Following an incredibly busy NBA trade deadline, who are the top five championship contenders and how do they rank?
The NBA season has been full of excitement, and that was amplified last Thursday at the trade deadline.
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Teams were re-tooling for a stretch run and some teams made blockbuster deals to add the final pieces to their team’s puzzle.
Needless to say, there were some teams that strengthened their chances and others that may have weakened theirs.
There are plenty of teams that have separated themselves from the pack as contenders for a championship this season.
More than five teams are in the running, but there are five in particular that look to be the biggest threats around the league.
Which five teams are currently the top championship contenders following the trade deadline?
Next: 5. Portland Trail Blazers
5. Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers made one of the most underrated moves of the trade deadline, acquiring Arron Afflalo from the Denver Nuggets. One of their main needs was scoring help off of the bench, and that is exactly what they will be getting with Afflalo. During his stint with the Nuggets this season, he averaged 14.5 points per game.
Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are the obvious leaders for Portland, and they are a very dangerous duo for any opponent. They showed last season that they are capable of competing in the playoffs with a huge win over James Harden and the Houston Rockets, and they are a more complete team and have another year of experience under their belts.
Portland currently ranks tenth in points per game, second in rebounds per game, ninth in assists and seventh in points allowed.
Not many teams are that solid all-around, and it makes the Blazers a legitimate contender this year. They have all of the pieces put together to make a run in a seven-game series, and they are going to be a very tough opponent for any team they face. Portland is without a doubt one of the top championship contenders at this point in time.
Next: 4. Chicago Bulls
4. Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose is back to full health this season, and the Chicago Bulls are an incredibly talented all-around team. They have added the necessary pieces to contend for a championship, and Jimmy Butler has been stepping up in a huge way for them as well.
As of right now, the Bulls are sitting at 35-21 on the season which is good enough for the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They have proven that they can beat the premier teams in the NBA, and they don’t have too many flaws. If they are able to stay healthy they will be a team to watch when the playoffs get underway.
There are a few areas that they could improve in, especially as far as their offensive game is concerned. They are ninth in the league in scoring, but they are averaging just 21.6 assists per game which is good for 15th in the NBA. It isn’t a bad ranking, but they have the talent and roster to improve that number quite a bit.
It will be very interesting to see how the Bulls continue playing throughout the remainder of the season, and whether or not they end up in the championship picture at the end of the year.
Next: 3. Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James decided to make his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason, and they got off to an extremely slow start to the season. That has since been turned around, and the Cavaliers are the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 35-22 record. Some don’t have them as legitimate championship contenders just yet, but they have put together a squad that will definitely be contending this year.
Simply having the best basketball player on the face of the planet gives them an advantage over most other teams. Having two other stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love is going to give them an even bigger advantage on most nights.
Cleveland made a big trade to address their need for bench depth, and ended up bringing J.R. Smith, Timofey Mozgov, and Iman Shumpert on board. Those three players have been major keys to their recent success, and will continue being a big part of what the Cavaliers are doing.
It will be intriguing to see whether or not the Cavaliers “big three” can continue meshing together down the stretch of the season. Love needs to figure things out, and if he does the Cavaliers immediately will be the favorite to win the East.
Next: 2. Atlanta Hawks
2. Atlanta Hawks
The NBA’s biggest surprise this season has without a doubt been the dominance of the Atlanta Hawks. They are currently the best team in the Eastern Conference by six and a half games, and had four players in the All-Star game.
Jeff Teague has been an impressive piece all year-long, while the entire roster has also stepped up. They have an impressive starting lineup alongside of Teague, with Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, and DeMarre Carroll all being above average players for what they’re asked to do. There aren’t many teams that are capable of defending all of the scoring threats that the Hawks have on their roster.
It will be interesting to see whether or not the Hawks can keep their current winning ways up for the remainder of the season.
There is no question that they are one of the top championship contenders. They aren’t too far behind the Golden State Warriors for the best record in the NBA, and are going to be a very difficult team to face for anyone in a seven-game series. Expect to see the Hawks in contention late in the season and into the playoffs.
Next: 1. Golden State Warriors
1. Golden State Warriors
The “Splash Brothers” are on fire once again this season, and new head coach Steve Kerr has taken them to a new level. Stephen Curry is one of the favorites to win the MVP award this year, while Klay Thompson is fresh off of a big new contract and is playing up to the pay that he is receiving.
Not only do the Warriors have two stars in their lineup, they have an impressive supporting cast surrounding them.
Draymond Green has stepped his game up to a completely new level, and Harrison Barnes has stepped into a starting role very nicely this season as well. Having players like Andre Iguodala and David Lee coming off of the bench show just how deep the Warriors are. There haven’t been many teams in recent history with the type of talent in the second unit that Golden State currently has.
If the Warriors play up to their potential throughout the remainder of the season, there aren’t many teams that stand a chance against them. Curry and Thompson play off of each so well, and even when they’re not on the rest of the team picks them up. At this point in time, they are without a question the current favorites to take home the 2014-15 championship.