The Los Angeles Lakers are in a position to close out the Miami Heat and win the NBA title this year. Up 3-1, the Heat have almost an impossible task ahead of them. If the Lakers win the title, there is no doubt that Los Angeles will have breezed through every opponent. The Trail Blazers, Rockets, Nuggets, and Heat were just beaten down without much of a challenge. Antony Davis is the best big man in the world and LeBron James is the best player on Earth.
This leaves fans worrying that next season will also be a wrap, considering how great the Lakers looked this season. But there are quite a few teams that will put up a challenge to LeBron and the Lakers, mainly due to superstar talent and excellent coaching. Here are the best teams that will compete with the Lakers for the NBA title next year.
5. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have two All-Stars on the squad in Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Both players were keys in Denver making the Western Conference Finals this year, and will only get better next year. Murray had exceptional performances in the Playoffs and should take a step forward as a smarter point guard with better decision making. Murray has the talent and skills to be a top-5 point guard in the league and he needs to prove it next year.
Jokic is the undisputed leader of the team with the way he controls the pace of the game...at his own pace. Jokic had a great season and is widely regarded as a top-3 big man in the world. Denver have a ton of talent on their team and therefore a lot of trade assets, so they are only one trade away for a third All-Star to be making the Western Conference Finals again. If Michael Porter Jr. makes a rise as a legitimate star in the game, Denver are a huge problem for the Lakers.
4. Miami Heat
No team surprised more people than the Miami Heat this year. they made it all the way to the NBA finals led by the likes of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Butler clearly took a step up in his production this season, taking out the likes of Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics en route to a showdown with the Lakers. While nobody expects Miami to knock off the Lakers, it is impressive how far they made it.
Miami have Butler, Adebayo, and Eric Spoelstra as untouchables. The rest of the roster should be touchable as they look to add more talent to get over the hump. Tyler Herro is a special young player and could be moved for a superstar, although he is a perfect piece as a shooting guard alongside Butler. If Miami can add a guy like Victor Oladipo or Bradley Beal to the squad alongside Butler and Adebayo, the Heat are right there to make the Finals again with their scrappy play and aggressive mindset.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
The most disappointing team in the NBA this year were the Los Angeles Clippers. We were all robbed of a Western Conference Finals showdown between the Lakers and Clippers, which would have definitely been a matchup of the ages. In fact, there might be a different NBA champion this year if the Clippers did not manage to choke away a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets.
The Clippers still have Kawhi Leonard and that alone means they are right there in the title hunt. Doc Rivers is out as the head coach, and Paul George needs a long hard look at himself in the mirror. Does he have the capability to organize his personal life and commit to winning an NBA title? If he does, the Clippers just need to find their coach and sort out their roster depth. Paul George may even be traded to get another piece for Kawhi if management doesn't see him fit. Either way, don't discount the Clippers because Kawhi Leonard is a former Finals MVP and one of the best two-way players of all time.
2. Golden State Warriors
Oh how quickly people forget. The Golden State Warriors are not going anywhere. In fact, they are here to stay. They have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green under the leadership of Steve Kerr. They also have the 2nd Overall Pick in the Draft, meaning they are adding a fourth piece to a talented roster imminently. The Warriors will be a huge problem next year, something LeBron fans dread.
The Warriors do not have Kevin Durant, which is a blessing to the entire NBA, but they have a ton of options with their 2nd Overall Pick. The Warriors Big Three along with another All-Star or young prospect means the Warriors are a title favorite without question.
1. Brooklyn Nets
The team that has the most talent on paper is the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant, when healthy, is arguably a top-2 player in the game. He can't be stopped offensively and has emerged as a two-way superstar. KD is a two-time Finals MVP for a reason, and he is the player outside of Kawhi Leonard who comes closest to comparing to LeBron James than anyone else. With KD back, the NBA is a different playing field.
Pairing KD with a superstar point guard like Kyrie Irving means the Nets are a massive problem in the East. Which team in the East possesses the talent that Brooklyn has? Miami has Butler and Bam, Boston has Tatum and Walker, and the Bucks have Giannis. But a duo like KD and Kyrie is just unbelievable, and their roster is filled with guys like Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen who are valuable trade pieces. With DeAndre Jordan and the newly acquired head coach Steve Nash in the mix, the Nets are the best team that can knock off the Lakers next season.