The 2020 NBA playoffs are right around the corner and we all know who the favorites to win the NBA title are. The Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks are the most likely candidates to lift the elusive trophy at the end of the year.
And what about the sleeper teams that everyone is overlooking? The NBA is as competitive as it has been for a while now and there are superstar players on almost every team.
The NBA has not had parity for a long time, thanks to Kevin Durant and the Warriors, but that certainly is not the case this year. There are quite a few teams that are flying under the radar as potential candidates to lift the NBA title. While everybody’s looking at the big boys, it would not be surprising if one of the dark horse teams lift the NBA title.
Here are the NBA teams that can shock everyone and beat everybody in the playoffs this year.
6. Portland Trail Blazers
This would be quite an achievement if the Blazers manage to sneak into the NBA playoffs as the 8th seed and then claw their way to the NBA Finals. If they find themselves in the NBA Finals, anything can happen because they have a superstar in Damian Lillard and two fringe All-Stars in C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Carmelo Anthony is having his best season in years (15.3 PPG) and a double-double machine in Hassan Whiteside is coming off the bench (15.8 PPG and 13.8 RPG).
The Trail Blazers are no joke, and there isn’t a team in the NBA that wants to play them in the first round of the playoffs. If Dame and CJ get hot and get buckets, anything can happen.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Nobody expected the Oklahoma City Thunder to be in a playoff spot this year. Chris Paul is a legitimate MVP candidate, and although he won’t win the MVP this year, he has proven that he is still playing at a high level and is extremely valuable to OKC. He’s one of the best leaders in the NBA and is hungry to prove that he is not over the hill. The Houston Rockets felt that Chris Paul was a reason they didn’t win the Western Conference Semi-Final showdown with the Warriors last year, because he looked old and slow. He must prove that this simply was not the case.
The Thunder are loaded with talent including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, and Dennis Schroder. Billy Donovan just won co-Coach of the Year and this team can upset anybody. If Donovan plays his X’s and O’s properly, and if Chris Paul can continue playing like an MVP, the Thunder just might make a very deep playoff run.
4. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are actually one of the top contenders in the East, but nobody expects them to win it all. It may be due to the fact that they lack a true superstar on the squad, although Jason Tatum is already a star in this league at 22 years old. Kemba Walker is a baller, Gordon Hayward wants to prove he still has it, and Jaylen Brown is having his best season in the NBA. The Celtics are exceptionally well-coached and they have capable scorers and defenders on the squad.
If guys like Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown get hot from the perimeter and make shots, and if Jayson Tatum can morph into a poor man’s Kobe Bryant, anything can happen in the East. It would be quite amazing for the Celtics to make the NBA Finals, and it will be hard to put it past them to win it all if they do.
3. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are a great overall squad. It’s amazing how a guy like Jimmy Butler can completely change a franchise culture. The Miami Heat were already a no nonsense franchise already, but Jimmy Butler has immediately given them star power to improve as a potential NBA title contender. Because of Butler, the Heat are in win-now mode. That is why they traded for experienced vet Andre Iguodala, to make a push in the East.
Heat might not have 2013 LeBron James on the squad, but they have a host of young talented players who can flat out shoot the rock. The Heat are exceptionally well coached with Eric Spoelstra leading the charge, and they can legitimately shock everyone this year.
2. Houston Rockets
The Rockets have something that is rare in NBA history, two superstar players. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are a dynamic duo, who do everything for their team. The entire Rockets system runs through them, because they either score or assist for threes. The squad is stacked with 3-and-D guys including Robert Covington, Eric Gordon, Danuel House, Jeff Green, and Ben McLemore. The Rockets make no apologies for hoisting up 50-60 threes a game because they simply can.
The Rockets, when making shots, are the most formidable team in the league. They are active on defense with steals, and run with 3 or 4 guys on the break. They score with absolute ease and they have a player in James Harden who cannot be stopped with one or two defenders. If Houston makes shots and Harden performs at his best, the Rockets will probably win it all.
1. Toronto Raptors
Out of all the teams that have championships cache on this list, the Raptors have the most shot to get it done. Houston plays with a big risk by not having traditional centers to grab rebounds, and the other teams don’t have NBA Finals experience like the Raptors do. The team that won it all last year is literally brought back, albeit without Kawhi Leonard, but new and improved versions of Pascal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet. Lowry can still ball, and they have great depth with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
The Raptors have no fear and no worries going into the playoffs, because they all know what it takes to win. If Siakam can up his game a little bit more in the playoffs, and if the Raptors can continue playing team ball, they might win it all. If they do win it all, Toronto would have one of the greatest 2-year runs in NBA history and it would be a pleasure to see it happen.