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 group within the West can be a playoff group within the Japanese 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 authentic probability of reaching the NBA Finals this summer time. It’s championship-or-bust for these franchises who’ve emptied their wallets with a purpose to pursue the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Every of those groups has at the very least two star gamers and one other All-Star caliber participant to assist them attain their final purpose. Every considered one of these groups has a authentic MVP candidate. In Brooklyn’s case, they only 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 night time as these groups battle with practically an identical information. It might be a stunning shock to not see considered one 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 group 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 undoubtedly cooled off this yr. That they had a sluggish begin firstly of the season, then had a protracted pause as well being and security protocols wreaked havoc on their roster. Not having Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic out there actually damage them, however the tide may very well 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 yr and so they lastly received their man Victor Oladipo earlier than the commerce deadline handed. Sadly, his latest harm put a severe damper on their hopes of getting again to the Finals.
UPDATE: Victor Oladipo won’t be accompanying the group on the west coast highway journey and will probably be additional evaluated.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) April 9, 2021
Miami wants Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson to play extra persistently, 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 towards 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 group was tasked with making an attempt to construct chemistry throughout a pandemic with out basically any follow. That may be a troublesome 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 capable of coach up this younger squad, even with out a few of their prime expertise. Each participant on the group has missed a piece of time this yr and so they have needed to significantly depend on their depth to get them via a lot 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 changing into clear. The unbelievable play of men like Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic and even Solomon Hill has been very important to their success. They are going to nonetheless lean on Trae Younger and John Collins for his or her offense however the gifted items round them are what’s going to make this group robust 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 group, as they’ve a number of guys which have stepped up and performed effectively 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 could possibly return within the playoffs ought to Charlotte earn a spot within the postseason. Hayward can also be again on the shelf as he continues to cope with a sprained foot. Charlotte has been capable of keep afloat throughout their absences, which is a large credit score to James Borrego.
Yet another 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 top-of-the-line clutch performers as effectively. He’s capturing a career-best 41 p.c from behind the arc and 46 p.c general from the ground. They could be a darkish horse come playoff time, however they are going to want their two greatest gamers wholesome with a purpose to have any probability.
It has been a really unusual season for the Celtics, who entered the yr 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 degree and Jayson Tatum has had his moments as effectively. Each have cooled off for the reason that All-Star break and Kemba Walker has been cold and hot from recreation to recreation.
Marcus Sensible 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 may very well be the difficulty, however nobody has actually been capable of 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 mentioned he’s been utilizing an inhaler earlier than video games since testing constructive for COVID-19. Mentioned he’s nonetheless not fairly again to one hundred pc, however that he’s “shut.” Tatum examined constructive again in January.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 14, 2021
The middle place has been a revolving door for this group 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 may have had the league’s main shot-blocker Myles Turner, however Danny Ainge let Hayward stroll for nothing as a substitute.
On paper, this group is oozing with expertise and ought to be significantly better than their report signifies. They could lastly be figuring issues out, having received six of their final seven video games, together with 4 straight. If their points are really fastened and if they will keep wholesome, they are going to be a group that no one needs to face within the playoffs.