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The general consensus amongst the “experts” is that there are three realistic contenders: the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The arguments for these three teams do make the most sense. Cleveland has Lebron James, the Rockets have the best offense in NBA history, and the Warriors are the Warriors. However, since everyone talks about those three, I will talk about three other teams that might just have a shot.
The Toronto Raptors are, believe it or not, number one in the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Raptors have the third best record in the NBA – like, the whole Association. The Raptors own the third best offensive rating (which is point differential per offensive positions), the fifth best defensive rating (see above, but for defense), and third best net rating (see above, but for both). Based on statistics they are the third best team in the NBA, yet no one seems to be giving them the respect they have earned. The main argument against the Raptors is there playoff woes of the past, and those “woes” are pretty big. However, this team is built differently, and its been showing throughout the season, as Demar Derozan is having the best year of his career. All these factors could lead to a possible NBA Finals birth in the inferior Eastern Conference.
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As stated before, the Eastern Conference is the inferior conference, which means more teams have a real shot at the Finals. The 76ers are probably the best of those teams right now. They are on a 14 game win streak, and seem to be playing their best basketball. Rookie Ben Simmons, yeah, he is just a rookie, is averaging a triple double over those 14 games, and has looked like the star we all expected. The craziest thing about the streak, though, is that they are doing it without their best player. Joel Embiid, one of the five best big-men in the NBA went down with an orbital fracture 8 games into the winning streak, and they do not seem to miss him. The 76ers cast of role players, including veteran JJ Reddick, who has never missed the playoffs, round out a formidable squad. With Embiid back, they seem very capable of an NBA Finals run.
This is the team that may have the best chance, startling as it may seem. Statistically, they may not seem truly capable, but they still have two top ten players. Russel Westbrook is the current reigning MVP, and is going to average close to a triple double again. Paul George is, arguably, the best two-way player in the game, and is liable to explode in the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony has not met expectations, but he can still be a productive team member… sometimes. Steven Adams is a secretly great big man with not-so-secretly great hair (and the most intriguing character in the NBA). They also have really good role players, including veterans Corey Brewer and Raymond Felton. You may have noticed this argument is based almost entirely off roster talent, but sometimes that is all you need. If you have two top ten players and a good supporting cast, then, even if you may not have a strong case on paper, you can throw the paper out the window. Even compared to the Warriors or Rockets, the Thunder have the talent. All they need is to switch into another gear. If they do that, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best shot at a potential NBA Finals berth.
I am a sports nerd, who also loves movies, television, and podcasts. I apologize for the bad jokes, which there will be many of.