With the superteam in Golden State finally dismantled, there is more competitive balance in the league today than there has been for many, many years. Yes, two of the top teams indeed play in the same city but there was not another year where so many different teams had a realistic chance of winning the championship.
The following list is not a reflection of how teams will likely fare in the regular season where things like load management could affect the outcome. It is more geared towards their chances at winning the ultimate prize -- an NBA Championship.
#5 Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets are the only team that ever came close to beating the Warriors superteam at full strength. Many believe they were a Chris Paul injury away from upsetting the Warriors in 2018. They had another chance this year when the the series was tied 2-2 after Kevin Durant went down with a calf strain. However, they were unable to get the job done.
The team today is quite different from the one in years past. Paul, who was the floor general on those teams, was traded for Russell Westbrook. While there are question marks on how the two ball-dominant former MVPs will play together, it is pertinent to note that the same questions were asked when Paul first joined James Harden two years ago. While that union might not have lasted long, they were still highly effective and caused problems for even the best teams in the league.
The Rockets have retained their other starters -- Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and PJ Tucker and the addition of former Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler will shore up their defense for a possible title run.
James Harden is the greatest offensive threat in the NBA and Russell Westbrook is a walking triple-double. The two former OKC teammates have expressed a desire to play together and their mere presence should make the Rockets a regular-season powerhouse that provides many highlight wheel-worthy moments.
The only question mark surrounding the team is how far they would go in the playoffs. Both Harden and Westbrook are known to underperform in the postseason and while coach Mike D'Antoni has produced many spectacular regular season teams, he is yet to prove that his style of play can win a championship
#4 Milwaukee Bucks
After finishing the 2018-19 season 60-22, the Bucks were the number one team in the regular season. They were led by none other than league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was surrounded by a solid supporting cast that had numerous shooters to make up for his lack of long-range shooting.
They were dominant in the first two rounds of the playoffs, dispatching both the Pistons and the Celtics with ease, dropping just a single game in the process. The Raptors, however, proved too much for the Bucks, who after taking a 2-0 lead, lost four consecutive games and crashed out.
The 24-year-old MVP is not one to rest on his laurels and has stated that he has only reached 60 percent of his potential. Despite all the media attention that surrounds winning the award, Giannis appears focused on improving his on-court skills and leading the Bucks to their first championship since 1971.
The Bucks will return this season with much of the same squad, resigning Khris Middleton and Brooke Lopez to long-term contracts. The loss of talented young guard Malcolm Brogdon will, however, be felt on both sides of the floor.
The abilities of head coach Mike Budenholzer, who transformed a middle-of-the-road team into an eastern conference powerhouse, cannot be underestimated. With much of the same lineup returning this season, they will benefit from the continuity and will be among the favorites to make it out of the east.