This year’s race for the highly elusive Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy is unlike years prior.
For the past three seasons, the NBA world has been split into two: one part, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the other part, Golden State Warriors — but not this year. This year’s competition is not as decisive as the Cavs versus the Warriors for a fourth time in a row — thankfully.
Here is The Sixth Man’s ratings on the league’s best chances at snagging that coveted NBA title:
Houston Rockets: 39%
With probable MVP, James Harden, and Chris Paul becoming the winningest All-Star duo in the NBA this season, there is nothing standing in their way from receiving the highest percentage in our predictions. With guys like Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza, and the league’s ultimate sixth man, Eric Gordon, adding to “The Beard” and CP3’s contributions, the Rockets have shown us just how dominate they can be with their newly acquired two-way play. However, with Paul, Harden, and head coach Mike D’Antoni’s pasts in the playoffs, there is no saying that they are guaranteed anything here.
Golden State Warriors: 26%
Even though the Rockets have clearly dominated with their multiple double-digit win streaks this season, a healthy Warriors squad can never go uncounted for. By the time the playoffs roll around, three out of the four All-Stars for Golden State should be back and in tip-top shape. Stephen Curry, AKA “Threezus,” is projected to be back by the semifinals. Although Golden State is not the presence they were when they became a household name a few years ago, they still put on a show with the amount of top ten players they have on their team — which is well deserving of a 26 percent stake in this year’s prediction.
Toronto Raptors: 15%
DeMar DeRozan is a complete assassin in games, — in our opinons — he alone deserves a stake in this prediction. With adding on All-Star point guard like Kyle Lowry to the mix, it only spices their game up even more. So, we got an All-Star shooting guard and an All-Star point guard. What about a center and power forward? Check those off too. Jonas Valančiūnas and Serge Ibaka may not be All-Stars in their respective positions, but they both still aid tremendously to the Raptors’ cutthroat defense — which ranks third in the entire NBA. If the Raptors gained a bit more stability offensively, they would be considered more of a threat in this ulitmate fight for the championship.
Boston Celtics: 7%
With — arguably — the Coach of the Year on their side, Boston’s squad plays with an articulated finesse that many cannot handle. Maybe it’s their highly sought after melding of new and old power players, or maybe it’s because they are just simply playing for a franchise that knows how to win; however you want to see it, the Celtics consistently prevail against oppositing squads. Nonetheless, without “Uncle Drew,” AKA “Ankletaker,” AKA Kyrie Irving, the Celtics lose a part of their game that aids tremendously to their efficiency out on the floor. With Irving schedule for a comeback some unknown time within the playoff sprint, it’s is unclear in what condition he will be back in — landing the Celtics only 7% in this year’s prediction.
Cleveland Cavaliers: 6%
All that needs to be said here is one name: LeBron James.
Portland Trail Blazers: 4%
Damian Lillard and C. J. McCollum engulf other teams offensively in their respective positions, and with Jusuf Nurkić standing guard on the block, the Trail Blazers truly do deserve a solid spot on this list. While Portland may not have the greatest shot at the title — due to their inability to stand out both offensively and defensively — when compared to the teams listed above, they do shine out teams in one category: clutchness. Never turn your head to a clutch crew like the Blazers because before you know it, they are back in it and looking to take the whole thing over.
Philadelphia 76ers: 1%
The 76ers have made a fantastic youthful insurgency late this season — enough to put them in the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, leaving them to stand only one game behind the LBJ and the Cavaliers. However, despite their performance in the better half of this season, they just are not ready for their claim in the big leagues quite yet. Will they get there? Yes, no doubt. With should-have-been-All-Star Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid playing with this much of a commanding style in the league at their age, it is only up from here.
Oklahoma City Thunder: 1%
With three All-Stars and one dominant center, Oklahoma City is playing like a team that most would expect when combining this many scorers on one floor. A lot of highs and lows, a lot of questioning on who is taking the last shot, and a lot of miscommunication. Carmelo Anthony came from New York, where — before the city basically disowned him — he was praised like a higher power. Paul George came from the Indiana Pacers, where he was their only hope for anything playoff related. Russel Westbrook has seemingly lived and breathed every moment of his career in OKC. So, putting all of that on one team, and expecting them to mesh like they aren’t one-man, veteran shows is nearly impossible.
San Antonio Spurs: 1%
If the Spurs had a healthy Kawhi Leonard — by all means — shoot their percentage up on winning this thing by at least 20 percent. However, with the league’s best two-way play sidelined, the only reasons the Spurs still have a slim shot at this thing are because their best player is head coach Gregg Popivach, and, well, is the fact that they’re just San Antonio good enough?