Masin-Moyer: Previewing 2019 NBA title race
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Though there are still a few games left in the NBA season, and a few teams and seedings left to be determined for the playoffs, the teams that are most likely to be crowned champions this year have already locked down their places in the playoffs. So, with that in mind, I’ll be looking at the most likely NBA champions, just as I did last year, in today’s Sports Authority.
1. Golden State Warriors
Just as with each of probably the last four seasons, the Golden State Warriors are going into this year’s playoffs as the likely favorite to win the NBA title. After working through some early season drama, and finally shaking the trailing Denver Nuggets for the top seed in the last few weeks, the Warriors have kicked back into full gear, looking like their old selves.
While not completely dominating the league as in years past, Steph Curry is averaging the most points per game he’s had since the 2015-2016 season, while Kevin Durant continues to score in droves, averaging 26.1 points per game this season. With these stellar performances, and the team’s experience, the Warriors look like a good bet to win their fourth title in five years.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Behind the incredible performances of likely league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have put up the best record in the NBA this season. The Bucks have proven they can win against the best teams in the East, winning three of four over the Raptors this season, two of three over the Celtics and two of three over the 76ers. If Giannis continues his form into the playoffs, it’ll be hard to stop the Bucks in the Eastern Conference, but the team’s relative inexperience might make it so they come up just short in the finals.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Some of this season’s best games and battles have come between the 76ers and the Bucks, specifically between Antetokounmpo and 76ers star center Joel Embiid. After both scoring at least 30 in the first meeting of the season, Antetokounmpo put up 52 and Embiid scored 40 the second time Philadelphia and Milwaukee played. In the last meeting between the squads April 4, Giannis had 45 and Joel notched a triple-double. If there’s a team that will take down the Bucks in the East, it looks like it most likely will be the 76ers, with their formidable starting line-up of Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick.
4. Houston Rockets
Beyond the Warriors, I have really no idea what will happen in the West. The parity in the conference has been incredible this season — as of April 9, only 6 1/2 games separate the teams in second and eighth place in the conference. Whichever team emerges from this pack will provide the best challenge to the Warriors in the West. I believe the Houston Rockets are best equipped to fill this role, with their experience and the prolific scoring of guard James Harden — who is averaging 36.1 points per game — paving the way for a challenge to the Warriors’ supremacy in the West.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.