Oct 19, 2022 - Sports

The NBA title race is wide open

Data: FiveThirtyEight; Table: Axios Visuals
Data: FiveThirtyEight; Table: Axios Visuals

The NBA's age of parity is upon us, and the once top-heavy league could have more legitimate contenders this season than any in recent memory.

State of play: 11 teams have at least a 5% chance of winning the title this season, per FiveThirtyEight. That's twice as many as the annual average since 2015-16 and three more than the previous high set last year.

  • Celtics (21%): One of the deepest teams got even deeper with the addition of Malcolm Brogdon, but how much will Ime Udoka's suspension affect them?
  • Nuggets (13%): Jamal Murray (ACL) is back and Nikola Jokić is vying to become just the fourth player to win three straight MVPs (Larry Bird, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain).
  • Grizzlies (8%): Reigning MIP Ja Morant should contend for MVP as Memphis looks to improve on its franchise-record-tying 56 wins from last year.
  • 76ers (7%): A half-decade since "The Process" ended, Philly still hasn't reached the conference finals. Can Joel Embiid and James Harden lead them there?
  • Heat (6%): Jimmy Butler remains incredibly underrated. Since joining Miami three years ago, only four players have more win shares.
  • Mavericks (6%): Luka Dončić could threaten the single-season record for usage rate after backcourt mate Jalen Brunson left for New York.
  • Hawks (6%): With Dejounte Murray now slotting in next to Trae Young, Atlanta boasts one of the league's most feared backcourts.
  • Warriors (6%): The defending champs are stacked with expensive talent in what could be the last dance for their legendary trio.
  • Suns (5%): Phoenix hopes to rebound from a disappointing second-round exit while the shadow of Robert Sarver's suspension and the potentially imminent sale of the team looms.
  • Raptors (5%): Just two teams have won at least 400 games since 2014-15: Golden State (429) and Toronto (401). Consistently in the mix.
  • Bucks (5%): Giannis Antetokounmpo is entering his prime, age-28 season. Watch out.

The best of the rest: Four other teams' odds exceed 1%.

  • Clippers (3%): Kawhi Leonard (who had an ACL injury) and Paul George (who had an elbow injury) are both healthy now, with a rejuvenated John Wall joining them. Dark horse.
  • Timberwolves (3%): After trading for Rudy Gobert, Minnesota is the only team with three of ESPN's top 25 players: Karl-Anthony Towns (13), Gobert (18) and Anthony Edwards (25).
  • Nets (2%): Kevin Durant didn't get traded, Kyrie Irving no longer faces vaccination restrictions and Ben Simmons will finally make his debut.
  • Cavaliers (2%): This should be their best team of the post-LeBron era, with Donovan Mitchell joining the young, established core of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.

The intrigue: Non-contenders will be eyeing the year's other big prize at the top of the draft: Victor Wembanyama, the seven-foot-four Frenchman touted as the best prospect since LeBron, according to The Ringer.

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