Contenders and Pretenders: 3 NBA teams that are the real deal, 3 that aren't

New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks
New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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With the college basketball season ending, the basketball world will now shift its focus to the pros. The NBA playoffs are set to begin in a little less than a week, with the playoff/play-in field being set in each conference. However, seeding is one major thing that has yet to be decided as we head into the final day of the regular season.

16 teams make the playoffs, but only one can hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June. Throughout the postseason, true contenders are separated from the pretenders. However, as we inch closer, that separation is becoming just a little bit clearer. Here are my three contenders and three pretenders for this year’s playoffs.

Contender: Boston Celtics

The Celtics have been far and away the league’s best team this season. They boast the best record in the league at 63-18. They lead the league in net rating, offensive rating, and three-point percentage. They are the only team in the NBA to be in the in the top five in offensive and defensive rating. Boston is loaded.

The reason the Celtics are so good is because they have multiple lineups that they can put on the floor that will shred opponents. That is a testament to their depth and how versatile their players are. 

Their starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Kristaps Porzingis has a net rating of 12. If they swap Holiday for Horford, that net rating goes up to 16. Even if they put two of their bench guys in Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard with Tatum, Holiday, and Horford that net rating is 17. Three of their top four most-used lineups have a positive double-digit net. 

The pitfall for Boston, though, in recent years was their inability to have a consistent threat outside of Tatum and Brown in big moments. That is where Porzingis comes in. He is averaging 20 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the field and 38 percent from three. He is also the answer to the Celtics’ problems in regard to breaking zone defenses, something that they can now beat with Porzingis in the middle.