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NBA 2020-21: Top 5 teams that are favorites to reach the Eastern Conference Finals

Joel Embiid (#21) of the Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid (#21) of the Philadelphia 76ers
ANALYST
Modified 03 Apr 2021
Feature

The 2020-21 season has seen the beginning of a new era in the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

Teams coming out of the East are usually considered to have a relatively easier pathway to the NBA Finals. However, with the arrival of the star-studded ensemble that is the Brooklyn Nets, the East, for once, is packing more firepower and marquee names on their roster than almost any of the top contenders in the NBA.

Five teams that could reach the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in 2020-21

The battle for the playoff places from the East is about to heat up, as several teams have improved their rosters at the NBA trade deadline. However, it would be interesting to see how the other elite teams in the Conference are able to compete against the new powerhouse this NBA season.

With the NBA playoffs about to commence in a few weeks, let's take a look at the top five teams that could reach the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.

#1 Brooklyn Nets (34-15)

James Harden (#13), Kevin Durant (#7) and Kyrie Irving (#11) of the Brooklyn Nets
James Harden (#13), Kevin Durant (#7) and Kyrie Irving (#11) of the Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets haven't made it past the conference semi-finals since the 2013-14 NBA season, but that could change this year.

That's because they have never had three MVP-caliber players - James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving - in their prime leading their charge. What's more impressive is the fact that they have been able to surge ahead despite Kevin Durant being on the sidelines.

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James Harden and Kyrie Irving have impressively carried the team on their shoulders and have proved to be an unstoppable combo. Role players like Joe Harris and Jeff Green have also made their contributions to the Nets' success in the 2020-21 NBA.

In a classic case of the rich getting richer, the Brooklyn Nets have also added two former All-Stars, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, to the mix. Steve Nash's side are now the team to beat in the East if they weren't already.

#2 Philadelphia 76ers (33-15)

Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates with Seth Curry (#31), Danny Green (#14) and Paul Reed (#44).
Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates with Seth Curry (#31), Danny Green (#14) and Paul Reed (#44).

The Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated in the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs by the Boston Celtics.

Fast forward to the ongoing NBA season, and the two sides are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The rejuvenated Philadelphia 76ers have displayed their true prowess this campaign, leading the East for most of the season.

As Joel Embiid returns to the fold, the Sixers can pick up steam and start dominating games again. Ben Simmons, along with Tobias Harris, are two All-Star caliber players for Doc Rivers' side.

Barring any major injuries or COVID-19 related drama, the Philadelphia 76ers are looking primed to make a splash in the playoffs.

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#3 Milwaukee Bucks (31-17)

Mike Budenholzer and Giannis Antetokounmpo (#34) of the Milwaukee Bucks
Mike Budenholzer and Giannis Antetokounmpo (#34) of the Milwaukee Bucks

After dominating the East in the NBA regular season last year, the Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Miami Heat in the conference semifinals in five games. This season, the Bucks have turned it down a notch as they are chasing the Nets and the 76ers in the standings thus far.

However, armed with new additions like Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis and DJ Augustin, the Milwaukee Bucks can potentially do better in the NBA playoffs this time around.

No matter how challenging the odds may be, the Bucks will remain a favorite to clinch the Eastern Conference as long as they have 2x MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in their lineup. The 'Greek Freak' is only 26 years old and has ample time on his side to make his team's title dreams come to fruition.

#4 Miami Heat (25-24)

Tyler Herro (#14) and Jimmy Butler (#22) of the Miami Heat
Tyler Herro (#14) and Jimmy Butler (#22) of the Miami Heat

The Miami Heat surprised everyone last year with a stunning run for the fifth seed in the East.

They beat the Indiana Pacers in the first round and made a mockery of the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs. Jimmy Butler and crew then beat the Celtics in six games to clinch the Eastern Conference title for the first time since 2013-14, when LeBron James wore a Heat jersey.

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Erik Spoelstra's men fell to the Purple and Gold in the Finals but have launched a new era of excellence in South Beach.

This season, they have been busy adding Trevor Ariza and Victor Oladipo to the mix. However, their greatest strength is their young guns Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson.

Considering their form this season, the Heat, led by Jimmy 'Buckets' Butler and Bam Adebayo, could once again pull off a major upset and announce their arrival as the new sheriff in the Eastern Conference.

#5 Boston Celtics (24-25)

Jaylen Brown (#7) and Jayson Tatum (#0) of the Boston Celtics
Jaylen Brown (#7) and Jayson Tatum (#0) of the Boston Celtics

No matter how far behind the C's are at the moment, they have all the talent in the world to turn things around before the playoffs commence.

The Boston Celtics have been an elite team in the East over the last few years, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in three of their last four postseason campaigns.

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With a few adjustments and a bit of luck, the Celtics could return to their early season form and begin playing at a high level.

Thanks to their own version of a big three in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, the Boston Celtics could rally the men behind their cause and start adding wins on a consistent basis.

The Celtics are one of the greatest storied franchises in the NBA, and they are certainly not going to go down without a fight.

Published 03 Apr 2021, 17:25 IST
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