*Written with info from May 1st
With less than 10 games to go in the NBA 2020-21 regular season, many uncertainties remain. After an irregular and fast-paced season riddled with fatigue and injuries, the standings have been full of surprises. Many teams that made it farther in the bubble last year, like the Heat, Celtics and Lakers, have put on underwhelming performances so far, much of which can be blamed on the lack of rest time. Other teams, like the Suns, Knicks and Jazz, have capitalized on the unusual season by surprising everyone with their performances.
As of now, Brooklyn is the favorite to win the title (+220 on Fanduel) with the Lakers in second (+350) and the Clippers in third (+600). It’s easy to see why the Nets are favored given their star-loaded roster but we have yet to really get a sense of just how good Durant, Harden and Irving will be as a trio. Injuries have limited them to only playing 7 games together. Given these uncertainties, it’s hard to not stick with the Lakers as the favorites who have already proven themselves in the playoffs. The combination of Lebron and AD make the Lakers a really hard team to beat in the postseason, and one that has a decent chance of repeating, especially with the upgrade of Schröder in the backcourt. Other teams which have a shot in my opinion include the Clippers, Philly and Milwaukee, although many seem to have already written off the Bucks given their playoff disappointments. Phoenix and Utah may sit at the top of the western conference but I can’t bring myself to bet on them given their lack of playoff experience/success. As for our Celtics, it would be surprising to see them make a run at a championship. The talent is there but their inconsistency, lack of an identity on the court, and other faults point to an early exit.
There’s no clear-cut favorite this year and the title seems to be up for grabs. Every team has its flaws and you can talk yourself out of pretty much any of them. The biggest question once the playoffs arrive may be which teams are healthy. Is KD going to be 100%? Should we be worried about Anthony Davis’ nagging injuries? How about Embiid? If any of the star players aren’t fully healthy entering the playoffs, or get injured during them, their teams’ chances will drop significantly. Hopefully, the NBA’s fast-paced regular season won’t cause this and instead, the postseason will live up to its exciting and star-studded potential.