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The title case for every legitimate contender in the NBA Playoffs


NBA Playoff contenders, 2024

The pointy end of the season is finally here, and although there are 20 teams appearing in the NBA playoffs, only about eight that have a legitimate chance at securing the championship.

With the regular season out of the way, it’s time to see the best teams in the NBA compete for glory in the playoffs, all of whom are trying to knock Denver off their pedestal as the reigning champs of the league.

This playoff series is poised to be one of the most intriguing in some time, with LeBron James and Steph Curry – two players whose teams have dominated the postseason for quite a longtime – both in sides now struggling. There’s also plenty of franchises who have reemerged to the postseason in great form in Minnesota, Oklahoma City, and the Orlando Magic.

The Boston Celtics have been far and away the most impressive side in the competition in 2023-24, and most experts are picking them to win it all.

But could we see the field raise their standards to their level and once again take down the Celtics short of a championship? Here’s the legitimate contenders for this year’s NBA championship.

8 teams with a legitimate shot at dominating the NBA playoffs

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Boston Celtics

We have to begin with the benchmark team of the season in the Boston Celtics, who have had their best regular season record since they last raised the Larry O’Brien trophy aloft in 2008 — 62+ wins.

You’re hard-pressed to find a stronger and more balanced starting roster in the entire NBA, led by All-NBA talent Jayson Tatum, and backed up by All-Star caliber players in Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday.

The Celtics are the highest rated offensive team in the NBA this season, with the best effective field goal percentage on average, along with being the second best defensive team in the league. This shows just how strong of a threat they are to the rest of the league, however, they are notorious for falling short.

Tatum image
Boston Celtics star players for the NBA playoffs: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs enter the postseason as a lower ranked eastern conference side, but have a strong enough team to make a serious run towards a title if they can catch heat in the NBA playoffs.

Defence is something they definitely hang their hat on, having the seventh best defensive rating. On top of that, their ability to move the ball around and space the floor with great three-point shooters and solid interior guys makes them a good chance at causing some mayhem.

Denver Nuggets

You can never rule out a champion, and in the case of the Denver Nuggets, back-to-back titles are looking very promising as long as potential MVP Nikola Jokic continues to play the way he has all regular season.

The Nuggets are in the top 10 for most team statistics, sitting sixth in offensive rating and ninth in defensive rating, showing their strength in performing on both ends of the court.

It’s fair to say they are predicted to come out of the west and that Boston are their most legitimate threat at preventing them the chance of winning the NBA champions in consecutive years, but that would be ruling out some strong contenders across the NBA playoffs.

nikola jokic, nba, nba playoffs
Denver Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic.

Los Angeles Clippers

This team if they remain healthy are one of the top contenders for the championship, with an incredible big three of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden, that have seemingly fit in perfectly besides their first five games.

The balance in the roster is as close to perfect as you could hope, with when George and Harden move to the bench Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell come straight on and are making a serious positive impact on the game.

Health is by far the most important component when it comes to the Clippers, but with the big three plus Westbrook staying relatively fit for most of the season, supporters can be hopeful it remains that way through out the playoffs.

Milwaukee Bucks

Losing your star player on the eve of the NBA playoffs is far from ideal for the Bucks, with Giannis Antetokounmpo going down with a calf injury that will see him out for an undetermined amount of time.

Luckily for Milwaukee, they have a great team and plenty of star players that will want to elevate their game this postseason while Antetokounmpo is out. Damian Lillard has been the guy on teams before, and Khris Middleton has shown he can perform without the Greek Freak.

Antetokounmpo should be back sometime before the NBA Finals, but they’ll need him sooner rather than later if they want to remain one of the serious contenders this postseason.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Shocking many this season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have emerged as one of the strongest teams in the NBA, building their game off their defence and team oriented game-plans.

Entering the postseason, Minnesota boast the best defensive rating in the league, anchored by three-time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert.

There’s plenty of star power starting to shine out of the ‘Twin-cities’ with Anthony Edwards continuing to deliver on that number one draft pick choice by the franchise along with fellow first overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns.

Oklahoma City Thunder

It’s been a long time since Thunder fans have been this confident entering the NBA playoffs, with a point guard in Shai Gilegous-Alexander playing at an MVP level, and an entire team that seems to gel better off and on the court than any other franchise.

Since drafting Chet Holmgren a couple seasons ago, with 2023-24 being his official rookie year, the Thunder have looked as close to complete as they ever have, and are serious contenders for the trophy.

Some believe that they may need to witness the old sports adage – you need to lose one to win one – but there’s always that odd exception, and maybe that’ll be OKC this playoff series.

Oklahoma City will be relying on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander this NBA playoffs.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia’s seeding entering the NBA playoffs won’t really reflect their potential, with Joel Embiid’s injury back in January holding the team back from securing more wins.

Nick Nurse has done a solid job in his first season at the helm of the 76ers, and with Embiid having return with a few games left to play until the playoffs, the team should be back where they left off before the reigning-MVPs absence.

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