As the NBA quickly approaches playoff season, the battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy is heating up, with a number of teams having a real shot at taking it all home. 

While the Boston Celtics have emerged as the clear favourite with their dominant regular season performance, they’re not the 2018 Warriors – they can lose. If a team finds a rhythm, or heaven forbid, a key Boston player gets injured, it could all be over.

Let’s delve deeper into the teams seriously contending for the 2024 NBA Championship, categorizing teams by their potential to win it all, and examine the factors that could propel them to championship glory.

The Favourite: Boston Celtics

The Celtics have taken the league by storm this season, boasting a potent combination of offensive firepower and stifling defence. They currently rank No. 1 in offensive rating per possession and No. 1 in defensive rating, a recipe for success that historically bodes well in the playoffs. 

Their clutch performance, evident in their fifth-ranked offensive rating in clutch situations, further strengthens their case as the team to beat. Jayson Tatum knows how to lead a team and has been getting the most out of his skill set.

However, their lack of recent championship experience leaves room for potential challenges, especially against seasoned contenders with proven track records in the postseason pressure cooker.

Real NBA Contenders 

These four teams boast the talent, experience, and current seed to grab a decent playoff spot, hopefully propelling them to some success.

Denver Nuggets

The defending champions return with their original championship core, led by the ever-dominant Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, and Aaron Gordon. Their starting lineup remains elite, outscoring opponents by roughly 13 points per 100 possessions and absolutely dominating on both sides of the floor.

However, their bench depth could use some improvement, as in their 2023 NBA title run, their roleplayers were much stronger. Additionally, the Western Conference has become significantly more competitive than even the most seasoned analysts expected, making it harder for them to replicate their perfect 10-1 home record in the 2023 playoffs.

LA Clippers

The return of Kawhi Leonard to full health has been key in the Clippers’ resurgence in the new year. With Leonard and James Harden seamlessly integrated into the team’s offensive and defensive schemes, the Clippers are finally looking like the team we knew they could be. 

Their balanced scoring attack, coupled with their defensive stopping power with Paul George and the Klaw, makes them a major threat on both ends of the court. 

However, their lack of recent playoff experience beyond the first round raises questions about their ability to sustain success against seasoned veterans in high-pressure situations.

Milwaukee Bucks

Despite a rough season marked by coaching changes and inconsistent play, the Bucks remain a force to be reckoned with in the East. They still possess arguably the most dominant starting lineup in the league, led by the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Their starting five also still boast a decent net rating in the NBA, outscoring opponents by a staggering 15.3 points per 100 possessions. The only downside is their dependence on Antetokounmpo to carry the offensive load, and it doesn’t really help that the bench hasn’t really been able to score consistently at any point this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves

While not considered an NBA championship contender by most, the Timberwolves have played well enough to finally be a contender in the West. Led by the dynamic duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, the Wolves boast the league’s fourth-best offensive rating and a young core brimming with potential. 

Not only that, the twin towers of Towns and Rudy Gobert have effectively made the key a no-fly zone. However, like many other teams in this bracket, their lack of playoff experience and defensive struggles could prove to be their Achilles’ heel against more seasoned and disciplined teams.

The Underdogs 

This tier represents a group of rising stars with the talent and momentum to challenge the established elite. However, their lack of recent playoff success raises questions about their ability to navigate the gruelling postseason landscape.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Led by Donovan Mitchell and the upcoming Darius Garland, the Cavaliers currently have the league’s third-best point differential. Their improved defence and Garland’s emergence as a legitimate NBA star have made them a force to be reckoned with in the East.

New York Knicks

The Knicks surprised the league with a strong start to the season and an even better trade deadline deal. They went from a solid middle-of-the-pack roster to a real contender overnight. Knicks fans just need to hope OG Anunoby stays healthy.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The young Thunder, under the guidance of Coach Mark Daigneault, have emerged as a surprise contender in the West. Led by the scoring prowess of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the versatility of Josh Giddey, they boast the league’s second-best point differential. However, their lack of experience with seasoned

Fringe Teams

Even with recent success stories like the Miami Heat’s 2023 run, it’s unlikely for even a sixth-seeded team to make it out of the first round. Nonetheless, there are some real sleeper rosters that could shake things up this year.

Honourable Mention 

Sacramento has really stepped up their game over the last several months, which should push them into a decent playoff position. That being said, Kings fans shouldn’t get too excited, De’Aaron Fox just isn’t ready to lead a real NBA Championship roster, maybe in a couple of years.

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