Going into the playoffs, we already know who the favorites are to win the NBA championship: the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, and the Milwaukee Bucks. You have your teams that are “dark horses” to make a run at the title, including the Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors, and the Boston Celtics. But which teams are nobody really talking about, but could make a sneaky run at the championship?
My sleeper team in the Eastern Conference would be the Miami Heat. I absolutely love what Pat Riley has done with this team over the past year, and I believe Erik Spoelstra is one of the most underrated coaches in the NBA. Led by Jimmy Butler, the roster is filled with only one other All-Star and a bunch of outstanding role players.
Miami is stacked from top to bottom with talent. They have All-Star Bam Adebayo, and two bright, young shooters in Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, who you can argue are two of the best shooters in the league already. They have two veteran, hard-nosed forwards in Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. They have two stud guards in Goran Dragic and 24-year-old rookie Kendrick Nunn. They have two centers who can spread the floor in Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard. To fill their roster out, they have Derrick Jones Jr., Solomon Hill, and Udonis Haslem. In my opinion, the Heat have a definite top-5, and in my opinion, a top-3 roster in the NBA.
I’ll never forget how upset I was on draft night this past year when Tyler Herro went one pick ahead of Boston’s #14 selection. All I wanted was Herro and his sharpshooting abilities in a Boston uniform. The Heat got an absolute steal in Duncan Robinson, who went undrafted in 2018. Robinson has made more than just a name for himself. He’s a player that can take a team to the next level because of his accuracy from behind the arc and ability to hit threes at such a high volume.
In the Western Conference, my sleeper team would be the Denver Nuggets. Over the past few years, I’ve considered the Nuggets one of my favorite teams to watch because of the talent and potential they have. They have Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray leading the charge with an abundance of talent surrounding them.
The Nuggets have Will Barton, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, and Mason Plumlee, who are vital members of the rotation. They also have Monte Morris, who made a name for himself last season averaging over 10 points a game, and Torrey Craig, who proved to be a reliable contributor off the bench this season, especially with his defensive presence. I can’t leave out the fact that they also have two up-and-comers in Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol, both of which could take this team to the next level.
I personally believe Michael Porter Jr. can become a legit third option in Denver and become an elite scorer in the league. As long as he stays healthy, he can be a cornerstone piece for the Denver Nuggets franchise alongside Jokic and Murray.
Both the Nuggets and Heat have enough talent and depth on their teams to make a trade for another big-name player. The Heat have had ties to Victor Oladipo, and the Nuggets could realistically go out and deal for a player that could make as big of an impact as Oladipo would.
But since neither team can make that type of trade at the moment, they can make a serious run with the players on their roster right now. They have the depth and talent to make any series exciting and make their opponents have to work for a win.
As a Celtics fan, I do not want to go up against the Miami Heat in the playoffs. Although I have the confidence they’d be able to win the series, it would definitely take at least six or seven games to get it done. If I was a fan of a team out in the West, I’d hate it if I had to go up against the Nuggets. Both teams have upset potential written all over them, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if either team made it as far as the Conference Finals.
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