Bucks Suns Basketball
Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) passes the ball as Milwaukee Bucks guard Grayson Allen, right, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

NBA FUTURES

Kyle Barrette

As we cruise into the all-star break on a 9-2 run, we are going to break down three teams from the East and the West that could win it all. We’re going to include two front runners and one dark horse from each conference.

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Eastern Conference: 
Bucks:
You can’t leave out the defending champs, especially when they returned a majority of their roster and still have arguably the best player in the league. It’s a little surprising to see them in the five spot, but they have been dealing with some injuries and no doubt get everyone’s best shot each night being the defending champs. Their defense has dipped and that’s mainly due to the injuries. Once they get healthy, they should be a force again down the stretch.

Bulls:
The Atlanta Falcons are another team dealing with a large number of injuries. The scary thing is what this team has been able to do with half their starting lineup being out for months. They just keep finding ways to win, so imagine how dominant they can be once everyone is back and it’s playoff time. Their defense is slightly underrated as it is up and down right now with the injuries, but it will improve, and the offense is still ranked seventh in points scored per game. This team is going to be a problem in the playoffs if everyone can get back and healthy.

Dark Horse: Celtics
Listen outside the Suns (no pun intended). There might not be a hotter team in the league right now. The scary part is that no one is really talking about them. The Celtics have gone 9–1 in their last ten games and have crept into the sixth spot in the East, breathing down the necks of everyone all the way up to the Sixers in the third spot, where they are only 1-2 games away from leapfrogging them. We know the Brown and Tatum duo can put up buckets, but the defense has been on another level lately and has turned this season around. 

Western Conference:
Suns:
Hands down, the best team in the league. The scoring is elite and the defense is among the top 10 in the league. The deepest bench by far in the whole league. There isn’t much we don’t already know about this team. Best of luck to whoever gets the unlucky draw to play them.

Grizzlies
Yes, I went Grizzlies here. Sorry, Golden State is still good but seems all out of whack with the injuries. Back to this Memphis team, the defense is good enough and teams typically “tighten the screws” during the playoffs, so I expect it to get better. The offense has been out of this world the last few weeks. They have had one game this month where they didn’t score 120 or more (they scored 119 in that game). 

Dark Horse: Dallas Mavericks
It is arguably the best defense in the league. They play at a slow pace that drives other teams nuts and lets them stay in more control of the game. Brunson has evolved into a great scorer for them and Hardaway Jr. is set to come back before the playoffs and if he can be effective, that will take the pressure off of Luka, who has to handle the ball entirely too much and give a boost to this offense. 

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