We began this NBA season believing that the Cavaliers and the Warriors were destined to meet in the Finals for a third straight year, but injuries and roster changes have at least opened the door for a handful of teams to feel like they have a legitimate shot at contending for a title themselves.
But as strong as the contending teams are, they all have their weaknesses. Here's a look at the biggest problem facing each of the top 10 playoff teams with a month remaining in the regular season.
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Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook is putting together one of the most incredible individual seasons we've ever seen, but the fact that he's on track to finish the year with the highest usage rate in history means that more often than not, his teammates are forced to stand around and watch. Westbrook simply does too much, and he'll be easy to contain in a playoff series when an opponent has the time to focus its attention solely on stopping him.
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The Raptors may have once been the favorites to face the Cavaliers in an Eastern Conference finals rematch, but that was before they lost Kyle Lowry with a wrist injury that could sideline him until the postseason begins. Toronto needs Lowry at 100 percent in order to make it that far, and it's unclear if he'll be able to get back to playing at an All-Star level in time for the Raptors to maximize their potential.
Gordon Hayward made the All-Star team for the first time in his career this season, and the Jazz have the league's third-ranked defense thanks to the presence of Rudy Gobert inside. But Utah has been forced to play with inconsistent lineups all season thanks to injuries to key players like George Hill and Derrick Favors. And even more troublesome is the fact that the team's most-used lineup of Hayward, Gobert, Favors, Hill and Rodney Hood has a negative net rating of minus-3.1.
Utah is probably going to end up with the fourth seed in the West in spite of all of this, but a deep playoff run seems unlikely if the team can't get some continuity going before the regular season is finished.
The Wizards have gone 22-6 since Jan. 11, which is the best record in the NBA during that span. But on the season, Washington ranks just 16th in defensive efficiency, and that's not even close to good enough to take down the league's elite in a seven-game series.
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The Celtics are in second place in the East for a reason. Isaiah Thomas is having a breakout season, and his teammates seem to all know their roles, while playing them almost to perfection.
Boston's big issue is rebounding, or more specifically, a lack thereof. The Celtics rank just 27th in the league in rebound rate, and are tied for 24th in terms of opponent rebounds allowed. That might be a problem when trying to go through Toronto (with Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka) or Cleveland (with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love) in a seven-game series.
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The Clippers have seemed like a team bored with the regular season, and one that's waiting to turn it on as soon as the playoffs begin. With a veteran head coach in Doc Rivers and a big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan that are together for a fourth straight year, the malaise might, at the very least, be somewhat understandable.
But this group has never made it past the second round of the playoffs, and after postseason injuries to Paul and Griffin last year, L.A. was eliminated in the first round. The Clippers have the talent to hang with the top teams in the West, but they have yet to show that they're truly capable of flipping that proverbial switch.
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San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have consistently been at or near the top of the regular-season standings for going on 20 years now, but that doesn't always guarantee a high level of postseason success. San Antonio was eliminated in the first round two seasons ago, and a 67-win campaign resulted in a second-round loss in the playoffs last year.
The Spurs play a style of basketball that's very difficult to prepare for during the regular season, but over the course of a seven-game series, they become easier to figure out. San Antonio leads the league in defensive efficiency, and the Spurs will need to play at an even higher level against offenses like the ones they're likely to see in Houston or Golden State. The Spurs may not have any obvious weaknesses, but they may have to rely too heavily on their defense to try to slow the other two elite teams in the West.
The Rockets have become one of the league's most potent offenses since James Harden moved to point guard. He's leading the league in assists, and creating wide-open looks for Houston's shooters as the defense collapses on his drives into the paint.
But the Rockets rely too heavily on the three-point shot. They attempt a league-leading 40.6 threes per game, which is almost seven more than the next team on the list, but knock them down at just 36.2 percent, which ranks them just 15th out of the league's 30 teams.
If Houston suffers an earlier-than-expected playoff exit, it'll be because the threes begin to fall at an even lower percentage.
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Golden State Warriors
The Warriors need a healthy Kevin Durant to be able to contend for a title this season, and we have no idea if that'll be the case. Golden State is just 3-5 since losing Durant to injury, and needed to come back from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit Tuesday just to squeak out a two-point victory at home win over the lowly 76ers.
Golden State has an unfair amount of talent, but the Warriors will need all of it to reach the Finals considering the teams that await them in the playoffs in the West.
The defending champs are just 4-6 in their past 10 games, but when they're clicking offensively the way they did in Tuesday night's 32-point thrashing of the Pistons, they're virtually impossible to stop.
The problem in Cleveland is on the defensive end of the floor, where the Cavs rank just 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency. No team ranked that low has ever been to the Finals, let alone won the title. Cleveland needs to tighten up things on that end significantly as it prepares for yet another deep run through the postseason.