’s main shot-blocker Myles Turner, however Danny Ainge let Hayward stroll for nothing as a substitute.
On paper, this workforce is oozing with expertise and ought to be a lot better than their file signifies. They might lastly be figuring issues out, having received six of their final seven video games, together with 4 straight. If their points are actually fastened and if they will keep wholesome, they are going to be a workforce that no one desires to face within the playoffs.