Which Teams Are Real Contenders For The NBA Title This Season?

The 2023-24 NBA season began with media days earlier this week. It’s like the first day of school. Governors, general managers, coaches, and players are full of excitement and optimism.

A quick look across the league and roughly 14 teams have put together a roster they believe can advance to a conference finals. Of course that math doesn’t work because only four teams make the conference finals.

From there a team needs to be elite on both ends of the court and a little lucky to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. Let’s look at the contenders with the best chance of winning the NBA title.

Denver Nuggets

They are the defending champions and have the world’s best player in Nikola Jokic. Jamal Murray is a now a full two years removed from tearing his ACL. Michael Porter Jr. is two years removed from lumbar spine surgery. Add in Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and that’s the starting five of a team that just won the title in June.

Yes, they lost Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. That will matter. Vlatko Cancar tore his ACL in FIBA World Cup this summer, so their depth will be tested.

But head coach Michael Malone has been raving about rookies Julian Strawther, Jalen Pickett, and Hunter Tyson in training camp. Second-year player Christian Braun, who had big plays in the Finals has been in the gym all summer and looks ready to take over the role vacated by Brown.

Milwaukee Bucks

General manager Jon Horst heard his superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo’s comments about remaining on the Bucks as long as they are competing for titles. Horst went out and got the best teammate Anteotokounmpo has ever had in Damian Lillard.

The Bucks’ weakness in the last few postseasons, even the year they won the title, has been inefficient halfcourt offense. That’s no longer an issue. Stopping a Dame and Giannis pick and roll will be a nightmare for opposing defenses.

The team’s starting five with Giannis, Dame, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, and Khris Middleton will be as good as most fives in the league.

But Middleton is coming off two straight injury plagued seasons and has yet to play five-on-five in training camp. His health and play might be the key in this team winning it all.

Boston Celtics

The 2022 NBA finalists played poorly in the playoffs last season and have revamped their team. Gone are Malcolm Brogdon, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III, and Grant Williams. In are Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis.

The Celtics can truly play five out with any combination of their top seven rotation players.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are a pair of All-NBA wings who can do it on both ends. Second-year head coach Joe Mazzulla will have a year of experience under his belt. Veteran Al Horford is still a plus player whom they can bring off the bench to preserve him for the playoffs.

It seems like this is a very critical year for the Celtics.

Phoenix Suns

Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant. They are on the short list for best trio in the league. Maybe the aforementioned Nuggets’ big three are better because of the unique brilliance of Jokic. But we are talking slim margins.

Suns governor Mat Ishbia swung for the fences in bringing KD over at the trade deadline last season, and they went all in again in trading for Beal. This team is title or bust.

Health and depth are their biggest concerns. They traded 25-year-old center Deandre Ayton for 28-year-old Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, and Nasir Little. We’ll see if that move will pay dividends.

Still, this was the only team to take the champion Nuggets to at least six games in last year’s playoffs. If — and it’s a big if — their top three are healthy and produce at their normal standards this team will be a factor in deciding it all.

Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers

Yes, we are cheating adding three teams on one line. Sue us.

The Warriors, with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and now Chris Paul can’t be counted out. They won the title in 2022. Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney along with their big three is still the best starting five, according to net rating, in the league.

The Heat have the league’s best coach in Erik Spoelstra, a proven playoff killer in Jimmy Butler, a young defensive star in Bam Adebayo and a culture that can develop talent like none other. They’ve been in two of the Past four NBA Finals.

The Lakers were swept by the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals but those games were close. LeBron James is a year older but still performing at an All-NBA level. If Anthony Davis can stay healthy and play to his potential with a very good supporting cast, they’ll be a factor.

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