With the calendar flipping to March, the NBA common season is quickly approaching its conclusion and the playoffs are close to.
It’s been a wild season with a commerce deadline that noticed one of many best gamers of all-time change conferences, shaking up the NBA energy rankings with simply over 25 video games remaining within the common season.
As one MVP candidate famous, the NBA is extensive open.
“Clearly, yearly, it is most likely like 4 groups [that can win],” Giannis Antetokounmpo mentioned throughout All-Star Weekend. “This 12 months, it is most likely 4 to 6 groups which have an opportunity to win a championship. I consider we’re one in all them. However nothing is assured.
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“I’ve by no means seen anyone that simply confirmed up, they usually gave you a championship. It’s important to earn it. However it’s undoubtedly open.”
Let’s check out eight groups to observe because the NBA Playoffs quickly strategy.
Sixteen consecutive wins, arguably essentially the most dominant power within the league and depth each group within the NBA craves means Milwaukee needs to be the betting favourite to signify the Jap Convention within the 2023 NBA Finals.
Three-time All-Star Khris Middleton has performed in simply 20 video games, and Jrue Vacation has missed 11 video games. But, the Bucks now sit atop the East, a half-game up on the Boston Celtics and with the perfect report within the league.
As soon as once more, it’s all resulting from Antetokounmpo, who has been on a rampage after failing to achieve the convention finals final season.
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Antetokounmpo is averaging a career-high 31.3 factors per sport, including 12.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Oh, and the man is a Defensive Participant of the Yr candidate.
Vacation often is the most underappreciated guard within the league, getting sizzling earlier than the All-Star break whereas being a ferocious defender on the perimeter.
Add in Joe Ingles, who simply returned in December after tearing an ACL final season, and Jae Crowder, who was acquired on the commerce deadline, and the Bucks are scary deep.
Milwaukee is on a collision course with Boston — we’ll get to them subsequent — after shedding to the Celtics in a troublesome seven-game sequence in 2022 with out the companies of Middleton.
The Bucks are scary good and can solely get higher so long as they proceed to get wholesome.
Regardless of having the second-best report within the NBA, the Celtics now discover themselves with out home-court benefit within the NBA Playoffs.
Boston had a quiet commerce deadline, staying put with a roster that’s trying to return to the NBA Finals in back-to-back years.
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The Celtics have the league’s third-best offensive score and the fourth-best defensive score.
Finally, it’ll come all the way down to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown taking part in at an All-NBA degree within the playoffs whereas relying on position gamers pulling down threes at a excessive clip.
Boston is making an attempt 42.1 3-pointers per sport — second-most within the NBA — and making 15.9 per sport additionally second-most within the league.
There might not be a group going through extra stress than the Denver Nuggets.
With the perfect report within the Western Convention and a house report of 28-4, the Nuggets will nearly definitely be the No. 1 seed within the West with home-court benefit all through.
In contrast to in previous seasons, the built-in excuses for Denver are not any extra.
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Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are wholesome, and Nikola Jokic is the favourite to win his third consecutive MVP award.
However now it’s time to ship within the postseason.
Denver has been one of many high regular-season groups since 2018 however has solely superior to the Western Convention Finals as soon as, shedding to the LA Lakers within the Orlando bubble in 2020.
Jokic has been unbelievable once more, making an attempt to turn out to be the primary heart to common a triple-double for the season with the perfect supporting solid he’s had.
The addition of Reggie Jackson provides depth to Denver’s backcourt and scoring off the bench.
But when the Nuggets fall flat as soon as once more within the playoffs, the murmurs will solely develop louder that that is merely a regular-season group with a star participant that may’t get it achieved when it issues, whatever the stats he places up.
The championship window in Phoenix had closed as of three weeks in the past.
Chris Paul was growing older, and the Suns appeared like that they had did not recuperate from final 12 months’s embarrassing Sport 7 efficiency towards the Dallas Mavericks.
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After which Kevin Durant all of the sudden grew to become accessible.
With one transfer, Phoenix immediately grew to become a group with an prolonged — but comparatively quick — championship window.
Durant made his debut towards the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night time, scoring 23 factors in 27 minutes.
Devin Booker was nearly in awe taking part in alongside Durant for the primary time.
“That is a type of moments that does not actually really feel actual,” Booker mentioned after the sport. “I imply, it is simply each time he shoots the ball, it is simply so easy. You possibly can see defenders making an attempt their hardest to contest or combat over a display, and he simply seems to be unbothered, unfazed.”
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Whereas Phoenix sacrificed depth in buying Durant, his addition makes the Suns as deadly as any group within the league.
When you might have essentially the most dominant massive man since Shaquille O’Neal and the most effective one-on-one gamers within the historical past of the sport, you might have a shot.
The Sixers are 4½ video games behind the Bucks within the East and seem poised to lastly break by way of to the Jap Convention Finals for the primary time for the reason that 2000-2001 season.
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Joel Embiid is second within the NBA in factors (33.0), including 10.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 blocks per sport. If not for Jokic, Embiid can be the apparent option to take house his first MVP award.
James Harden leads the NBA in assists per sport (10.6) as he’s orchestrated the Sixers’ offense, placing Philadelphia within the high 10 in each defensive and offensive score.
However playoff failures loom heavy for the group and on Harden because the common season comes down the stretch.
Golden State Warriors
Nobody needs to play the Warriors within the NBA playoffs.
The defending champions have had a weird 12 months, beginning with Draymond Inexperienced punching Jordan Poole within the face in coaching camp.
Getting into Thursday night time’s matchup towards the Los Angeles Clippers, the Warriors have been 32-30 and in fifth place within the West.
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With Steph Curry lacking 24 video games, the Warriors have managed to maintain their heads above water.
Klay Thompson has come alive in current weeks, together with a 12-17 taking pictures efficiency from past the three-point line towards the Houston Rockets earlier than the All-Star break.
Usually, a group sitting simply above .500 just isn’t thought-about a contender, however when the Warriors have their beginning 5 wholesome, nobody counts them out.
Los Angeles Clippers
Not dissimilar from the Warriors, a wholesome Clippers group is not any enjoyable for the Western Convention.
In 37 video games, Kawhi Leonard is averaging 23.0 factors, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per sport. He’s began to seem like his outdated self as a dominant two-way participant.
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One of the best information for LA is that Leonard is again to taking part in regular minutes, taking part in 124 minutes mixed within the first three video games after the All-Star break.
However the Clips have misplaced three video games in a row after the break as they put together for Golden State Thursday night time.
If Leonard and Paul George are wholesome within the postseason, this Clippers group can play with anyone.
However that’s one huge query mark.
Ja Morant put the goal on his group’s again when he mentioned he wasn’t nervous about any group within the Western Convention, and it’ll definitely be a speaking level within the offseason if the Griz bow out early.
Memphis is second within the NBA in defensive score however sixteenth in offensive score with a report of 38-23.
It simply doesn’t seem that the Grizzlies are prepared for a deep run within the playoffs with a younger locker room that has handled drama all through the season.
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Gamers acquired right into a disagreement with Fox Sports activities commentator Shannon Sharpe throughout a sport towards the Lakers, and issues proceed to search out Morant off the court docket.
However this group did push the Warriors to 6 video games within the Western Convention semifinals final 12 months, and any group going through Memphis is in for a bodily matchup
Enjoyable groups to regulate: