In less than two weeks, the 2018-2019 NBA regular season will come to a close and the stage will be set for the playoffs. Some teams that have secured a playoff spot are fighting for a higher seed and will be doing so until the last game of the season. Other teams will be resting star players and preparing for the playoffs.
A new team will come out on top in the East with LeBron out of the conference, while the Warriors will be fighting their way through a stacked Western Conference in hope of a fifth straight Finals appearance. Plenty of teams have a shot to be crowned NBA Champions. These are the teams that look to make the most noise this postseason.
The Nuggets will be making their first playoff appearance since the 2013-2014 season. All season long they have been on top of the Western Conference, where they have been keeping up with the Warriors, who are currently ahead by one game for the first seed. Few people expected this Nuggets team to be fighting for the first seed with less than 5 games to play. All of this is thanks to Nikola Jokic, who has been putting up MVP type numbers all season long, 20.8 PTS, 10.8 REB and 7.5 AST per game. He has the help of Jamal Murray, who is coming off a fantastic third year and has proved he has the potential to become one of the top point guards in this league. The key for this team to make a deep run is the bench. The Nuggets bench is one of the best in the league so be on the lookout for players such as Will Barton and Mason Plumlee to have a huge impact in the playoffs. Paul Millsap is another name to look out for. Although Millsap has had a long and rough year, his veteran experience will be enough to produce decent numbers to help this team make a deep playoff run.
The Boston Celtics entered the regular season with high expectations after coming one game away from a Finals birth last season. With the return of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, fans thought that the Celtics would be a juggernaut, instead, they are a team that has been trying to figure out its identity and their chemistry issues all season long. It’s been a bumpy ride for this Celtic team, but this is still a team nobody wants to meet in the postseason. Kyrie Irving is coming off the best season of his basketball career with a career-high in field goal percentage and rebounds per game, as well as a solid 23.8 points per game and 7.1 assists per game. Coach Brad Stevens has mentioned that he will explore lineup changes when the playoffs roll around. Stevens will not hesitate to mix his lineup to create better head-to-head matchups for his team, he knows he has a deep basketball squad behind him. Tatum and Brown will blossom come playoff time, as well as Al Horford, who has been a key piece to this team the entire season. With a stacked bench behind the starters, the Celtics will be a team that will be hard to keep up with. The Celtics are a tough team to beat if the roster is locked in like it was last postseason. We will find out who this Boston Celtic team really is when the playoffs roll around.
Just like the Celtics, the Rockets were also just one game away from a Finals birth, the Golden State Warriors weren’t the only thing that stopped them, they also had a brutal shooting night. They will undoubtedly remain a team that will live and die by the three, this is the reason why they are one of the most dangerous teams heading into this postseason. James Harden is on a mission this season. Harden is looking to be named MVP in back to back seasons and help his team have a chance to make an appearance in the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly 25 years. The rockets have a legitimate shot with Harden putting up monster numbers and the help of veteran Chris Paul, big man Clint Capela, and role players Eric Gordon, and P.J. Tucker. If Harden can keep producing like he has this season, then expect the Rockets to cruise their way to back to the Western Conference Finals.
The Bucks are currently 58-20. They hold onto the best overall record in the NBA and it will likely stay that way. The Bucks will acquire home court advantage all through the playoffs. They have a home record of 32-6, which will be huge considering how important being at home is in the playoffs. Giannis Antetokounmpo is leading the charge for this team. The MVP candidate is averaging career highs in multiple categories this year. Other key players such as all-star Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, and Brook Lopez. The Bucks have been dominant all season long and have developed great chemistry. This same team pushed the Celtics to a 7 game series last season and the team has upgraded since. Everything is going well for this team, Giannis and the Bucks are not only the best team record-wise, but they are the most dangerous team in the playoffs.