NBA contender tiers: The teams that can win the 2023 title
- Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) is a professor and an NBA analyst for ESPN.
The NBA All-Star break is in the rearview mirror, and the second half is set to begin — although calling it a half is a misnomer. Teams have fewer than 25 games left to play in their 82-game schedules, so the race for the championship is officially on.
In most years, coming out of the All-Star break, a handful of teams have separated themselves from the pack to look like serious title contenders, but this season’s race is unusually wide open, and if we’ve learned anything from last season — when the Phoenix Suns ran away from the pack in the regular season only to flame out in the second round of the playoffs — being atop the standings in February guarantees nothing.
So while the Boston Celtics enter the stretch run with the league’s best record (a half-game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks), there are at least 10 teams that can harbor some level of championship aspirations, with a handful of teams looming on the fringes of the race.
With that in mind, let’s break down the NBA’s contenders into tiers and take a look at what makes each team a title threat.
Note: Teams are listed within each tier by order of current regular-season record.
The top shelf
Last NBA title: 2008
Last Finals appearance: 2022
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