By: Darryl Rice, Kevin Reyes and Rex Eastwood
theBRKDWN NBA Power Rankings
What’s happening yall? Darryl, Kevin and Rex have emerged from the debate room ranking each squad’s ability to win the championship. We are diving into our final and top tier teams. These are the cream of the crop! Any of these teams can possibly take the chip home. Let’s take a dive into these final teams to determine who wins The 2019-2020 NBA Championship.
4. Toronto Raptors – Darryl
These are the defending champions, put some respeck on their name! Watch out for this team! THE RAPTORS ARE THE DARK HORSE! They are saying all the right things and Ibaka seems confident! This team is the real deal, and if you don’t believe me, ask Los Angeles.
I have to tip my hat off to this organization. The narrative with the Raptors at the beginning of the season would be a mirror image of OKC. No one gave this team a chance, and this organization needs a standing ovation. According to fivethirtyeight.com this team was only projected to win 54 games, and that was being generous. Some sites had this team as low as winning 45 games. Honestly, you have to tip your hat to Masai Ujiri, and Nick Nurse. These men have talented minds and figured out the matrix. Nick Nurse can also coach his ass off. He knows how to make this team exceed expectations. The Raptors are a great team, but they don’t win half the games if it wasn’t for Nick Nurse’s defensive mind and how he puts together schemes. The Raptors net rating is up from last year, their opponents points per game is lower, as well as a higher pace of play for Toronto. The team is excelling without Leonard, or Green and that’s unheard of. A key game I watched this season was against Indiana. There’s under three minutes left in the 4th quarter. The Pacers are up 116 to 105. Nurse goes to work.
The Raptors have a suffocating defense. I don’t want to hear anything about these guys just being average! No, Nick Nurse brings the best out of his squad and when you have a coach who knows how to play up to his talents this is exactly what happens to a team who is projected to be a disaster. Get rid of the prima donnas and coaches can shine. Ask Billy Donovan! Toronto, in my opinion, has the best 2-way starting five in the East. The reason I say this is because they have the ability to shut teams down, Boston knows how it feels not to score 100 at home.
The addition of Marc Gasol is crucial. They can stretch the court and clog it at the same time. Lowery is a workhorse. He reminds me of CP3, but grimier. He loves contact, and he loves being the underdog even more. This team is full of role players who play their position with precision. Chris Boucher plays at a high level, a great 2-way big man, and Siakam is a beast. Fred VanVleet is quick and knows the game well. He’s a champion and has the experience. The entire roster is deep and full of talent who plays under the radar. I believe this team will be in the Eastern Conference Finals because of their defense. They will pressure teams and their opponents will make a ton of mental errors. The Raptors will follow this simple formula, mark my words!
3. Los Angeles Clippers – Rex
And the starting center for Los Angeles Clippers is Joakim Noah, let that sink in. With Ivica Zubac yet to join the team in Orlando and Montrezl Harrell leaving for a family emergency, the big man depth is looking dicey. Doc Rivers, it’s time to get creative and we could potentially see a small ball lineup with JaMychal Green or Patrick Patterson at center. Chasing down the one seed may be out of the picture since they are 5.5 games back, but they need to hold down the second seed with Denver on their tails. Hopefully, the situation resolves well for Harrell and he can return to the Bubble as soon as possible. He has played a larger role in their offense by taking defenders to the basket and creating, rather than solely finishing on the inside. When he’s off the court, their plus minus per 100 possessions drops to a -1.2 compared to +6 while on the court. He’s in contention for Sixth Man of the Year and has been the reason why the Clippers bench is the best in the NBA.
At guard and small forward, there are no major questions or concerns. When you can start Patrick Beverly, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard then have Reggie Jackson, Lou Williams and Landry Shamet off the bench, life is good. Kawhi put the city of Toronto on his back and has the chance to do it with the little brother franchise in LA. The Clippers are balanced on both sides of the ball and have given opposing squads fits. LAC rank in the top five in both offensive (3rd) and defensive rating (5th). Add in the playoff and late game experience, they are more than ready for a deep run.
A large reason for the offensive success is the ability to screen off the ball leading to quality shots. Zubac setting the screen for multiple players looking to score has skyrocketed this team. Landry Shamet leads the league in effective field goal percent scoring off a screen (66.2 percent) while Kawhi is second and Paul George is fifth. On the defensive end, they are built to lock down teams in the half court. Due to injury throughout the season, their optimal defensive squad hasn’t seen the most minutes but the 124 minutes are a sign of what is to come in Orlando. These games could be played tighter and slower and that plays into the Clippers hands.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Kevin
The Milwaukee Bucks have had one of the single greatest seasons for a team in NBA history. They were once on pace to win 70 games, clinched the fastest playoff berth in league history (did so in 56 games), hold an 11.3 point differential (highest this season, 5th highest all-time), and have one of the top offensive and defensive ratings in the NBA. They are also one of nine teams in NBA history to record three 40+ point victories, tying the NBA record for most in a single season. In addition to all that, they have one of deepest squads in the league by far (can go 13 deep, 14 if you want to count D.J. Wilson). They’re led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, arguably the best player in the league, who’s on pace to be the ONLY player in NBA history to average at least 29pts/13reb/5ast on 54% from the field He is also set to win back-to-back MVP awards, with this one being deserving of a unanimous vote. He isn’t alone though: Khris Middleton was the other all-star on the team, being one of the most efficient scorers in the league, on pace to have a 50/40/90 season. Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez have been the other double digit scorers on the team. The additions of Wesley Matthews and Marvin Williams mid-season have given them veteran 3-and-D players, and the improved play from second year pro Donte DiVincenzo has been a sight to see with his great defensive impact.
People like to rave about the Lakers and Clippers being favorites to win the championship, but for some reason, everyone ignores the team with the best record in the league. The Bucks might be the hardest team to beat in a seven game series in the Eastern Conference, and have a positive record against the top teams in both conferences. This includes sweeping the two-game season series against the Clippers and splitting both games against the Lakers. They’ve been one of the best teams all season, and they don’t get nearly enough credit.
And not only should expectations be high for this team, but there is a dark cloud of uncertainty that follows this team for the next two seasons, due to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s impending free agency in 2021. Even though he’s repeatedly said that he wants to stay in Milwaukee, there have been a lot of rumors about him possibly leaving if they don’t win a championship. Opinions can always change (just ask Kyrie Irving). The Bucks’ championship window is now, and if they don’t win one this season (or reach The Finals at least), there will be drama next season with all the Giannis rumors that will be filling up our Twitter feeds.
1. Los Angeles Lakers – Darryl
We can make this plain and simple, so let’s just cut to the chase. The Lakers are winning the title! There’s absolutely no chance that anyone can change my mind here. I’ll try and not be biased since The Lakers are my favorite team, but this is just a no-brainer. I can also bombard you with superfluous stats and data that shows this team wins. I won’t. I’m not a numbers guy. I’m a visual guy who looks at the game from a different perspective. The team is stacked. Not even talking the starters, but the additions alone are ridiculous. Morris, Waiters, and even Smith are crucial additions to the roster. Dark horses like Kuzma, Caruso, and even Dwight are playing at a high clip this year. We then add a fully rested playoff Lebron. This team knows how to turn it on and I believe they do it as soon as the season restarts.
Let’s be honest, this team only has to worry about one team and that’s the Clippers. I believe this won’t be an issue because the Lakers also have depth. The Lakers are actually deeper now than before the pause of the season. They are deep with talent to hang with any squad. I’ve watched tons of NBA replays recently, and it’s honestly no competition. The New Orleans Pelicans scored 100 points with 10:50 left in the 4th quarter. The Lakers were losing with 95 points. The final score 122-114, Lebron with a triple-double, Kuzma with 20; including a nasty move on Zion. This beatdown happened in New Orleans on March 1st.Then the Lakers handled both the Bucks and the Clippers the following weekend in Showtime fashion.
Lebron and AD were playing lights out basketball and I don’t see why this doesn’t continue. AD has put some weight on to handle the contact. Lebron is fully rested and looking great . There is honestly a 3-point threat with Green, Caruso, and the newly added Waiters. In his three games played in January, he shot 4 for 9, 1 for 2, and 3 for 6 from the arc. If he gets hot and comfortable, this is a nightmare. There have been many close games this season, but I feel Vogel and crew will make the necessary changes to have this team prepared and ready to bring the chip home. My hot take is the Lakers lose zero games in the regular restart.
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