As fans and players patiently waited, the NBA is finally back. As of July 22nd, the league will be back in action as 22 teams will be able to return to full-court play without any fans in the stadium. This 8-game stretch gives the players time to get in their groove of professional basketball before the playoffs start rolling again.
Luckily for some teams, this break off the action actually provides an advantage.
Superstar players get some rest, role players can mentally prepare themselves, and average teams can look to pull off major upsets. But only five teams can legitimately claim that they will be winning it all. These teams have performed well so far this season, but the extended break might fall in their favor.
Here are the top five favorites for the NBA Championship when the season resumes.
5. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets are the fifth-most likely team to win it all. This is quite incredible considering the bumps they have experienced in recent history since trading away Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets have Jokic, probably the most skilled all-around big man in the league thanks to his passing ability. Jamal Murray is still a baller, and the Nuggets have a very strong supporting cast of shooters and defenders.
Nobody wants to play the Nuggets, as they can beat any team on any given night. If they can continue sharing the ball, playing defense, and playing through Nikola Jokic down the stretch, they could surprise everyone and make the NBA Finals. But there are still four teams ahead of them.
4. Houston Rockets
The shortened season and extended rest give the Rockets the best chance to make the NBA Finals this year. They were very good but didn't seem like the team that could make the Finals before the pandemic. Especially with going small, P.J. Tucker will eventually get worn out and both James Harden and Russell Westbrook were playing heavy minutes.
Now, the stars are rested and Tucker gets his well deserved time off. There are also rumors of a slimmer James Harden, so it will be interesting to see if he can elevate his game even more if that's even possible. The Rockets need to get over the hump, and it might finally be their time.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are the best team in the East, and it isn't very close despite how good Toronto or Boston looks. The Celtics still need Tatum to develop into the superstar he is slowly morphing into, and the Raptors don't have Kawhi Leonard anymore. The Bucks gave Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he is most likely the man to lead the Bucks to an NBA Finals appearance.
Considering the Bucks can start back on track directly where they left off, they will be a tough team to beat. Giannis is pretty much unguardable and only time will tell if he has the cache to actually be the best player in the world and win an NBA title.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have the most talent on their team when compared to other contenders, and they have a top-two chance of winning it all. Kawhi Leonard is still the best two-way player in the world, and a rested and recovered Paul George is probably the best sidekick in the league right now. Not to mention, Sweet Lou and Montrezl Harrell are coming off the bench for the Clippers.
Doc Rivers is one of the best coaches in the league and will be hungry to lead his team to great heights once again. The Clippers may very well be the favorite if it wasn't for one man, LeBron James.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Without a doubt, the Lakers are the favorites for the NBA title this year. A fully rested LeBron James is still the best player in the world, and he has a top-five talent playing alongside him. If the Lakers don't suffer from any bumps or bruises during the 8-game stretch, they are likely to be crowned NBA champions.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the best duos in the league, and the Lakers have plenty of size and defense on the roster. The role players can provide what they need, and Frank Vogel is still one of the best defensive minds in the league.