Tier 4: Solid, but not in Title-Contention
13. Indiana Pacers
Has there been a more silently solid team this year than the Indiana Pacers? One of the league’s better defensive teams, the Pacers have shown why they’re one of the most consistent franchises as of late, even without Victor Oladipo for much of the year.
Domantas Sabonis has emerged as an up-and-coming stretch big, T.J. Warren is an efficient scorer, and Malcom Brogdon has been a cautious playmaker while playing smothering defense. This team just might not have the offensive firepower to make a splash.
12. Utah Jazz
Let the controversy begin. The Utah Jazz have been spectacular at times this season. They had a stretch in December and January where they won 19-of-21 games but when the competition steps up, the Jazz let down.
Veteran guard Mike Conley hasn’t elevated Utah like he was expected to, and the loss of Bojan Bogdanovic and his spacing abilities is huge. Utah is one of the toughest teams left to project, but they’re just not consistent enough to place higher.
11. Philadelphia 76ers
Is there a more frustrating team in the NBA? Looking at this roster, this team is a contender. The 76ers should be in the top tier of NBA teams with the duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, however they just don’t work together as well as they could.
Defensively, this team can be absolutely elite. But offensively, Embiid has issues with his effort at times, and Ben Simmons’ scoring simply isn’t where it needs to be. For this team to contend, it needs reliable shooting around its two centerpieces, and Tobias Harris and Furkan Korkmaz simply aren’t enough.
10. Houston Rockets
Here’s another controversial placement. James Harden is having a historic scoring season. After a rough start, Russell Westbrook was playing some of the best basketball of his career. Houston has terrific backcourt depth after those two. But it’s small-ball lineup just isn’t championship-worthy.
The Rockets will be absolutely killed on the boards and paint against teams with skilled bigs, like the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets. The backcourt is elite, but the Rockets don’t have a “death lineup” like the Golden State Warriors of years past.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
Talk about a fun, well-rounded team. Chris Paul has had a career Rennaissance in OKC, serving as the veteran leader on this young team. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has emerged as one of the league’s next stars, and Dennis Schroder has seen a rebirth himself as one of the contenders for sixth man of the year.
The Thunder might not contend for a championship, but they’re a strong defensive team with a bright future.
Which teams could make a legit run, find out on the next page