Getty Images

The NBA postseason is almost upon us, and I'm here to tell you that there are 10 teams I could make a case for as a title contender. Now, of those 10 teams, obviously there are levels, and for the purposes of this piece, I'm going to focus on the top. Below, I have listed my top five title contenders. 

With pure opinion pieces like this, there is always going to be disagreement. But this one is sure to rile up a bunch of fanbases. I don't think I've ever seen a deeper title race. A lot of teams have a real shot, but to me, these are the five with the best shot. 

1. Denver Nuggets

Denver has the best and most manipulative player in the world in Nikola Jokic, who puts every defense he faces in an impossible position: Single cover him and he kills you as a scorer, double team him and he kills you as a passer. It really is that simple. 

By extension, Denver becomes the championship favorite because of this quality-shot reliability. No matter how tight a possession becomes, the Nuggets possess the captain and cohesion to comfortably work their way through it. That creates a consistency that holds up under all conditions. 

Jokic's two-man game with Jamal Murray is indefensible. His sixth-sense connection with Aaron Gordon for cuts and lobs is uncanny. You can't cover everything. Even if you have left only one crack, Gordon will find a way to pop out of it, or Murray, a top-shelf shotmaker, will create on his own. 

Michael Porter Jr. is shooting 40% from 3 and over 45% since the start of March. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is also over 40% from deep and defends like crazy. Christian Braun is smart as a whip running the second unit and playing off of others. 

Peyton Watson is going to surprise a lot of people in the playoffs who haven't been watching the Nuggets much this season. Everybody can shoot, so Denver is always properly spaced. Everyone can make a play, but doesn't go out of their way to do so. 

Denver's defense as a whole, like everything it does, is defined by its connectedness. This is what a team looks like that has been in the wars for years, together. Don't worry about the low 3-point volume or what some might construe as a relative lack of depth. Barring injury, Denver is the team to beat. 

2. Boston Celtics

We should all agree that Boston is the most collectively talented team in the field. Its starting lineup is off the charts. One could argue that Jaylen Brown is actually the least important starter and he might end up on an All-NBA team. 

Kristaps Porzingis stretches the spacing to the moon. When Jrue Holiday fell into their lap, it not only sent the Celtics to another level, but weakened Milwaukee. You can say Boston lives and dies by the 3, but its not dying very often. There are too many shooters for a few of them not to be dialed in. 

Shooting. Size. Versatility. Everyone can pass. Everyone can put the ball on the floor and make plays in one-on-on situations, out of flowing pick-and-rolls and against closeouts. We haven't even gotten to the defense yet. 

I once asked Stephen Curry to build the perfect offensive player, taking traits from various All-Stars, and now I'm thinking about building the perfect modern defense. It's the Celtics. Point-of-attack dogs in Holiday and Derrick White. Lab-created switchable wings in Tatum, Brown, who also qualify as on-ball beasts. Holiday and White also fit the switchable wing mold, too. Elite rim protection and interior muscle in Porzingis and the apparently ageless Al Horford

Concerns? Late-game offense. It gets talked about a lot because there isn't much else about the Celtics to pick at and also because there is still some truth to Boston's tendency to bleed late possessions down to contested jumpers. If the Celtics are making them, forget about it. If they're not, it becomes the difference between a Finals favorite and the actual championship favorite in the Nuggets, who, as we covered, are going to run their stuff and get their shots regardless of circumstance. 

It's a nitpick, admittedly. All the numbers say Boston is a historically great team. But anyone who says a first-round matchup against the 76ers with Joel Embiid back, or heaven forbid, the Miami Heat, who took out Boston in the conference finals last season, doesn't concern them is lying. Boston has some stuff to prove. I do think they come out of the East, but I don't think it's a forgone conclusion and I can't in good conscience rank them over the Nuggets as the ultimate title favorite. 

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Don't fall into the "inexperience" trap. OKC has all the championship markers, beginning with an MVP-level superstar in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who all but guarantees a high-quality shot when he's on the floor. 

This is a vital crutch in postseason play, where systems get sniffed out a few games into series and buckets boil down to who can consistently create them. SGA ranks only behind Kawhi Leonard with 1.12 points per isolation possession among all players who take at least three iso shots per game. When he has his 3-point shot going, which has been the case over large stretches this season, he borders on impossible to defend. 

What's more, SGA has a creation co-pilot. If he was alone, we've seen defensive deployments that can at least frustrate sole offensive providers like a Trae Young, for instance, but Jalen Williams provides support with one of the most dependable pull-up jumpers in the league. In fact, among all players who are scoring at least five points per game on pull-up jumpers, Williams' 50.8% conversion rate is the league's top mark. 

Dependable is the word you are looking for. Postseason offense is about dependability. Shots you can get to consistently, especially in tense late-game possessions. SGA and Williams can always get to their spot and shoot. Throw in OKC's death-by-a-thousand-cuts movement, the premium spacing that comes with a stretch big the caliber of Chet Holmgren, and the army of marksmen that add up to the league's top team in 3-point percentage, and you are looking at an offense with enough options for the long haul. 

Defensively, the Thunder have multiple options to defend elite scoring wings with force in Williams and Lu Dort and a top-shelf rim protector in Holmgren. SGA leads the league in steals. Two teams are top-five in both offensive and defensive efficiency: Boston is one, OKC is the other. There isn't a more trustworthy marker for true contention. 

Yes, the rebounding is a problem -- OKC is bottom three in offensive and defensive percentage. Extra possessions are not going to go its way. And I'm not discounting the experience factor entirely. But to suggest that this Thunder team isn't a threat or won't win any series in which it finds itself is foolish. They have a real shot to win it all. 

4. Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee hasn't looked like a title contender for any consistent stretch this season. Its been better to the eye under Doc Rivers, but still sits .500 at 15-15 with some flat-out embarrassing losses. Damian Lillard has not had a good shooting season by his standards, and the defensive plunge from Jrue Holiday to Lillard is a problem that will only become more glaring in the postseason. 

Still, I have to call the Bucks a contender for a couple of reasons. One, they're in the East, which is wide open outside of Boston. There's a strong argument that the Mavericks, Clippers, Suns, Pelicans and perhaps even the Lakers are as good, if not better, than Milwaukee, but they're in the West and are going to end up eating each other. The Lakers might get the Nuggets in the first round. The Mavericks and Clippers could play each other, so one of them will be gone. It's a brutal run. 

But the East is softer. Julius Randle is out for the Knicks. Joel Embiid is just coming back for the Sixers. The Cavs are going backwards. The Magic can't score. Indiana can't defend. Miami is always scary, but hardly a juggernaut. Milwaukee would be favored against any of these teams, and if chalk holds and the Bucks get Boston in the conference finals, well, once you've made it that far, you're a contender. 

The second reason I'm willing to bet, at least a little bit, on the Bucks flipping the switch in the postseason is the fact that the Giannis-Lillard-Middleton trio has been a wrecking ball. Among all three-man combos who've logged at least 700 minutes, Milwaukee's "Big 3" has the best offensive rating in the league and the second-best net rating overall. 

With those three on the court, Milwaukee is outscoring opponents by 17 points per 100 possessions. And I think Lillard is going to heat up when he feels the juice of his first legit shot at a title. It's not perfect. I don't believe Rivers makes a meaningful difference in a playoff series, if he doesn't hurt his teams a little bit. But Giannis is basically unstoppable with the spacing Milwaukee gives him (this is what makes Lillard such a boon for this team regardless of whether he's making his shots at his typical rates), and Middleton is capable of All-Star shot making. 

If everything comes together -- which might be a big if -- then Milwaukee does have the goods to compete with Boston for a Finals berth. 

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

They need Karl-Anthony Towns back. They've impressed in his absence, but they just don't have enough offense to be considered a contender without him. They might not have enough even with him. 

Oddly, it might be Towns' defense that puts Minnesota in a position to make the Finals. 

Again, assuming Towns makes it back, you could make the case that Minnesota matches up with Denver as well as any West team because of Towns' ability to defend Jokic. This leaves Gobert as a roaming rim protector who can sag off Aaron Gordon. Add in Minnesota's junkyard-dog perimeter defense, and that's tough sledding, even for the Nuggets. 

By extension, if you can give the Nuggets real problems, you can give anyone real problems. At present, the Wolves are sitting atop the Western Conference -- tied in the loss column with Denver and one up on OKC. They could end up playing Dallas, Phoenix, New Orleans, Sacramento, Golden State or the Lakers in the first round. The West is just brutal. 

But I would favor Minnesota in all those matchups (Dallas would be a fascinating series). I think the Wolves are being slept on. Anthony Edwards is built for the postseason stage. The Wolves are collectively huge as Naz Reid makes double-big lineups a 48-minute option when matchups call for it, and that's not a card that any other West contender can realistically play. Consider me bullish on the Wolves. 

Looking for more NBA coverage? John Gonzalez, Bill Reiter, Ashley Nicole Moss and special guests dive deep into the league's biggest storylines daily on the Beyond the Arc podcast.