The NBA landscape looks a whole lot different now than it did just a few months ago, and teams that were contenders then or not now, and teams that weren't contending have made moves to change that. The NBA has been able to stay relevant even after the season ending with the Warriors being crowned the champions of the league, as this upcoming draft class had fans buzzing, and this off-season has been filled with marquee signings and trades that will be very interesting to see play out this upcoming season.
There is basically two schools of thought when it comes to teams plans of success in the league right now, either build a team good enough to compete with the Warriors, or strip down the team and rebuild in order to be one of the best teams after the Warriors era.
In this article, we will be looking at 8 NBA teams that could make the finals this coming year and 8 teams who can't. A lot of teams have upgraded their franchise to the point of contention while other teams have gone from solid to bad with a few moves in order to build for the future making them a bottom dweller team.
Here are 8 NBA teams that could make the finals this year and 8 supposed contenders who have absolutely no chance.
18 Could - Philadelphia 76ers
You may think I'm crazy for this one, but the Philadelphia 76ers could take the league by storm next season and while they most likely won't win the championship, they are one of the more solid teams in the East as of now and are only getting better.
They also have in my opinion three franchise defining players on their roster for this season, and Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz could do some serious damage as rookies together. Joel Embiid, despite being pretty injury prone, is one of the best centers in the league when healthy. The team also added shooter J.J. Redick to fill out the shooting guard position, making the Sixers a dangerous team. If everyone's healthy this year, the 76ers could make a huge jump.
17 Can't - Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers traded Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, which ultimately threw their championship contention out the window. The team is still solid don't get me wrong, but the Clippers had trouble competing with Paul, and losing a guy like that will only hurt their chances. It doesn't look as though they are starting a rebuild, as it was more of a pivot to building around Blake Griffin, and they do have the pieces needed to stay solid in the league.
Losing Chris Paul however is what is going to matter most when it comes to playoffs, and the West is very solid this year, and the Clippers might not even make the playoffs. It's puzzling that Griffin chose to stay in L.A. following Paul's move.
16 Could - Oklahoma City Thunder
The OKC Thunder were able to attain a superstar to pair up with Russell Westbrook in Paul George, and they got him for a steal as they only traded away Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for him. Russell Westbrook is easily one of the most dynamic players in the league, and adding a guy like George to the team makes them contenders to win the championship next year. How the two stars will play together is unknown, but they have a nice supporting cast and while they won't be one of the most dominant teams in the regular season, having two superstar guys like that come playoff time is what could have them going deeper into the playoffs than many would think.
15 Can't - Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers have been stuck in mediocrity for a while now, as they certainly aren't contenders for the championship yet they are not one of the worst teams in the league. Fighting for a spot in the challenging West this season, I'm not sure if Damian Lillard will be able to lead his team to a playoff spot this year.
Paired up with backcourt mate C.J. McCollum, the two make a dangerous tandem but they are lacking a defensive presence and may need to consider making a few more moves unless they want to stay one of the "ok" teams in the league for years and years to come. Another quick first round exit is likely. Sorry Portland fans.
14 Could - Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves made a blockbuster move on draft night, as they added Jimmy Butler to their squad. They did lose a few young assets, but Jimmy Butler is easily one of the most premier players in the entire league, and adding him to the core of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns could be legendary. Let's not forgot to mention they signed Jeff Teague from the Pacers, who is a very solid point-guard and will be able to fit right in with the pieces they have. It's finally time for the Timberwolves to shine, and Minnesota will end up being a top team in the West, capable of taking home the Larry O'Brien trophy.
13 Can't - Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are headed in the right direction for sure, but they still don't have all the pieces needed to be a top team in the league. Probably signing some big names next off-season such as Paul George, this year will be about developing young guys like Lonzo Ball, who could be a franchise altering player due to his excellent talent and skill set he possesses. The team did trade one of their young pieces in D'Angelo Russell for Brook Lopez, which may seem counterproductive, but the Lakers are looking to win sooner than later, and Brook is going to be a great addition to the team and give Lonzo another guy to facilitate to. While this year won't be the Lakers year, the time if coming for Los Angeles.
12 Could - Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets were one of the best teams in the league this year, and only got better this off-season as they added Hall of Fame point-guard Chris Paul to the team, creating a legendary backcourt with he and James Harden. While Paul doesn't necessarily seem like the best fit for the team as Harden was going a great job at point-guard, but you have to think Paul will only help the team. They had to give up a few good pieces to grab Chris Paul, but in the end, the Rockets will continue to be a great team in this league with enough talented guys to make a serious run when it comes to the playoffs as they have added a superstar to their roster.
11 Can't - Toronto Raptors
The Raptors had one of their most promising teams in franchise history last year. They added Serge Ibaka at the deadline to team with mainstays Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan but their season ended much like it did a year ago, falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round. Except this year, they only made it to the second round and were swept by the Cavs. The Raptors retained Ibaka and Lowry this summer, but also traded for C.J. Miles by trading away Corey Joseph and they also send DeMarre Carroll off to Brooklyn. The moves just don't seem like they're enough for the Raptors to overcome the Cavs and possibly even the Celtics, who will be the Raps' main obstacles in coming out of the east.
10 Could - San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have continued to be one of the best teams in basketball for the last two decades, and nothing will change when it comes to this upcoming season. The Spurs still have their superstar in Kawhi Leonard, who will always keep them afloat due to his excellent two way play. The rest of their roster is aging when it comes to guys like Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, but they have made strides to get better with moves like signing Rudy Gay to a two year deal. This adds a dynamic scorer to the team alongside Leonard, and with Gregg Popovich at the helm, the Spurs always have a chance of winning the championship. You can simply never count out San Antonio, even if they do have the Warriors to worry about.
9 Can't - Milwaukee Bucks
Everyone is expecting the Bucks to take a step forward and they hope Giannis the 'Greek Freak' will lead a surge in Milwaukee, but with all the moves that were made around them this offseason, the Bucks didn't really do anything significant to improve their standing from 2017. It seems like it's going to be pretty status quo for Milwaukee going into the season which means they'll likely make the playoffs again, possibly as a fourth or fifth seed, but when they meet the likes of Boston or Cleveland in the playoffs, would anybody really give them much of a chance to dethrone the Cavs or take Boston out? Not likely. It's likely the Bucks will have to make a big splash next summer before having a chance to come out of the east.
7 Could - Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are going to be a dominant team this upcoming season. They earnd the first seed in the east this past season, and have only gotten better as they just added star player Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz, making them even more dangerous than before. Superstar Isaiah Thomas has come into his own over the past few seasons, and is one of the best scorers in the league.
Great trades have allowed for the Celtics to build young assets as well, as they have some very talented young players on their roster including Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Celtics could very well come out of the East over the Cavaliers and have the power to beat the Warriors.
6 Can't - Utah Jazz
Poor Utah. It seemed they were well on their way to emerging as contenders in the western conference, and despite their second round sweep at the hands of the Warriors, they did show a lot of promise in beating the Clippers in the first round and showed plenty of potential for the future. However this offseason, the Jazz lost Gordon Hayward in free agency to Boston. The Jazz have since been looking for a small forward to replace Hayward but it's hard to think they're going to find one. Unfortunately it looks like the Jazz will take a step back this coming season before hopefully being able to rebound in 2018 after a few roster moves. But let's take it easy with the burning jerseys, okay Utah?
5 Could - Cleveland Cavaliers
While the Cavs haven't gotten better this offseason, they still have their big three combination of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, making them obvious contenders due to the incredible talent of the trio. LeBron James is the best player in the league, and will do everything in his power to get the Cavaliers to the championship series for the 4th time in the row.
The Cavs have shown flashes of being able to compete with the super talented Warriors, but they need a few more moves before the match up becomes more fair. With the three superstar players they have, the Cavs always have a chance to win the East and meet the Golden State Warriors again. They definitely have to make more moves if they want to beat the Warriors though.
4 Can't - Washington Wizards
John Wall is coming off likely his best season of his career and it still wasn't enough for the Wizards to make any noise in the eastern conference. The Wizards appear like they're going to be a team that's consistently good for years to come but not quite good enough to overcome the likes of Cleveland and Boston in the east. The Wizards landed Tim Frazier in exchange for their 2nd round draft pick this year, which should help their bench, but it's just not enough to improve from where they are now. Because the east is so weak now with seemingly every available superstar going to the western conference this summer, the Wizards will likely end up right back where they were in 2017... and finish the same way too.
3 Could - Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have built them probably the greatest NBA roster in the history of the league. With two MVP caliber players in their prime with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant along with two other superstars in their own right with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors are primed to win another championship this year. They went an excellent 16-1 in the playoffs this past season, and even though they didn't have as good as a record from the year before, Kevin Durant made this team better than ever as they were able to beat out the Cavaliers unlike the previous year. This offseason, the Warriors managed to retain most of their key pieces, so there's no reason not to pencil them in as favorites again.
The Warriors are still the top dogs of the league, and are definitely capable of defending their championship.
2 Can't - Indiana Pacers
The Pacers lost both Paul George and Jeff Teague to the league this summer, and a rebuild is in order in Indiana. They have some nice pieces already to begin their transition, as the best player on their team as of now is Myles Turner, a promising young center. The Pacers were supposed to be one of the best teams in the league last year as they added Jeff Teague and a few other pieces such as Al Jefferson to the roster, but the team didn't live up to expectations and it was only a matter of time before big names on the team left for other teams to play for. George was going to sign with the Lakers after this upcoming season, so trading him for some young players, even though many regarded it as not enough for the superstar, wasn't the worst idea. Expect the Pacers to be a bottom dweller in the Eastern Conference.
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