It seems like in the past five to ten years, there has always been a clear-cut favorite to win the NBA championship. This year it’s a bit less obvious, and there are teams in both conferences that can really compete for a title. Although it is early, I thought we could take a look at the top five contenders this season thus far.
Number Five: The Utah Jazz
The Jazz have gotten off to a hot start to the NBA season. They currently have a 16–5 record, which is good for first in the league. This team is fun to watch because of how many three-pointers they shoot. Last year, the offense relied heavily on Donavan Mitchell to have great games, and this year, while Mitchell is still the main option, his teammates have stepped up. Jordan Clarkson has been on fire, currently looking like the frontrunner for sixth man of the year. While they might look really good right now, I don’t know if they can keep this up. They are still a relatively young team, it is only their fourth year with Donavan Mitchell, and if they remain a high seed, they might be able to make some noise in the playoffs. In the last two years they couldn’t make it out of the first round, so we will see if this year is any different.
Number Four: The Milwaukee Bucks
At this point, everyone should know just how good Giannis Antetokounmpo is. He is so valuable to the Bucks franchise that the front office traded a lot of their future to try to get Giannis to resign with the Bucks. Probably the most important of these trades was the Jrue Holiday trade. While Holiday’s offense took a small step back this season as he was trying to get accustomed to his new team, his defense is elite as ever. Holiday has consistently been one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. The thing that scares me about this team is their bench. They picked up some players in the offseason like D.J. Augustin and Bryn Forbes who just haven’t been playing great this year. And unlike Holiday they aren't playing amazing defense to make up for it. Despite their bench problems, they will still be a contender as long as they have Giannis.
Number Three: The LA Clippers
Last year, the Clippers were the laughing stock of the league when they lost to the Denver Nuggets in the second round. As disappointing as it was to see them lose in the second round, they are still a top team in the league. They still have two top ten players in the league and some great role players. Currently, they are 16–6, which is the second-best record in the league.
Luke Kennard and Lou Williams haven’t been playing well, and the team is still winning. Last year, they were averaging almost 20 points per game, and now they are scoring about nine points each. While right now it is not a problem, they might have to pick it up if they want to continue to beat the elite teams in the playoffs. Nicolas Batum, on the other hand, has been a really positive pick up for this team, knocking down his three’s and playing good defense.
Number Two: The Brooklyn Nets
I wanted to start this blurb with “Before Jan. 6, the Brooklyn Nets probably wouldn’t have made this list,” but to be honest, they probably still would have been on this list. They were scary when it was just Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but then they added another MVP in one of the biggest trades in the last decade. James Harden makes this team hard to stop. We might be looking at a legendary offense. The only big problem with this team is their defense. This team is like a walking all-star team, and they definitely defend like it. While Durant is a decent defender, and Harden is a much improved defender, none of their big three is known for their defense. Not only that, but they lost Jarrett Allen in the Harden trade and Spencer Dinwiddie to an ACL injury. They are a scary team, but they still have some things to figure out until they can be number one.
Number One: The LA Lakers
The most important thing you need to know about the Lakers is that they won a championship a year ago, and this year, they got even better. Time and time again, LeBron James shows everyone why his nickname is “The King.” He is playing at an MVP caliber level yet again, but he’s doing it a little differently than usual. This season, he is taking way more three’s than usual. Maybe it's because he is getting old; regardless, they are going in, and it is scary. The scariest part is he has a crew. Anthony Davis might be the best player you can have to be the Robin to LeBron’s Batman. And the list goes on and on with newly acquired Dennis Schröder, and Montrezl Harrell. They are still my favorites to win it all, despite the super team created in Brooklyn.