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Who will win the 2024 NBA Title? Analyzing the top title contenders

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Key Highlights:

  • To be a title contender, you generally need to have an elite offense, elite defense, or be very balanced on both sides of the ball
  • As of right now, ten NBA teams fall under at least one of those three categories
  • The Boston Celtics look like the early frontrunner to win the NBA title based on their offensive and defensive indicators

Sports are unpredictable. That is a big reason why people love them so much. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t use data to narrow the range of expected outcomes.

For instance, we don’t know for certain who will win the 2024 NBA Championship. But we can get a feel for which teams have a realistic chance of winning the title by looking at their offensive and defensive ratings. And while we are still early in the 2023-24 season, numbers are starting to stabilize. So, let’s take a look at which teams are looking like legitimate contenders so far.

Three Types of Contenders

In a study I conducted before the start of last season, I found that there are generally three types of teams that make it to the conference finals (usually, if you make the conference finals, you’re a title contender). Those three types of teams are elite offenses, elite defenses, and balanced teams.

For the sake of this article, we will define an “elite offense” as one that is at least five points better than the league average in offensive rating. We will define “elite defense” as one that is at least five points below the league average in defensive rating (remember, when it comes to defense, the lower the rating, the better). And to be a “balanced team,” the team needs to be at least two points better on offense and at least two points lower on defense.

With those parameters in mind, here are the teams that look like title contenders right now.

Click below to jump to each type of contender.

  1. Elite Offenses
  2. Elite Defenses
  3. Balanced Teams

(Sidenote: all of the data we are using is from Basketball Reference.)

1. Elite Offenses

Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers fall under our elite offense category. As it stands, their number-one ranked offense (headlined by Tyrese Haliburton) has an offensive rating of 122.7. Since the league average is currently 114.1 (the league average is the same for both offense and defense), that means Indiana has an offense that is 8.6 points better than the league average.

A fun little wrinkle to monitor here is that the Pacers are close to the all-time record for relative offensive rating, which belongs to the 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks, who had a relative offensive rating of +9.2.

Atlanta Hawks

The second-best offense in the NBA is another Eastern Conference team captained by an elite offensive guard (Trae Young). The Atlanta Hawks have an offensive rating of 120.8 (+6.7), which puts them in our elite offense category of title contenders. As an aside, it’s wild to think that the Hawks have the second-best offense in the NBA and are still nearly two full points behind the Pacers in offensive rating.

Dallas Mavericks

We already mentioned the 2003-04 Mavericks. Well, this version of the franchise is also really good at getting buckets. On the season, Luka Doncic and the gang have propelled the team to an offensive rating of 120.1 (six points better than the league average). Like the other two elite offenses we’ve talked about so far (Atlanta and Indiana), the Mavericks don’t have the same luster on the defensive end. In fact, all three of those teams are in the bottom six in the NBA in defensive rating.

Philadelphia 76ers

The last elite offense on our list is the Philadelphia 76ers. They are barely passing the cutoff for an elite offense, with an offensive rating 5.1 points better than average (119.2). To be fair, they are pretty close to hitting the defensive rating number to have a balanced team. Their defensive rating right now is 112.5, which is 1.6 points below the league average.

2. Elite Defenses

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a below-average offense (offensive rating 113.5), but their league-leading defense is making them look like a contender. With a defensive rating of 106.1, the Timberwolves own a defensive rating eight points below the league average. For those wondering, the best relative defensive rating of all-time belongs to the 2003-04 San Antonio Spurs, who had a defense 8.8 points below the league average.

Orlando Magic

Right now, everyone loves rooting for the Orlando Magic. They are young, have a lot of fun players, and, most importantly, for the sake of this article, they have an elite defense. The Magic currently hold a defensive rating of 107.8, which puts them 6.3 points below the league average. What’s more is that they are managing this output without Wendell Carter Jr., who has missed the last ten games with a left hand injury.

Houston Rockets

This is wild to think. After being one of the very worst teams in basketball (the third worst team, to be exact), the Houston Rockets are showing some signs of contender status. Their offense isn’t much to write home about (one point below the league average), but their defense has been absolutely suffocating. The Rockets currently have a defensive rating of 108.7, which is 5.4 points below the league average. That’s just enough for them to be in our elite defense category.

3. Balanced Teams

Boston Celtics

The first team in the balanced category is the Boston Celtics. Their offensive rating is 118.4 (4.3 points better than the league average), and their defensive rating is 108.2 (-5.9 points lower than the league average). You may have noticed that, along with meeting the criteria to fall under our balanced category, the Celtics also have what we consider to be an “elite defense.” They are the only team on this list to qualify for multiple categories. 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Speaking of young fun teams that everyone loves to watch, if you love the Magic, you surely love the Oklahoma City Thunder. Like the Magic, the Thunder are awesome on defense. They have a defensive rating of 109.3, which gives them a rating 4.8 points lower than the league average. But their offense is much better than Orlando’s. The Thunder’s offensive rating is 118.3, which is 4.2 points above the league average.

Unlike the other balanced team we’ve mentioned so far, Oklahoma City does not also qualify for a second category. They are very close to having both an elite offense and defense. But as of right now, they don’t hit the official threshold for either of those.

Denver Nuggets

The third and final team in the balanced category is the defending champion Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have an offensive rating of 117.1 (three points above the league average) and a defensive rating of 112.1 (two points below the league average). It is also worth noting that those numbers may be underselling how good they are on both sides of the ball, as their second-best player, Jamal Murray, has missed the last eight games with a right hamstring strain.

Who Will Win The 2024 NBA Title?

In total, we have ten teams that currently fall under at least one of the three categories we’ve carved out. That narrows down the playing field by about 67%. But before we talk about which of those contenders looks the best, we should point out some teams that didn’t fit into any of our categories. 

You may have noticed that the Miami HeatMilwaukee BucksPhoenix SunsLos Angeles LakersSacramento Kings, and Los Angeles Clippers were all not a part of this list. That doesn’t mean they can’t contend for the title (Miami didn’t fit into any of these categories last year, and they still made it all the way to the NBA Finals). It’s just something to keep an eye on as the season progresses. 

Anyway, if I was forced to say which of the ten teams we discussed looks the most like a title contender, I would say it’s the Celtics. Not only have they demonstrated incredible balance on both sides of the ball, but they are literally 0.7 points on offense away from falling under all three categories. 

It’s still super early, and like we said, sports can be incredibly unpredictable. But right now, the Celtics are looking like the frontrunner to take home the 2024 NBA title. 



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Experts predict Steve Kerr won’t ever win another title with Warriors

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The Warriors have been the most successful team in the NBA during recent times, as they’ve conquered four championships in the past nine years. As coach Steve Kerr just signed a historic contract extension with Golden State, will they earn a fifth title in the upcoming years? 

At the start of the week, an ESPN panel comprised of Becky Hammon and Kendrick Perkins discussed the tactician’s newest deal, but explained why they don’t believe the Bay Area franchise will win another trophy under his leadership.

Both analysts predicted the same outcome when writing down their answers to the question: “Steve Kerr will win _ more titles in Golden State?” Perkins first held up his blank piece of paper, explaining why he finds it pointless to even write down a number.

“[There] was no point in me actually writing a zero because they’re not going to win another championship,” Kendrick said. Hammon then proceeded to hold up a zero with an arrow through it, sharing the same opinion as his fellow expert.

“Zero. But I love ya,“ Becky said. “It’s a zero, but it’s an arrow because of Valentine’s Day. It’s an arrow because I still love them.”

One of their biggest challenges is to transition from their championship core, who are mostly veterans, into a new generation of Warriors stars. A subject that has reportedly “suffered some strain,” is Klay Thompson‘s relationship with the team’s front office.

“Thompson always knew he would likely have to wait until his free agency arrived this summer, what with Lacob’s well-chronicled hopes of ducking under the second (and possibly first) luxury tax apron compelling them to let the roster landscape fully unfold before adding salary,” insider Sam Amick wrote this week.

The reporter then added that it is a mystery if Klay will retire in San Francisco. “But it’s clear their relationship has suffered some strain along the way, with league sources indicating that Thompson has received no assurances from on high that his hopes of retiring happily in a Warriors jersey,” he shared.

Kerr explained this Wednesday that Andrew Wiggins will be out indefinitely due to a “personal matter”

Andrew Wiggins was not on the team’s list when they beat the Washington Wizards this Tuesday and the reasons why were unclear. However, his coach appeared the following day on local Bay Area station 95.7 The Game and explained that the forward is dealing with a “personal matter.”

Kerr spoke about his player’s absence but did not go into detail. All he could really say was that the 29-year-old will be out indefinitely until he’s able to play at his best.

“We do expect him to be back but we just don’t exactly know when,” said the Warriors tactician. “We’re in a position where Wiggs is a private person and he’s asked to keep it private and we’re gonna honor that. So it doesn’t help for me to sit here and try to explain any of that. The bottom line is we respect Wiggs, we need him and we fully expect him back, but we just don’t know when that will be.”

This is not the first time Andrew is out due to similar reasons, as he missed out on the final 25 contests of last regular season due to a “family matter.” The reasons were never disclosed, but insider Shams Charania reported that the player’s father was “dealing with a serious medical situation.”





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Hawks waiving veteran guard Patty Mills

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The Atlanta Hawks are waiving 15-year veteran guard Patty Mills, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. The Hawks reportedly made the move to open a roster spot.

Atlanta plans to fill the spot by converting guard Trent Forrest’s two-way deal into a standard NBA contract. Forrest has played 20 games this season, his second in Atlanta after being in Utah from 2020-22.

The NBA deadline to waive a player and become playoff eligible is 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, March 1.

Mills, 35, has made only 19 appearances off the bench this season. The 6-foot-2 guard is averaging 2.7 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 10.6 minutes per game while shooting a career-low 37.3% from the field and 38.2% beyond the arc.

In Atlanta’s 134-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 24, Mills recorded a season-high 13 points, two rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 21 minutes as a reserve.

This decision comes days after the Hawks lost All-Star guard Trae Young for at least four weeks with a torn ligament in his left pinkie finger. Atlanta announced the injury Sunday.

Did Atlanta Hawks also waive Patty Mills because of lack of production, Trae Young’s injury?

Young suffered his finger injury during Friday night’s loss to the Toronto Raptors and underwent surgery Tuesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. The team said Young will be re-evaluated in four weeks.

“You feel awful for Trae more than anything,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said. “It is going to be a challenge for him not to be out there.”

Mills’ departure likely had something to do with his lack of touches. With Young out, Dejounte Murray is expected to become the team’s primary ballhandler.

Bogdan Bogdanovic replaced Young in the starting lineup ahead of Sunday night’s game against the Orlando Magic.

Another notable loss is starting center Onyeka Okongwu (sprained left toe). Snyder said last Thursday that Okongwu will not be available for the foreseeable future.

“You have to adapt,” Snyder said. “That happened when we lost Jalen [Johnson]. We have to have minutes from Kobe [Bufkin] and Patty, and we obviously know what Dejounte can do. I don’t want to wallow in anything.”

Although Bufkin returned after recovering from a fractured left thumb, Murray and Bogdanovic may still struggle to carry the load during Young’s absence.





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Boston’s Defense Continues to Help Maintain Best Record in NBA

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The Boston Celtics have arguably the best defensive unit in the league. It is a huge reason why they have the best record in the NBA at 46-12 as of February 29th , 2024. On top of having one of the best starting lineups in the league, head coach, Joe Mazzula has developed a reputation for being a defensive mastermind. A hard thing to come by in today’s offensive driven league. They are second in the league in defensive rating (110.6), sixth in defensive rebounding percentage (72.7 percent), and second in blocks per game (6.6).

The Celtics are not afraid to go man-to-man or even go into a zone defense. Mazzula has gotten creative in using a free roamer in the zone scheme this season. With the talent they have, it really does not matter who they have playing this “free safety,” position. Boston usually utilizes a 2-3 or 2-1-2 alignment which often throws opposing offenses for a loop. It also helps that the personnel have terrific switch ability making it difficult for opponents to exploit any possible mismatches. Even when they are in man, the Celtics are extremely hard to score on as every player has brought into head coach, Joe Mazzula’s, system.

Boston’s Terrific Defensive Scheme

Their Personnel

The team often likes to use Jrue Holiday in unorthodox positions in their defensive schemes. They will use him at the center of their 2-3 zone and the other players are smart enough to adjust on potential mismatches. This often allows someone like Kristaps Porzingis or Al Horford to roam giving the defense an added dimension. Porzingis also gives Boston some much-needed rim protection. He currently averages 1.8 blocks per game to go along with a block percentage of 5.5 percent. Jayson Tatum has also developed into an above average defender who has the wingspan to alter shots at the rim.

Not to mention, Jaylen Brown has a reputation as a solid defender who can guard almost any position on the floor. As if that was not enough, the backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Derrick White is arguably the best defensive one in the NBA. White is arguably a top-five point of attack defender. He has 65 blocked shots on the year as of February 29th . Even some of the bench players such as Al Horford and Payton Pritchard have a reputation for being defensive pests. Boston has been playing high IQ basketball at all levels this year. However, their defense is arguably the main reason they are the favorites to win title this season.



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