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#pounditSaturday, October 24, 2020

5 biggest NBA title contenders if the season resumes

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The 2019-20 NBA season is suspended, with the standings frozen in place as of mid-March. The league has every hope of resuming the season and giving teams a chance to finish what they started. There are certain teams with a better chance of winning bigger than others.

These five teams in particular had a legitimate chance to win an NBA title in 2020 and will want to make sure that they get to play out that opportunity.

5. Houston Rockets

The Rockets have felt like underachievers for much of the season. They were even inconsistent right before the NBA shutdown, losing four straight with defeats to the likes of the Knicks, Hornets, and Magic. Still, their high-end talent is undeniable, and trade deadline moves to get the likes of Robert Covington to boost the team’s wing defense looked to be generating benefits. The Rockets finished February with six wins in a row. Do they have the defense to win a title? We still don’t know, but they have a real chance.

4. Toronto Raptors

There’s no counting out the defending champions, even without Kawhi Leonard among their ranks. The Raptors continue to play very good basketball, allowing the fewest points per game in the entire league. They lack a true superstar, though Pascal Siakam may be on his way. The lack of a star probably hurts them in terms of getting wide attention, but the Raptors aren’t far behind the Bucks in the East. Retaining their title will be hard, but they should not be ignored.

3. Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks were pacing the East before the shutdown and looked like the favorite to represent the conference in the Finals. They were the only team to have reached 50 wins, sitting at 53-12, and Antetokounmpo has truly blossomed into one of the very best players in the game. Milwaukee’s biggest issue might be that they lack that second superstar that both the Lakers and Clippers have, but this is such a formidable team that it would be silly to think they wouldn’t have a chance in a Final against them.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

While there have been whispers of discontent behind the scenes, you generally wouldn’t know it from the way the Clippers have actually played. At 44-20, they seemed to be coming on strong before the shutdown. It’s probably not worth reading too much into that record, since they’ve carefully managed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers are 38-13 when Leonard plays and 30-12 with George in the lineup. It’s safe to say they’d both be active for the playoffs. Not many teams can cope with that 1-2 punch.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

Few teams were more frustrated with the NBA’s shutdown than the Lakers, who have their best chance to win a title since the Kobe Bryant era. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were everything Laker fans hoped they would be. It didn’t matter where they played — the Lakers are a remarkable 26-6 on the road. They’ve consistently beaten good teams, having knocked off the Clippers in the second-to-last game pre-shutdown. They were the favorite to win the title, and would remain so if and when the NBA picks up. They just have to hope they’ll get the chance.

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