Brooklyn Nets to win the title

The Nets are the favourites to win the championship this year, and it’s hard to look past them now that their three superstars are all healthy.

Brooklyn played just 10 games all season with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden all in the starting line-up, but went 8-2 in those contests, averaging 120.3 points per game in the process.

The Nets finished as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 48-24 record despite almost never being at full strength, and they ended the season ranked first in the NBA in offensive rating, even though they were usually without one or even two of their best players.

They have looked devastating on offense whenever Irving, Durant and Harden play together, and although there are legitimate questions about how they’re going to defend against dominant big men, there doesn’t seem to be a team that can keep up with this group offensively if the Brooklyn trio makes it through the postseason unscathed.

The Philadelphia 76ers look the likeliest challengers to the Nets in the East, having secured the No. 1 seed and home advantage at least up until the Finals. Joel Embiid’s presence in the post makes them a particularly tough match-up for Brooklyn.

This Philly team led by Embiid and Ben Simmons has failed to make it past the conference semifinals in the past three seasons, however, and they haven’t yet had to face a three-headed monster like the Nets.

Starting with a first-round series against the Boston Celtics – which they are clear favourites to win – the Nets’ path to the Finals looks relatively clear, and they would be favourites in a series against any team in the West.

With the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers looking vulnerable (more on them shortly), Brooklyn is a justified favourite and a good bet to win it all.

Los Angeles Clippers to win the Western Conference

With concerns over the health of their two superstars and a tough first-round series against the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers’ chances of going back to the Finals look very questionable heading into the postseason.

Instead, it’s their local rivals that look the best bet to come out of the West this year.

The Clippers found their best form in the second half of the season, going 19-5 in a dominant 24-game run following the All-Star break.

They began regularly resting their starters during the final few games of the season, which meant that they dropped to the No. 4 seed and, crucially, will avoid the Lakers until the Western Conference finals.

Last year, the Clippers crashed out of the playoffs in the second round after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets.

This year’s team is better, though, ranking second in net rating in the NBA this season, and it’s hard to imagine a team led by Kawhi Leonard disappointing in the postseason in consecutive years.

Unlike most of the other contenders in the West, the Clippers also come into the playoffs with virtually no injury concerns.

Serge Ibaka looked sharp in his return from a two-month absence last Friday, and Leonard and Paul George should be ready to go after getting plenty of rest over the past few weeks.

The No. 1 seed Utah Jazz, meanwhile, are currently without Donovan Mitchell, and Jamal Murray is out for the season for the No. 3 seed Denver Nuggets.

The Clippers should beat the Dallas Mavericks in the first round – as they did last season – and they have the roster to go all the way if they’ve moved past the demons of 2020.

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