Winning an NBA championship requires so many qualities in your team, but there are three key components. The first component is that you can count on that one superstar. Whether it’s offensive or defensive, you must have that X factor like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic.
The second component is a competent defense. You don’t have to have the best defense, but one that doesn’t slow down your offense or hurt your chances of winning when your offensive pieces are lacking is tremendous to win the title.
After all, you need experience. Young teams come in every year and are good enough to make a decent playoff run, but experience, especially in the playoffs, can seal the deal. There are a few additional teams that could win a championship, but these are the top 10 that I think have the best chance of lifting the championship trophy at the end of the season.
10. Los Angeles Clipper
The Clippers will have a tough road to winning a championship, but it’s hard to deny their success. The Clippers have most of what it takes to win a championship. I don’t think they’ll walk away with the trophy in the end, but there’s a lot of reason to think they might. The team has two big superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Leonard has been on and off at the start of the year but has been focusing lately, scoring at least 29 points in three of his last four. He will have to continue his hot streak while Paul George is out with a hamstring injury. George, on the other hand, dominated when healthy for the Clippers, averaging 23.7 points per game. He was needed more than ever as Los Angeles has slipped despite winning two of the last three. The best way the Clippers can attack his injury is to give him as much time as needed. The Clippers shouldn’t have too hard a time getting into the playoffs without him, but you can’t get him to tweak anything like he did in the playoffs recently. Healthy, they should be able to compete with any of these teams on the list, but I prefer some odds other than theirs.
9. Warriors of the Golden State
Despite their recent struggles, the defending champions still need to be on this list. If they make it to the playoffs, they’re just as good as the teams before them to win them as long as they can pull it all together. The main reason for their struggles was the lack of offensive help from people outside of superstar Stephen Curry. Besides an X-Factor, your team needs to have pieces around them that they can rely on consistently. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Jordan Poole were all incredibly inconsistent and it shows in every game.
Golden State needs to get its championship mentality back to get its identity back. They’re still in the playoffs with a .500 record, but they need to turn it around in this second half of the season before the clock switches to April.
8th Cleveland Cavaliers
It’s been particularly fun watching the Cavaliers this season, with Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland taking the lead. Last season they were on Garland and other very young but very promising plays around him. This led to them taking their game to the next level and finishing over .500 and narrowly missing out on the playoffs. That year, the team added Mitchell, who is the superstar who’s not only leading Cleveland to the playoffs, but bringing back a championship to a struggling city since the departure of LeBron James.
Mitchell and Garland were the catalysts behind that success, but the run-up from Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley helped the team tremendously, especially on defense. Cleveland has the best defense in the league in terms of points per game, resulting in almost every team fighting them offensively. As a top-five team in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers have a lot to offer on their way back to the Finals. While I’m not sure if it’s enough this year, they should still win a championship in the next few years.
Always a contender in recent years, the Philadelphia 76ers have disappointed every year. The project of trusting the process has already fallen through, but there are a few ways the 76ers can clean up their mess and finally bring the championship back to Philadelphia.
The 76ers have their identity behind their superstar in Joel Embiid and he won’t be the reason they don’t win the championship because he was phenomenal and worthy of being an MVP finalist. Embiid has also had a lot of help, with James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris contributing enough, but the help has been inconsistent.
Additionally, the 76s barely top .500 on the road and at home they’ve honed their craft. A good home record only benefits the top team in the conference. You need to be better away, which is crucial in the playoffs, where you might have to play four out of seven games away.
6. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks are my pick to win the championship and despite starting lower, this team has a fantastic chance of winning anything if they can put it together. The biggest factor is that not only do they have a superstar, they also have the next NBA legend in Luka Doncic. A championship will be able to take on Doncic’s legacy to achieve Hall of Famer status at such an early stage in his career.
Doncic is a guy they can count on to blow up the game and finish the game, but just having a superstar isn’t enough. LeBron James and Michael Jordan proved themselves that you need other characters around you in playoff runs. Dallas doesn’t have that piece, but they do have respectable guns like Spencer Dinwiddie and Christian Wood. If they’re going to get a run these guys need to play the best they’ve ever got and with Doncic leading you up front there’s no better position to be in. The Mavericks definitely know what it takes to make a deep playoff after reaching the Western Conference Finals a season ago, so they should still be considered top contenders for the 2023 playoffs.