For the first time in years, the NBA is wide open. The Warriors dynasty has collapsed from injuries and from free-agent departures. This year there are a handful of teams that can win it all and even though they are NBA contenders they all have flaws.
Who is the second option?
The Bucks finish last season with the best overall record. In the playoffs, they were knocked out in the conference finals by the eventual champions the Toronto Raptors. In the offseason, they were able to keep Eric Bledsoe, Kris Middleton, and Brook Lopez. The big loss was Malcolm Brogdon who left for the Indiana Pacers. The Bucks have not missed a beat so far though currently sitting atop the East at 19-3 owners of the league-best so far this season 13 game-winning streak. To say the least not a lot of weaknesses to be found.
The one thing that might slow down the Bucks this year is the lack of a define second star. In last year’s playoffs, the Raptors built a wall around Giannis and made him either shoot from deep or pass it out to a teammate. Players like Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton are good players but they will never be mistaken for the top 10 or 15 players. Teams will clog the lane and make players around Giannis beat them. If Middleton and Bledsoe don’t up there games to the next level this strategy may be the only thing keeping the Bucks from the Finals.
Can Siakam be “the man”?
After losing Kawhi Leonard many though that the Raptors reign would be short. The Raptors have other ideas so far this season. Pascal Siakam has had a breakout season. Siakam is having a career year in points, rebounds, assist and ft percentage. Siakam has firmly placed himself in the MVP conversation.
The one weakness that might hold them back is the question of is Siakam a big game closer? Last year the Raptors had Leonard who would take all the big shots down the stretch. As great as Siakam is he has not had to be the man in big games that will change this year.
Los Angles Lakers
Shooting around the two superstars
The number one team in the West has been on top all year since there opening game loss to the Clippers they have been on a roll ever since. Lebron James and Anthony Davis have joined forces seamlessly and have formed the best duo in the league.
The one weakness that will hold the Lakers back is their lack of shooting. Right now the Lakers are middle of the pack in 3-point shooting. The issue for the Lakers is will they have enough shooters around the two superstars. Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Danny Green will have to prove they can knock down shots because teams will trap Lebron and double Davis in big games. The Lakers are hoping to raise there percentage from downtown to open the floor even more for James and Davis. If they can fix there shooting they may be the top NBA contender and representing the West.
Los Angles Clippers
Can their stars stay healthy?
The LA Clippers two superstars have a history of injuries. Kawhi Leonard made it through the entire year last year by following a strict back to back game rest regiment. Paul George was hurt most of the second half of the season and it showed in the Playoffs. This year George missed the first month and a half and Leonard has missed several games already. If the two stars are not healthy going into the playoffs the Clippers have no chance of advancing out of the West.
Can they get stops on the defensive end?
With the demise of the Warriors, the Rockets were hoping that this would be the year they finally take that final step. The trade for Westbrook was supposed to alleviate the pressure off of James Harden on the offensive end. Even though Westbrook shooting has been horrible the Rockets have scored the ball with ease ranking second in offensive rating. The biggest issue for the Rockets so far this season has been the defense.
Right now the Rockets rank 16th in defensive rating which is an improvement but is still not where a top rank team wants to be when competing for a championship. The year the Rockets won a franchise-record 65 games they were top 10 in defense. The Rockets can score on anyone but the key will be can they get the big stops in big games.
Even the top NBA contenders in the league have holes that need to be addressed. Whatever team figures out there weaknesses and fixes them first may be playing late into June.