The NBA season is entering the home stretch and the playoffs are not far away. As is often the case in pro basketball, the teams with the biggest stars are usually the favorites. The regular season is the time of year when we separate the pretenders from the contenders.
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Here is a look at the five teams with the best chance to win the 2021 NBA title:
5. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers currently have the best record in the Eastern Conference but they often get overlooked because of all the news other teams are making.
Joel Embiid gives Philadelphia a good chance to win every time he steps on the court and is averaging more than 29-points per game. The Sixers get complimentary scoring from Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons which makes it tougher for opposing defenses to focus exclusively on Embiid.
The 76ers are a well-coached team and they have one of the top shooting percentages in the league. They win by playing smart basketball and that should give them an edge heading into the playoffs.
4. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have a lot of star power and have rapidly built their own “Dream Team” of high profile players with extensive box office appeal and playoff experience.
One big challenge Steve Nash faces as coach of this club is to make sure all his players are willing to set aside their egos to win games and not just put up great statistics. He also must decide what role each player will assume in the playoffs and how to best distribute the ball among his talented players.
The Nets are loaded with James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant leading the way. It is difficult for any NBA team to match those three for scoring and star power.
Injuries have also hurt the Nets with many of their star players and Spencer Dinwiddie missing long stretches due to injury.
The talent is there in Brooklyn. If the Nets can stay healthy and pull together at the right time, they have a great chance of emerging from the NBA’s Eastern Conference and competing for their first ever NBA title.
3. Phoenix Suns
Is Monty Williams’ team ready to shock the world? The Suns are often overlooked by many fans because they don’t have as many household names as many of the other contenders, but they are a consistent team who just may surprise a lot of people this year.
Devin Booker is the only player on the team averaging more than 20-points per game, but after Booker Phoenix features great scoring balance and they are one of the least selfish teams in the NBA this year.
After Booker, players like Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges give the Suns balance and play well together as a team. The cohesion and unselfishness of the Suns could be their secret weapon in this year’s playoffs.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
It’s tough to bet against LeBron James after he’s been to the NBA Finals 10 times in his career and won four championships. LeBron may be getting older, but he can still bring it and proves that each year in the playoffs.
The Lakers are also the defending champions and that experience can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing in the postseason.
There’s more to the Lakers roster than just LeBron. Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder also provide the team with plenty of scoring punch.
The big issue with the Lakers heading into the postseason is their health. LeBron is out and isn’t scheduled to return until just before the playoffs start. Marc Gasol and Anthony Davis have also missed significant time due to injuries recently. If the Lakers stay healthy, they can beat anybody. The question is will they be healthy enough to win a second straight title this spring.
1. Utah Jazz
As the NBA entered the home stretch, the Jazz had the best record in the league. Utah is in the top five in both points scored and points allowed and that’s a very tough combination to beat.
Donovan Mitchell is the key to the Utah attack and he is averaging more than 26 points per game. After that, the Jazz have balance with Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert all averaging more than 14 points per game.
The Jazz are also one of the best three-point shooting teams and that helps them overcome deficits and extend leads at key times.
The Jazz may not be a fan favorite outside of Utah, but they are a talented and balanced team that will be tough to beat come playoff time.