The seven groups with an actual probability to win the NBA title

A handful of NBA groups proceed to jockey for positioning atop every convention as we strategy the ultimate two weeks forward of the Feb. 9 commerce deadline, with the true contenders already separating themselves from the pretenders throughout the league.

Perhaps one of many middling groups will vault into the smaller group of title contenders with a big-name pickup earlier than the deadline, however as of now, it’s onerous to ascertain greater than seven or eight groups with reputable aspirations of hoisting the championship trophy in June.

Here is our late-January snapshot of groups that look as if they’ll win the title as presently constructed:

1. Celtics (35-14)

After ripping off a nine-game profitable streak, the Celtics have dropped two in a row (to the upstart Magic and the Heat) heading into Thursday night time’s nationwide TV conflict with the Knicks. But the defending Eastern Conference champs nonetheless personal one of the best document within the league underneath Joe Mazzulla in his first season after changing Ime Udoka. All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the highest-scoring tandem within the NBA at a mixed 57.9 factors per recreation, and Malcolm Brogdon has added depth within the Sixth Man function.

2. Bucks (30-17)

Giannis Antetokounmpo has saved the Bucks close to the highest of the Eastern Conference even with out Khris Middleton for many of the season.
Getty Images

Two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo deserves to be a part of that dialog once more (a minimum of within the high three) for fronting the Bucks to a 52-win tempo regardless of three-time All-Star Khris Middleton showing in simply seven video games earlier than returning to the rotation in Monday’s 150-point outburst in opposition to Detroit. The 2021 NBA champs took the Celtics to seven video games within the Eastern Conference finals final season with out Middleton, who ostensibly might be considered as probably the most impactful addition to any contending lineup earlier than the commerce deadline.

3. Nuggets (34-14)

Nikola Jokic is a front-runner to earn a 3rd straight MVP award, which might make the Serbian huge man the primary participant since Larry Bird (1984-86) to win that many in a row. The solely others to perform the feat? Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Jamal Murray began slowly after lacking all of final season following ACL surgical procedure, however he’s averaged 20.0 factors and 6.1 assists over his previous 36 video games to assist the Nuggets to one of the best document within the West after getting knocked off within the first spherical of the playoffs final spring by the Warriors.

4. Nets (29-17)

Brooklyn is more likely to be with out Kevin Durant (knee) for one more few weeks, however Kyrie Irving and the Nets have posted back-to-back street wins at Utah and Golden State after dropping their first 4 in KD’s absence. Health and availability proceed to be points for a crew led by that duo and Ben Simmons, however they had been rolling with 18 wins in 20 video games earlier than Durant’s newest damage.

5. 76ers (30-16)

Joel Embiid #21 and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers speak during the fourth quarter against the LA Clippers at Wells Fargo Center on December 23, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Sixers hope the pairing of Joel Embiid and James Harden can get the 76ers previous the second spherical of the playoffs for the primary time since 2001.
Getty Images

The Sixers haven’t gotten previous the second spherical with Joel Embiid as their star — that drought goes again to when Allen Iverson led them to the Finals in 2001 —  together with an early elimination by the Heat final yr in James Harden’s first postseason with the crew. Philly has gone 18-4 following a 12-12 begin, together with 5 straight wins, all on the street, getting into Wednesday’s showdown at house in opposition to the Nets.

6. Warriors (23-24)

The defending champs have hung across the 7-10 Play-In vary within the West all season regardless of stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins every lacking a minimum of 10 video games as a consequence of accidents. The Warriors are at the moment in tenth place, however simply two losses separate the fifth-seeded Clippers (24) and the Thirteenth-place Lakers within the muddled West. But with Jordan Poole averaging a career-high 21.2 factors per recreation, no crew will need to face this battle-tested core at full power if the Warriors attain the postseason. As of Tuesday, the truth is, FanDuel nonetheless listed the Warriors with the fifth-best odds (+850) to win all of it, behind the Celtics, Bucks, Nets and Nuggets.

7. Grizzlies (31-16)

Memphis has dropped three straight video games following an 11-game profitable streak, and Ja Morant and Steven Adams sat out Monday’s loss in Sacramento with damage designations. This group — additionally that includes underrated 20-point scorer Desmond Bane — gained its first playoff spherical final yr in opposition to the Timberwolves earlier than falling quick in opposition to the Warriors within the second spherical.

The relaxation

Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings drives to the basket against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 21, 2023 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.
Domantas Sabonis is capturing 60.9 % from the ground and 35.8 % from the 3-point line, each profession highs for the Kings huge man.
NBAE by way of Getty Images

The Kings have emerged as one of the crucial thrilling offensive groups within the league behind De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, rising to 3rd place within the West, however making the playoffs for the primary time since 2006 must be sufficient this yr. The rising Cavaliers added the star the Knicks wished (Donovan Mitchell), however that high foursome within the East will likely be powerful to beat. Zion Williamson and the Pelicans additionally might be a yr away within the West. The Heat are approaching, going 15-7 following a 12-15 begin, surpassing the Knicks for now for the coveted No. 6 spot.

Today’s again web page

The back cover of the New York Post on January 25, 2023.
New York Post

Read extra: 

🏈 SERBY: Follow these steps for the Giants to shut the expertise hole

🏒 Here comes Will Cuylle

🎾 USA’s unsung Tommy Paul reaches Australian Open semifinals

Numbers to know: Knicks-Cavaliers

The Knicks escaped with a 105-103 victory over Donovan Mitchell’s Cavaliers on Tuesday night time on the Garden. Here is a snapshot of the pivotal win, which snapped a four-game dropping streak and introduced their document to 26-23:

3️⃣6️⃣ Points for Julius Randle

8️⃣ Made 3-pointers for Randle, who had been capturing 28.9 % from lengthy vary in his previous 11 video games.

4️⃣ Seconds remaining (4.4, to be precise) when Isaiah Hartenstein stonewalled Mitchell on the rim on a possible game-tying layup.

6️⃣ Team-high assists for Immanuel Quickley in his return to the lineup after lacking a recreation as a consequence of a sore left knee. The Knicks outscored the Cavs by 14 in Quickley’s 27 minutes.

1️⃣1️⃣ Points for Obi Toppin in 10:22 of motion, his second straight recreation in double figures after failing to hit that threshold since mid-November.

Jonathan Lehman

That’s Hall, people

Third Baseman Scott Rolen #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws the ball to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the game on April 29, 2002 at Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, California. The Giants won the game 8-5.
Scott Rolen was voted into the Hall of Fame in his sixth yr of eligibility.
Getty Images

Scott Rolen will likely be enshrined this summer season within the Baseball Hall of Fame after barely eclipsing the mandatory 75 % threshold of the BBWAA citizens, of which I’m a voting member. The eight-time Gold Glove third baseman will be a part of Contemporary Era committee honoree Fred McGriff at this yr’s induction ceremony in Cooperstown.

I used seven of my slots this yr, down from the utmost of 10 one yr in the past. With David Ortiz elected, and Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling dropping off the poll after 10 years of consideration, I added longtime Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins to my six holdovers: Rolen, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner.

Spinning this ahead to 2024, the voting bodes properly for Helton, the five-time All-Star first baseman with the Rockies, and Wagner, a dominant former nearer who spent most of his profession with the Astros, Phillies and Mets.

Todd Helton waves to the crowd during the 91st MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Coors Field on Tuesday, July 13, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.
Five-time All-Star Todd Helton seems on observe to be voted into Cooperstown maybe as early as subsequent yr.
MLB Photos by way of Getty Images

Especially when you think about that Rolen got here so removed from his first poll look, when he obtained 10.2 % of the vote in 2018.

Helton, in his fifth yr on the poll, jumped from 16.5 % in his first yr in 2019 to 52.0 % one yr in the past to 72.2 % this yr.

Wagner rose from 10.5 % in 2016 to 51.0 % final yr to 68.1 % with two years remaining for consideration.

The 2023 Hall of Fame voting results

Helton, Wagner and the remainder of the holdovers — together with surging Andruw Jones (58.1%), Gary Sheffield (55.0% in his ninth yr of eligibility) and first-timer Carlos Beltran (46.5%) — will likely be joined subsequent yr by doubtless first-ballot inductees Adrian Beltre and Joe Mauer.

Beltran clearly was damage this yr by his involvement within the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, however after a one-year timeout, I plan so as to add the previous Mets middle fielder to my record within the subsequent voting cycle.

Not surprisingly, nevertheless, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez gained little traction of their candidacies. Both PED-suspended superstars obtained lower than 36 % of the vote, much like final yr’s totals.

Mikaela makes her mark

Race winner USA's Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates on the podium after competing in the Women's Giant Slalom on January 24, 2023 in Plan de Corones (Kronplatz), Dolomites Mountains, as part of the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Mikaela Shiffrin’s 83 World Cup snowboarding wins are probably the most for any lady in historical past, and it is probably not lengthy earlier than she holds the mark for any skier in historical past.
AFP by way of Getty Images

Nearly one yr after a disappointing private Olympic flameout, American skier Mikaela Shiffrin set a document on the slopes with an opportunity for extra.

The 27-year-old Shiffrin gained her 83rd World Cup alpine occasion Tuesday in Italy, eclipsing the earlier mark held by retired former U.S. teammate Lindsey Vonn. Shiffrin additionally moved inside three wins of matching the general mark of 86 victories by Swedish man Ingemar Stenmark.

“It’s hard to find words actually,” Shiffrin mentioned. “I don’t think there are words to explain all the feelings.”

The two-time Olympic gold medalist was shut out in six occasions on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Shiffrin has an opportunity so as to add to her victory complete within the large slalom early Wednesday and two extra upcoming slalom races within the Czech Republic earlier than the world championships start Feb. 6 in France.