NBA: Contenders & Pretenders

NBA: Contenders & Pretenders

Emilio Magana, Writer

Being almost 50 games into the NBA regular season, teams like the Nuggets have lived up to their expectations and other teams such as the Suns have underperformed. Although, teams still have some time to potentially turn around their season , the following teams are the “contenders” which in other words, are likely of winning the Championship and “pretenders” are teams that have underperformed to their expectations before the season had started. The selections below are in my opinion.

Pheonix Suns


The sudden rise and downfall of Phoenix is like something I have never seen. In just the time since the bubble less than three years, the Suns potential seemed boundless to losing in the finals (blowing a 2-0 lead) to the seventh seed in the west after being the first seed not that long ago. The meltdown following the Mavericks second round in 22′ is spectacular as they had the best record in the league by far but went on to lose a blowout seven th game VS Dallas.

Players: This year their bench depth isnt looking good as often their star Devin Booker has been having to carry the team a lot. In addition, paying Ayton the max contract is looking worse as the season progresses, as he hasn’t shown the progress that was expected of him as a #1 overall. He has hardly progressed since his rookie year.

Milwaukee Bucks


In my opinion the Bucks are always going to be contenders if they they provide Giannis a great supporting cast. They won the championship in 21′ and took the Celtics to game seven in 22′.

Players: The only concern with the team is Khris Middleton who has missed a lot of games this season due to the knee injury as he is a crucial part to the team. Middleton brings shot creation and great defense on forwards which is crucial against  teams like the Celtics who have Brown and Tatum. Other than that the team is what you would expect from the Bucks. Based on claims from the NBA, Brook Lopez has surprisingly been in the race for Defensive Player of the Year, Jrue Holiday has been great as a starting point guard for the team as he brings great perimeter defense and playmaking for the team and of course theres Giannis being the Superstar of the team being in my opinion the best two-way player in the league which is being great on offense and defense.

Atlanta Hawks


The biggest problem with the Hawks last year was that their point guard, Trae Young, was the only reliable ball handler for the team, and that costed them in the playoffs. The Miami Heat completely shut him down in the first round, leading Young to have a bad series. They did face a couple of injuries in that first round series such as Clint Capela and Lou Williams, but the flaws were obvious.

Players: During the off season the Hawks acquired Dejounte Murray in a trade which should’ve fixed their issue on reliable ball handlers for the team. Before the season started, the Hawks were seen as dark horses of the Eastern Conference. To see the Hawks still being a borderline play in team is disappointing, especially because a large part is backstage problems with coaching according to Bleacher Report, head coach Mcmillan and Trae Young have been having a rough relationship recently.

Boston Celtics


It has been a crazy year for the Celtics, from being the eleventh seed this time in the year last season to making the finals in the same season, making the finals definitely raises the teams expectations to compete for a championship. The Celtics have lived up to expectations as they currently have the best record in the league.

Players: Having Malcolm Brogdon to the team has greatly improved the Celtics depth as he has brought playmaking and a reliable shot creator down the stretch of the game, along with that is Jayson Tatum jumping up to MVP conversations as he is averaging 31 points while being an elite defender, and Jaylen Brown greatly improving his numbers especially in the scoring department as he jumped from 24 points last season to 27 points per game this season. These factors have made the Celtics the best team in the NBA.

Minnesota Timberwolves


Making the playoffs last season was great as the expectations were low for the team. Making a huge trade to acquire Rudy Gobert had Minnesota as a team that can maybe make the second round but it has looked rough for the team.

Players: Their biggest problems are in the offensive side, as having gobert in the team has made the offense stagnant. All the blame cant be on Gobert as often the team makes bad turnovers which has had the team lose leads. Not only do they need a defensive and passing point guard if they want to make this Gobert trade work, but their leadership and effort on the court is inconsistent.

Denver Nuggets


Having a back to back mvp greatly improves the chances of winning a championship. For the past 2 seasons the Nuggets have dealt with injuries, which left their Superstar Nikola Jokic without a great supporting cast. Even with all of these obstacles in the way, Jokic managed to put up historic seasons.

Players: Heading into this season with the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, the nuggets were expected to be one of the best teams in the league and a possible contender. What has also helped a lot is Aaron Gordon who is having career year as he is putting up 17 points and 7 rebounds a game, he is really efficient in his shots which has helped Denver in their offense. So far they have lived up to those expectations as they are currently are first seed in the Western Conference per NBA.