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With 30 teams and 82 games, each season, every NBA team fights for the chance to win the coveted NBA championship.
In order to do so, they must first end up as one of the 16 teams in the playoffs. For this year’s championship, these are the 16 teams that will battle it out for the title with our take on their realistic and best case scenarios.
16. Toronto Raptors
This season was supposed to be a rebuilding season, but the Raptors surprisingly made the playoffs. They are currently down 0-3 against the 76ers and will likely be eliminated from the playoffs within these next few days.
Realistic scenario: Raptors get swept in the first round.
Best case scenario: Raptors manage to win a game or two to extend the series, but still falls in the first round.
15. Atlanta Hawks
Following a dream run to last year’s semi-finals, the Hawks have been underwhelming, despite running back the same team. They are unfortunately matched up against the first-seeded Heat. Currently down 0-2, Trae Young and the Hawks are looking towards an early playoff exit.
Realistic scenario: Hawks lose to the Heat in five games.
Best case scenario: Hawks push the series to six games before getting eliminated
The Nuggets have gone the entire season without two of their three best players.
Although they boast the current MVP in Nikola Jokic, the team around him is subpar. Matched up against the Warriors, the Nuggets can only accept this early defeat and hope to try again next year with a healthier roster.
Realistic scenario: Nuggets get swept in the first round.
Best case scenario: Nuggets win a game in the first round.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves have a really talented roster, and will only continue to get better year after year.
This year has allowed them to get some valuable playoff experience. They have won a game against the second-seeded Grizzlies.
With both teams being extremely young, momentum is key in this series. If Anthony Edwards or Karl Anthony-Towns gets hot, this series can go down to the wire.
Realistic scenario: Timberwolves get eliminated by the Grizzlies in six games.
Best case scenario: Timberwolves defeat Grizzlies and are eliminated in the second round.
12. New Orleans Pelicans
Despite sneaking into the playoffs with the worst record out of all 16 teams, New Orleans is in a good position.
They won a game against the first-seeded Suns and now have the two best scorers in the series following Devin Booker’s injury. Before Booker’s injury, the Pelicans stood no chance. Now, they have the chance to capitalize and potentially shock the NBA by eliminating the team with the best record.
It’s up to Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum to decide how this plays out.
Realistic scenario: Pelicans lose to the Suns in seven games.
Best case scenario: Pelicans defeats the Suns and is eliminated in the second round.
11. Chicago Bulls
If the Bulls matched up against any other team, they would have a better shot.
Unfortunately, they are currently taking on the defending champions. The Bucks have lost Khris Middleton due to injury, which does open things up for the Bulls. They have no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo, but have the ability to overpower the Bucks with their offense.
This series will be close.
Realistic scenario: Bulls lose to Bucks in seven games.
Best case scenario: Bulls defeat the Bucks, then lose in the second round.
10. Utah Jazz
The Jazz failed to capitalize against the Mavericks, who were without their star player Luka Doncic. The series is tied a game apiece with Doncic’s return looming.
When he returns, expect him to decimate the Jazz and send them out of the playoffs. There is still hope for the Jazz, but their chances are looking slim.
Realistic scenario: Jazz get eliminated by the Mavericks in six games.
Best case scenario: Jazz defeat the Mavericks and lose in the second round.
9. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks have stayed afloat in Luka Doncic’s absence.
With him, they will always be regarded as a powerhouse. However, each of the remaining teams all have a solid shot of making the finals. To do so, the Mavericks would have to beat the Suns and Grizzlies/Warriors, which seems highly unlikely.
The Mavericks will potentially achieve their first playoff series win in the Doncic era, and try to build off that next year.
Realistic scenario: Mavericks advance to the second round and lose to the Suns.
Best case scenario: Mavericks advance to the semi-finals and lose.
8. Brooklyn Nets
A week ago, the Nets would have been top three on this list. After seeing the collapse in the first two games of the series, this is the highest they can be ranked.
A comeback isn’t impossible, but they are facing the Boston Celtics, who have been in a groove during these past few months. They’re facing the best defense in the league, and even with Ben Simmons’s return on the horizon, things are not looking too well for the Nets.
If they do manage to survive this series, they’ll be a threat with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons.
Realistic scenario: Nets lose to the Celtics in six games.
Best case scenario: The Nets win the NBA Championship.
7. Milwaukee Bucks
Khris Middleton’s injury could be devastating for the Bucks. He is anticipated to miss a few weeks, which means he will likely not be available for significant time in the second round.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is capable of carrying the Bucks, but the defending champs are looking at an uphill battle without their second star.
Realistic scenario: Bucks lose in the second round.
Best case scenario: The Bucks lose in the NBA Finals.
6. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies surprised the NBA by climbing to the top this quickly.
With their talent, it was known that they would become contenders at some point. The fact that they already achieved so will spell out great things for the future of the Grizzlies.
However, they are far too young and inexperienced when comparing them to other contenders. The Grizzlies will have their time, but it won’t be this season.
Realistic scenario: Grizzlies lose to the Warriors in the second round.
Best case scenario: Grizzlies lose in the semi-finals.
5. Miami Heat
Their turnaround from last season has been great, but it is tough placing them above the Sixers and Celtics, both of which they would need to defeat in order to reach the finals.
They will be at a talent deficit regardless of their matchup, but outbursts from Jimmy Butler or Tyler Herro could turn the tide for them.
Realistic scenario: Heat lose in the second round.
Best case scenario: The Heat lose in the NBA Finals.
4. Phoenix Suns
Booker’s hamstring injury does not bode well for the Suns. Even if the Suns are healthy, it will be tough to defeat the Warriors later on in the playoffs.
They should have limited issues with the first two rounds, but expect them to suffer a defeat in the semi-finals.
Realistic scenario: Suns lose in the semi-finals.
Best case scenario: The Suns win the NBA Championship.
3. Boston Celtics
The Celtics have evolved into an offensive and defensive nightmare. They will make a lot of noise in the playoffs.
In order to reach the finals, they need to defeat Joel Embiid and the Sixers, or Bam Adebayo and the Heat. They are not suited to contain either big man, but will fare better in a Heat matchup.
Assuming the Celtics face the Sixers, they don’t have enough firepower to match Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris.
Realistic scenario: Celtics lose in the semi-finals.
Best case scenario: Celtics lose in the NBA finals.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers have the best offensive lineup in the playoffs, and taking them out will not be an easy task. James Harden has been streaky in the playoffs, and can be limited by an exceptional defense. His performance in these playoffs will decide whether the 76ers will win the championship or not.
Realistic scenario: 76ers lose in the NBA finals.
Best case scenario: The 76ers win the NBA Championship.
1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have undergone a sensational transformation from last season, where they missed the playoffs. Now fully healthy and with the emergence of Jordan Poole, they have a revamped version of the lineup that helped them take home the 2015 championship.
The lineup consists of Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green. This lineup can score at will and defend well. The Warriors are currently the favorites to win it all.
Realistic scenario: The Warriors win the NBA Championship.
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