The LA Clippers, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Houston Rockets, the reigning monarchs Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia Sixers are also among the candidates .
These are the candidates to win the NBA. / Photos: instagram.com/kingjames, instagram.com/laclippers, flickr.com/KeithAllison
LatinamericanPost| Onofre Zambrano
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Leer en español: Lakers lideran favoritismo para ganar la NBA post cuarentena
The duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis plus the depth of their bench and the good technical direction of Frank Vogel place the LA Lakers as the main candidate to win the 2019-20 NBA season, after four months of not playing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The LA Clippers, who were the No. 1 connoisseur favorite this season because of the combination of talents of Kawhi Leonard (champion with the Toronto Raptors in 2019) and Paul George, have lost some points in that race, while the Milwaukee Bucks, with the best record of the entire tournament, are third due to the general impression of their dependence on the Greek pivot Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Of course, there are questions about what each of these teams can achieve and especially in what aspect they can fail to say goodbye to the title.
Why the Lakers?
They are the great candidate, but they must find the team that gives them the best guarantees at the end of the game. That is, which are the most suitable substitutes to use in very even commitments in which the details make a difference.
Although they have not had a solid starting five all season, the most common has been James and Davis along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green and Javale McGee. The bench is strong, but its usefulness in times of pressure has been unstable.
Names such as Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Quinn Cooke and Jr. Smith, (does not include Avery Bradley after announcing that he will not play the rest of the season due to respiratory problems of his son), were valuable to achieve 50 wins before the pandemic. Vogel must find the best way to flank his two stars with these names.
However, and according to ESPN, a poll indicated that 64% of voters expressed 80% confidence in the team's closing unit. If they stick to the plan and LeBron doesn't get injured like he was last season, they'll be very close to their 17th tournament.
LA Clippers runner-ups
It was difficult for them to get in rhythm and when they finally seemed to have found it, Covid19 arrived. The Clippers have dealt with injuries and transfers and are still the second best in the West, behind their city rivals.
They were the big favorites at the beginning of the season, but they still look a step behind the Lakers in rhythm and team work, but if they get it, watch out! For ESPN, thei coach Doc Rivers stated: "You could literally feel it, we started to understand each other just before the season was suspended, we were already the Clippers. We were playing smoothly through Kawhi and Paul. It was no longer forced."
The problem seems to be the lack of chemistry, will they find it soon? It will only be known in time, but the truth is that the more regular starting lineup composed of Leonard, George, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris Sr., has barely played 12 minutes together. If they succeed, they will be fearsome.
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Bucks and their dependency on Giannis
Bucks fans still have in mind how their team was eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals in 2019 at the hands of the Toronto Raptors when everything indicated that they would play the NBA final for the first time since 1971.
Maybe that's why, being 53-12 is not something that excites their fans as much as it did last year. The other issue is the dependence they have on their great star, the Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo. It is time for complementary figures like Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton to show consistency in the postseason, especially in attack, where there is no clear evolution.
In turn, coach Mike Budenholzer has a job trying to get the best out of each player off the bench, especially those most expected like veteran George Hill, Turkish Ersan Ilyasova, Kyle Korver and Robin López. If the second unit shows postseason level to rest Giannis, Milwaukee should reach the decisive series.
Rockets: a lot of offensive power, but ...
Houston can't be dismissed, they have perhaps the greatest offensive potential in all of basketball, but coach Mike D'Antoni's style of play may need more balance for the Rockets to be more reliable on defense. If you are not good on both sides of the court, it is difficult to be a champion.
His perimeter duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook is possibly the best in the NBA, but due to the lack of height in the painted area, good opponents close the perimeter forcing them to play inside where they are one more team and get punished often when counterattacked.
If the offensive and aforementioned coach achieves the formula to minimize the risk in that game situation and Harden becomes the leader that we are accustomed to in the postseason, Rockets will continue to be the tough team to crack. But starters PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon must contribute more as well as reserves DeMar Carroll, Jeff Green and Robert Covington.
The rest of the candidates
Another four teams are looming on the horizon as possible surprises to be champions. In other words, they are quintets with potential and a good player base, but perhaps with less depth than those previously mentioned, however, it is worth dedicating a space to them.
They are the current Toronto Raptors monarchs with Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry as props, the youth of the Philadelphia Sixers led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the quality of the duo that makes up Kyrie Irving and the recovered Kevin Durant in the Brooklyn Nets and the energy of the Slovenian Luka Doncic to lead the young and talented Dallas Mavericks.