The 2020 NBA Playoffs are approaching and it's become clear who the legitimate contenders are who will will most certainly come up short in the postseason. Only one team can win the title, but how many teams have a legitimate shot? Below are three real championship contenders and four pretenders who are going to learn that it just isn't their year.
Los Angeles Lakers
The last eight seasons that LeBron James was healthy, he took his team to the NBA Finals. His team won three of those titles. He usually has a second superstar with him and that role is played by Anthony Davis who has a whopping 13 games worth of playoff experience. Luckily guys like Danny Green and... Dwight Howard... fill out the roster. At 35-years old, LeBron is still near the top of his powers and that could be enough.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers, for all their issues with health and fit and otherwise, will end up one of the top seeds in the Western Conference. If Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were able to load manage themselves properly during the regular season, they have a shot. History generally says that you need to be together for a few seasons to win a title, but Kawhi proved that you can just show up, win, and leave. Talent could win again.
The Milwaukee Bucks are finally ready to win a title. This is the dream of how the league works. They drafted Giannis Antetonkounmpo and built a team around him as he became a superstar. They got playoff experience and advanced to the conference finals last year and lost to the eventual champions. This year they're the best team in the league and ready to blow through the Eastern Conference and win a championship.
Miami has won just one playoff series since LeBron James left in 2014. They're a another tough, deep team that should be a difficult out in the playoffs, but this current Heat roster has more questions than answers. Will Jimmy Butler finally be the best player on a team that wins multiple playoff series? Will Pat Riley's inability to land Danilo Gallinari come back to bite the Heat in the playoffs? How effective will Bam Adebayo be in the playoffs? Does Andre Iguodala have anything left in the tank for a deep playoff run? The answers to most of these questions will probably upset people in Miami.
The Celtics have three 20-point per game scorers in Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker. They have Olympians. They have a good coach in Brad Stevens. They have balance and a deep rotation and they have playoff experience. Boston, a superstar short and a seed or two too low, will fall short. This time with a new point guard at the helm.
The defending champions are the feel-good story of the season. With Kawhi Leonard gone, they haven't missed a beat and will enter the playoffs with one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference and maybe the best record in team history. Eventually, they will miss Leonard. Pascal Siakam has been great and replaced Kawhi's production, but at some point, they will miss Kawhi and that's when they will come up short.
Denver has won just one playoff series with Mike Malone and Nikola Jokic. They're going to have the toughest road to the Finals with the Lakers and Clippers and a really pesky lower seed in the first round. The Nuggets are still a year and another player away from serious contention.