For 24 teams, the 2016-2017 season will be essentially a waste. These 24 teams have no realistic shot at taking the title. Simply put, the super loaded Golden State Warriors are going to win the Western Conference by a mile while the Cleveland Cavaliers will surely top the East. When both these franchises are at full strength, only a handful of teams can hope to match their firepower and talent. Here are the teams that have a long shot at contending for the NBA title:
1 San Antonio Spurs – For most of my adult life, the Spurs have been contending for a title and have won 5 NBA championships in an eighteen-year span. Sure Tim Duncan is gone but the Spurs were never about individual superstars. The team was built around the system, a system that promotes ball movement, help defense, and getting the easiest shots. The same system is now the standard blueprint for most NBA teams aspiring to become winners. The Spurs have an ageing core (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge) but they still have enough to win 55 games easy.
2 Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers have their own Big Three and their championship window is still open with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. However, they seem to get tons of bad luck come the playoffs with injuries to key players which show how shallow this team is. Their stars get a lot of mileage during the regular season and don’t get enough rest. If they don’t get help, the Clippers will once again fall short. This Big Three has never gotten past the Western Conference semifinals. Another dismal performance and Paul and Griffin will probably walk next year as free agents.
3 Boston Celtics – The Celtics have been the textbook definition of “rebuilding successfully.” After the break-up of their own Big Three back in 2012, the Celtics have slowly drafted good players and traded for high picks. After only one season of not making the playoffs, this young Celtics team is now on the cusp of being a contender and are expected to post a 50-win season. They have a young core of good players Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, 3rd overall draft pick Jaylen Brown, and Jae Crowder. The offseason addition of the Duncanesque Al Horford instantly makes them one of the teams to beat in the East. The Celtics can easily gain the 3rd seed.
4 Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will bring the Raptors frustratingly close to the Promised Land but it won’t be enough versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. There are rumors that superstar center DeMarcus Cousins may join the Toronto Raptors to form another super team in the East. If that happens, the Raptors may actually dominate the East. The Raptors are two-deep in every position and they also got a bonafide rebounder and inside scorer with Jared Sullinger. The Raptors are ready to make a run.