It’s our final installment to see who could dethrone the Milwaukee Bucks after starting with the Central division Tuesday and the Southeast on Wednesday. For this exercise I will be looking around the East, with part three consisting of the Atlantic Division, and seeing who has a real chance to stop the Bucks, and why. For the rest, I will be creating best case (sometimes beyond best case) scenarios to see if they even have a realistic chance of stopping them. When you look at the Atlantic Division, there is an obvious contender, three other challengers, and a team in rebuild mode. This division is the one that I think is most likely to challenge the Bucks, and let me show you why.
You may be wondering why I have Toronto down here, especially since they beat the Bucks only two years prior to our championship, and I assume most of you don’t know that star forward Pascal Siakam is out to begin the season. This Toronto team is also heavily reliant on youth development, and they no longer have Kyle Lowry. Their odds to stop the Bucks, in my opinion, are not as good as Detroit’s or Cleveland’s.
With that said, I am here to say how they can stop the Bucks. First of all, Pascal needs to return ASAP and act like a fringe-MVP candidate. I also read that some crazy guy thinks OG Anunoby has superstar potential, and while he’s not a bad player by any means, that’s a real stretch. Still, he would need to push for All-Star status. Fred VanVleet needs to continue to escalate his game, and Goran Dragic needs to make Miami feel bad about believing they truly “upgraded”. Scottie Barnes would need to push for Rookie of the Year. Players like Chris Boucher, Gary Trent Jr., Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn would all need to take positive jumps.
That’s a lot for this team to do, and frankly without Pascal for a spell and having no other real star at this point, head coach Nick Nurse will have his hands full. They are much closer than Orlando, but that doesn’t mean they have a good chance.
My Odds: 5,000/1
The Knicks are not likely to stop the Bucks either, and they are a candidate by many to actually take a step backward. I don’t think that is the case, since they actually have some pretty good talent here, but there is a lot to do still.
Julius Randle needs to continue to receive “MVP” chants. RJ Barrett needs to become a stud, not just a very good player. Derrick Rose or Kemba Walker needs to be vintage, and the other needs to play at least at last year’s level. Mitchell Robinson needs to play like 2019-20, and Nerlens Noel needs to play like 2020-21. Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks need to score, and improve their defense. Evan Fournier needs to get back to his good days in Orlando.
All of these outcomes are possible, but I don’t think all of them are going to happen. Even with only a few, this will cause the Knicks to at least tread water and finish over .500. But they won’t be top-tier.
My Odds: 50/1
Boston still has Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and they both are young superstars, but they need more help. I don’t necessarily see Boston having it, but let’s see what would need to happen for them to beat the Bucks.
Tatum and Brown must both be healthy and All-Stars. Two out of Al Horford, Robert Williams III, and Enes Kanter need to be well above average. Marcus Smart needs to win Defensive Player of the Year, or be that good. Dennis Schroder needs to show he’s an upgrade over last season’s Kemba. Josh Richardson having a bounce-back season would also be helpful. Young players like Williams III, Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford stepping up and possibly helping facilitate a trade would be great as well.
As you can see, this is starting to sound more and more likely. I personally don’t think Boston is good enough to stop the Bucks, but I am willing to admit that this team has a real chance.
My Odds: 25/1
If the Sixers work out the Ben Simmons’ thing quickly, then these odds will be here. If not, they likely fall behind Boston. Here’s what they need to do.
They either need Ben Simmons or to trade for a good package to replace him. Joel Embiid needs to play like he did last season, as does Tobias Harris. Seth Curry and Danny Green need to continue to be good role players, and Andre Drummond needs to be an upgrade over Dwight Howard. Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey and Jaden Springer need to be quality young players, and get good minutes. Georges Niang needs to show why he was another quality addition.
This is not a stretch at all to see it happening, and remember, they did get the one seed in the regular season. It’s just about the postseason for the 76ers now.
My Odds: 5/1
This team is the obvious choice, and the NBA title favorite even with the Bucks as defending champions. Harden, Durant and Irving are the best trio in the NBA. Add Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joe Harris, Paul Millsap, Patty Mills and Bruce Brown, and this team has the depth and the star power. If they stay healthy, they will be the team to beat. In my opinion, only the Bucks can stop them.
My Odds: 1/2
So yes, as predicted and using the cover image as a clue, Brooklyn is obviously the favorite to stop the Bucks. They are even favored ahead of the Bucks for an NBA title, and who can blame them with that super team they have? It literally all will come down to their health, and probably being able to host Game 7. As we saw in Game 5 and Game 7 of that series, Kevin Durant went crazy. The difference was, in Game 7, Milwaukee was able to stop the Jeff Green’s and Blake Griffin’s more capably, and that’s what we will need to work on if we want to stop this team. Even then, it might not be enough (and many haters will say it almost wasn’t).