By Richie Avila | Contributing Writer

NBA Stars Lebron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant look to grab another NBA Championship. (Courtesy of Gambling Sites)

The NBA playoffs are quickly approaching. While the Cavaliers-Warriors trilogy has been historic, there are several other teams that hope to topple Cleveland and Golden State to challenge for the Championship.

This season, the two top teams from the Eastern Conference are the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics, representing quite the historical opposites. The Boston Celtics are the most successful team in NBA history, with a total of 17 championships and 21 NBA finals appearances. The Toronto Raptors have yet to make an NBA finals appearance, having gone to the Eastern Conference Championship only once, back in the 2015-2016 season.

The Celtics are led by superstar Kyrie Irving, who made the switch from Cleveland to Boston this past summer. All-Star Al Horford has also played a prominent role in Boston’s success this season and will hope to continue to contribute in the playoffs.

The Raptors are also led by two NBA All-Stars, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Toronto has a squad that looks to be able to win the East and make the franchise’s first Finals appearance.

Another title contender in the East is the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers, who, after years of tanking, have assembled a team of young talent, including All-Star center Joel Embiid. The Washington Wizards and the Indiana Pacers can also surprise and challenge for a NBA Finals appearance. The Wizards, led by All-Stars Bradley Beal and John Wall, and the Pacers, led by All-Star Victor Oladipo, show that the Eastern Conference Playoffs will be filled with talent.

But we cannot forget about the incomparable LeBron James. Arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, LeBron has the individual talent to carry his team to the finals. That is not to discredit the rest of the Cavaliers, as they, after several major trades, have compiled an interesting team to compliment LeBron James in his quest for another championship.

The Western Conference has several challengers of its own, most notably the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors. The Rockets have enjoyed a historic season, including a 17-game win streak. Houston acquired Chris Paul in the summer to assist MVP candidateJames Harden in their attempt to defeat the Warriors and win Houston’s first championship since 1995.

In spite of Houston’s historic season, the Golden State Warriors are still seen as the team to beat, as they have been on one of the greatest runs of any team in NBA history. In the Warrior’s prior three seasons, they have made the NBA Finals three times, won the title twice, and earned the best regular-season record ever. Golden State has four of the best players in the world, including perhaps two of the top five with former MVPs Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. For that reason, the main narrative for the Western Conference Playoffs will be between the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors.

There are several teams in the West who look to challenge that narrative and assert their own credibility, including the Portland Trail Blazers, the New Orleans Pelicans, the San Antonio Spurs, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook are just some of the All-Star level talent on these teams that have the potential to knock out the Rockets and Warriors. Outside of the top two in the West, there is incredible parity that can see a variety of teams make the playoffs, including the Clippers, the Nuggets, and the Jazz.

The playoffs begin April 14, and while the majority of experts predict the NBA Finals consisting of some combination of Golden State/Houston and Toronto/Boston/Cleveland, don’t count out some of the other teams, nor the difficulty that these main title-contenders will face in advancing through the playoffs.

In total, there will be 16 teams in the playoffs, and each of them will have at least a chance to make it to the NBA Finals and win the coveted NBA Championship.

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