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With the NBA playoffs approaching, let’s take a look at the landscape. All teams are not created equal and thus are put into different categories. The East is top heavy, with only a few teams with a realistic chance at making the Finals. Let’s try to clarify the picture.
The contenders are the teams that can win a championship. The Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks are the favorites. The Nets have a lethal Big Three of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant that can carry them. The surrounding pieces of Joe Harris, Jeff Green, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Deandre Jordan compliment them well. The concern is their ability to get key stops on the defensive end.
The 76ers have All-NBA performer Joel Embiid and perennial All-Star Ben Simmons leading the charge. The supporting cast of Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, Dwight Howard and George Hill can all contribute towards a title run. The concern is them putting it together to play efficiently.
The Bucks have two time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo along with two above average sidekicks in Jrue Holiday and Kris Middleton to lean on. The supporting crew of Donte DiVincenzo, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis and P.J. Tucker can help make a title run. The concern is whether they can make enough perimeter shots to spread the floor.
Then you have teams in contention, which are teams that can be a dangerous opponent and win a series or two in an ideal situation. The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics fall into this category.
The Heat rely heavily on All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The supporting cast of Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Victor Oladipo and Duncan Robinson will have to come up big. The concern is rim protection and rebounding.
The Celtics have a pair of All-Star wings in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The surrounding players of Kenna Walker, Marcus Smart, Tristan Thompson and Evan Fournier could make an improbable run. The concern is playing consistently.
Lastly, you have the “Just Invited” teams that have no real shot at advancing. Those teams include the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks.
The Hornets have a young nucleus of LaMelo Ball, PJ Washington, Miles Bridges and Malik Monk. The Knicks look to build with RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. The Hawks have a foundation of Trae Young, John Collins, DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish.
The ultimate question will be whether anyone can derail Brooklyn. With the amount of firepower spread throughout the Conference, it will be a crucible for the Nets to get to the Finals. Time will tell.