NBA sleeper teams
Photo Credit: ESPN

Biggest NBA Sleeper Teams Heading Into The NBA Season Restart

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As the NBA draws closer to its return date set in July, many fans have the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Milwaukee Bucks as the top teams to seize the throne. However, who are the underdogs who could make a surprise run to the NBA Finals?

 

 

NBA sleeper teams
Photo Credit: CBS Sports

The NBA continues to take steps to resume the season in Orlando, recently announcing target dates as well as safety precautions that must be met for every player. This will give the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season a unique feel that fans have never experienced before. 

A champion must be crowned. Therefore, it will be up to the teams to leave it all on the floor.

It has been stated that the remaining 22 teams returning for the continuation of the season are not set to report to training camp until late June as the NBA continues the work to return from its COVID-19 suspension. With that being said, the format the league will be using will present the opportunity for potential teams to separate themselves. In a normal postseason, they may not have been able to do so.

Normally, heading into the NBA postseason, on average, you have guys who have just played 82 games, as well as constant flights, etc., which all play a factor in terms of fatigue. However, now you have the potential of a play-in tournament, as well as guys who have been able to get well-rested due to COVID-19. With nothing to lose, it is very likely that the players who are willing to play will leave it all on the hardwood.

On the contrary, will the time away from basketball for the past three months have an effect on how the players perform? Chemistry wise, after not playing for an extended period, which players will hit their strides from the very beginning? Not to mention the bubble the players are being held in… exactly how much will that play a factor?

 

With that being said, here is a list of five teams that have the potential to go all the way when the season starts in July.

 

Toronto Raptors

NBA sleeper teams
Photo Credit: SB Nation

The defending NBA champions have been playing extremely well this season despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard. It has caught many fans by surprise, but Toronto can play with the best of them.

The Raptors are currently sitting in the 2nd seed in the East (46-18), only seven games behind the top-seeded Bucks.

Toronto, overall, is looking like a dangerous team when the season resumes. Several players are capable of giving the opposing team a long night on defense if not covered the entire game. From guys like six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry all the way to lethal forward Pascal Siakam. The Raptors show that just because they don’t have a superstar on the roster, doesn’t mean they should be counted out.

 

 

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics sit at third in the East (43-21). For them, it may just boil down to how well they play on defense when it comes to challenging the higher-seeded Raptors and Bucks.

The offensive side, however, will heavily rely on the teams’ top three scorers, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and Jaylen Brown, all of whom averaged over 20 points during the 2019-20 season to lead the team. Will they be able to pick up where they left off? 

Boston has the potential to be the biggest sleeper when the season starts back. However, it will all depend on their main scorers finding their rhythm as well as their defense when the season resumes.

 

Portland Trail Blazers

NBA sleeper teams
Photo Credit: Sean Meagher

The Portland Trail Blazers are another team that should not be overlooked. Despite sitting at the 9th seed in the West (29-37), they are still a very dangerous team. However, if they want to continue their season, Portland’s only hope of reaching the postseason will be for them to come out on top in the final regular-season games as well as the play-in tournament. 

With determined players such as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, as well as a veteran in Carmelo Anthony, there is a chance that Portland has what it takes to make some noise in the postseason. Portland has found themselves seeded higher compared to recent seasons, so it will come down to how well this team can play when it matters most.

 

 

Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets can be seen as one of the biggest sleepers in the West, sitting at the third seed (43-22). However, the absence of their home-court advantage may have a negative impact.

It is known that Denver has a different atmosphere when they play at home, and many players on the visiting teams must adjust to that atmosphere as it can impact stamina. This time, Denver will be on an level playing field when meeting their opponents.

The Nuggets will have a great shot of coming up if all-star center Nikola Jokic, as well as guard Jamal Murray, can continue the stellar play they have had this season. Jokic is averaging 20.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Jamal Murray is behind him with 18.8 points per game.

If the entirety of the Nuggets roster can all dial in, then there is the possibility this team may go farther than expected.

 

 

Philadelphia 76ers

NBA sleeper teams
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

With the two young guns consisting of  6’10 point guard, Ben Simmons, and the big seven-footer, Joel Embiid, if consistency is on their side, the 76ers may be a team that can turn some heads in the East.

Despite the 76ers currently sitting at sixth in the East (39-26), they should not be taken lightly.  Tobias Harris and Al Horford are both guys who can pick it up on the offensive end if allowed, as well as the defensive side of the court.

However, the 76ers first must overcome the obstacles that have been setting them back this season–chemistry issues. Also, they are ranked 17th in the league in terms of offensive rating (110.4), and ever since the loss of guard J.J. Reddick and Robert Covington, the team has seemed to be struggling to find their stride in terms of consistent shooters on the roster.

 

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-Terence Smith – Franchise Sports Media

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