With the Orlando bubble kicking off play on July 30, the NBA is now officially back. 22 NBA teams entered the bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with playoff and title hopes alike. With the NBA having more parity this season than before, it’s become much harder to predict which team will win it all. As regular-season games in the bubble start to wind down, here are the top four NBA title contenders entering the playoffs.
The defending champs have been red hot ever since play started back up in the bubble and have the second-best record in the West. The Raptors run a deep offensive lineup, with Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby all averaging double-figures in points. Young rising star Siakam (23.1 PPG) and veteran guard Lowry (19.4 PPG) are the top two scoring options for Toronto. The Raptors were one of the league leaders in team defense when the season paused during March and have continued with strong defensive play in the bubble. The Raptors have looked the strongest out of the NBA’s top teams since the restart and are poised to make yet another deep title run, even after losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency. Until proven otherwise, the East still runs through Toronto.
The Bucks had the best record in the NBA when the league suspended play in March. Led by stars Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.8 PPG) and Khris Middleton (21.1 PPG), the Bucks boasted one of the top offenses in the league. Solid supplementary pieces in Eric Bledsoe (15.2 PPG) and Brook Lopez (11.7) help to round out Milwaukee’s lineup. The Greek Freak had yet another MVP caliber season, leading Milwaukee in points, rebounds and assists per game. Antetokounmpo was listed as a finalist for NBA MVP along with LeBron James and James Harden after his dominant 2019-20 campaign. The Bucks also boast strong team defense, leading the league in defensive efficiency during the season. While the Bucks have faced some struggles in the bubble, they are still one of the favorites coming out of the East.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers were the best team in the West before the league suspended season play. They are led on offense by the dynamic superstar tandem of LeBron James (25.4 PPG) and Anthony Davis (26.1 PPG). James averaged a double-double during the season with 10.3 assists per game and even pitching in with 8 rebounds per game on his way to another MVP caliber season. Kyle Kuzma (12.6 PPG) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (9.3 PPG) pitched in with some scoring off the bench while Dwight Howard served as a top rip protector (7.5 RPG). The Lakers also took care of business on the defensive end, ranking third in the NBA in team defensive efficiency. While the Lakers have not looked sharp at all in the bubble since the league restart, LA will continue to be the favorites in the West as long as they have LeBron James. Plenty of LeBron-led teams in the past have limped into the postseason only to roll through playoff opponents on their way to another NBA Finals appearance.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers were big winners in the offseason, landing superstars Paul George (21.4 PPG) and Kawhi Leonard (27.1 PPG) to instantly vault themselves to NBA title contenders. LA lived up to the hype, for the most part, currently standing as the two seed behind the Lakers in the West. On offense, the Clippers run a deep lineup with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson all averaging double-figures in points. LA is one of the better defensive teams in basketball, ranking fifth in NBA team defensive efficiency, led by shutdown guard Patrick Beverly. The Clippers have played fairly well in the bubble and look poised to make a deep run to the NBA Finals if they continue to play up to their potential.