Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen the NBA landscape shift away from superteams, allowing the field of championship contenders to open up immensely. It’s fair to say that about a dozen teams can win it all. Some teams have more time to work with than others, while others are in win-now mode with their window shortening fast.
These five teams have their backs against the wall and a ton of pressure to produce a championship now.
- Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are all-in on Damian Lillard, and they currently have no other Plan B. If this deal falls short, what are the Heat left with? Jimmy Butler proved vulnerable as the 2023 postseason progressed, raising a reasonable doubt that he can’t do everything alone, with Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro not being enough to be a viable No. 2 option on a true championship contender. Surrounding them, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus were valuable role players who left this summer who the Heat don’t have replacements for. As great as the Heat looked this past postseason, let’s be honest, that was a flash in a bottle. No team will make another run like that for decades potentially. Right now, they aren’t a top-four team in the East, so it’s Dame or bust in the biggest of ways.
- Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors played their cards exceptionally well after Kevin Durant parted for Brooklyn in the 2019 offseason, as they were left with excellent capital in the 2020 and 2021 drafts that should have set them up for continued success. Well, they completely botched those drafts, as James Wiseman isn’t on the team anymore, with Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody looking like busts. They parlayed their best young player Jordan Poole into a 38-year-old Chris Paul for one last effort at another title. With Steph Curry around, Golden State will always be relevant, but Klay Thompson is regressing, and Draymond Green is aging, with no promising young players left. If the Paul experiment fails, it’s over for Golden State.
- Boston Celtics
Yes, the Boston Celtics have time with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum not going anywhere, but they’ve embarrassed themselves in recent years. We know what happened this past postseason, but they’ve continually fallen short. Tatum and Brown have failed to build the chemistry needed to win it all, with each seeming to battle the other to assert themselves as âthe guy.â Boston’s roster is complete right now, but the clock is ticking, with the new CBA likely to handcuff them financially when their significant extensions kick in. There will be pressure on Joe Mazzulla to prove his worth and Brown and Tatum to produce when the lights are brightest.
- Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers will always be competitive. The Lakers will always be able to attract star talent to be in title contention. With that being said, this could be their last-ditch effort to make the most of LeBron James‘s tenure in the purple and gold. LeBron has already flirted with retirement, and if his son Bronny miraculously recovers from his pressing health ailment and becomes draft-eligible next summer, LeBron will leave for that team. If they don’t get the job done this season, they could spoil their last chance to win a title with LeBron, as Anthony Davis doesn’t look like the kind of player capable of leading the Lakers to a championship by himself.
- Philadelphia 76ers
Oh, the Sixers. You always find a way to mess everything up. There is no team, maybe in all of professional sports, facing more pressure than the Philadelphia 76ers are this upcoming season. The James Harden situation is an absolute mess, and we have no idea how it will turn out. Whether he stays in Philly or is dealt away, the 76ers cannot afford to mess it up because if they hurt their title chances this year, Joel Embiid could ask out next summer. Considering âThe Processâ that the Sixers went through to get to this point and to acquire a player of Embiid’s caliber, it could all be over if this team crashes and burns this season. If the Sixers only make it to the second round of the playoffs again, what Lillard is doing right now will be Embiid next summer. It’s all or nothing right now in Philly.
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