Ranking five best NBA teams as 2019-20 season nears return

Celtics Jayson Tatum and Lakers LeBron James after NBA game
Feb 23, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shake hands after the game at Staples Center. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 114-112. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s July. You know what that means, right? The NBA and MLB will return this month after seeing their seasons suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Even as the virus spreads across the United States, fans are excited about the actual return of team sports. For the NBA, that includes a July 30 target date.

When the season was suspended back on March 11, the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks were favored to meet in the NBA Finals. Nothing has really changed on that front since. It’s in this that these two teams are among the five best out of the 22 set to resume the season at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

1- Los Angeles Lakers

The partnership of LeBron James and Anthony Davis was something to watch before the season was suspended. In their first year together, the two All-Stars have combined to average 52.4 points, 17.3 rebounds and 13.7 assists per game. For his part, James is leading the NBA in assists at 10.6 per outing.

There’s certainly some depth concerns as it relates to the Lakers. Avery Bradley has already opted out of resuming the season. That could be a major loss for Los Angeles. Even then, these Lakers seem primed to make a championship run.

2- Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee currently boasts the best record in the NBA at 53-12. That includes an impressive win over the above-mentioned Lakers. Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is back up to his old tricks, averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

Meanwhile, Bucks general manager Jon Horst has built a deep bench in Milwaukee. The likes of George Hill, Ersan ─░lyasova, Kyle Korver, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews provide a whole bunch from off the bench. Realistically, this is what separates Milwaukee from the pack back east.

3- Toronto Raptors

It is still somewhat shocking how well the defending champs have played without Kawhi Leonard this season. Riding stellar performances from Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, the Raptors head to Orlando with a 46-18 record. They are pretty much locked in to the No. 2 seed back east.

I am personally intrigued to see how this brand of basketball performs at Walt Disney World. Siakam is a legit star. VanVleet has a lot to prove as an impending free agent. Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry put his postseason struggles behind him last year. Don’t be surprised if Toronto flirts with a repeat.

4- Boston Celtics

The emergence of Jayson Tatum as a true star has his Celtics right there as one of the top title contenders in the NBA. Tatum is averaging 23.6 points and 7.1 rebounds on a stellar 40% shooting from distance this season.

What we’ve seen from Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker also suggests that Brad Stevens’ squad has a big three to go up against anyone else the NBA has to offer. These Celtics are absolutely legit.

5- Los Angeles Clippers

No one can reasonably conclude that the Clippers were a failure before the season was suspended. After all, Doc Rivers’ squad boasts the second-best record in the Western Conference at 44-20 on the season.

The only issue here is the relative small sample size with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the court together. Can they coexist after a four-plus month hiatus? I am not too sure. But from a pure talent perspective, the Clippers are certainly a top-five team in the NBA. That’s not even in question.