July 31 is a day that all basketball fans are looking forward to, as the NBA is likely to return. With the league’s plan set in motion, it is now time to start looking at which team can truly compete for a championship once the season starts back up.
The current standings don't tell the full story, as some teams are better off now than they would've been months ago, especially as some of the league's older stars get more time off before a stretch run (think James, LeBron).
5. Boston Celtics
Boston started to hit its stride right before the league went on its hiatus. Led by All-Stars Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, the C’s contain the right amount of depth, star power and roster flexibility to take down any contender. With the combination of stars at the top and supporting cast members like Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart and Enes Kanter, Boston could be primed at a run for a championship.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Talent was never a question for Milwaukee going into 2019-20. The concern was always whether or not each player could take the next step to get over the hump in the East. After being stifled in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the squad will have to make necessary improvements to be a true championship contender. If not, they could have trouble with the next team on this list.
3. Toronto Raptors
Even without Kawhi Leonard, Toronto has not missed a step. They sit second in the Eastern Conference standings, and the roster has championship experience that other East teams lack. All-Stars Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry lead the way while role players like Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby have stepped up following Leonard’s exodus to the Clippers. Toronto has the chance to recreate some of its 2019 magic in 2020, and should they run into Milwaukee, they've proven they have the blueprint to stop Giannis. For now, they remain his Achilles heel.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Most pundits believe that the Clippers, often referred to as the other LA team, have the most depth in the league. With star talents Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading the way combined with Sixth Man of the Year candidates Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell and the always feisty Patrick Beverley, LA plays with a certain amount of attitude that a lot of other teams don’t have. The combination of talent and depth will be key to LA’s potential championship potential.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
At their current trajectory, the Lakers are the best of the West. Led by the two-headed monster of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers are beyond motivated to prove doubters wrong. Both players have been playing like MVP candidates and have picked up each other’s slack when necessary. Shooting and the impact of the ancillary pieces around LeBron and AD will be important. If both show up, the O’Brien Trophy could be headed back to Staples Center.