For the second straight year, Milwaukee has the NBA's best regular-season record. The Bucks went 53-12, which puts them three games up on the Lakers and 6.5 ahead of third-overall Toronto.
Giannis Antetokounmpo ranks third in the league in both scoring (29.6 points per game) and rebounding (13.7) and is likely to win his second MVP award in a row (though there's some talk that LeBron James could steal it). He could also win the defensive player of the year award. Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon are the only guys ever to pull off the double.
With the Greek Freak leading the way, Milwaukee has been crushing opponents this year. Its plus-11.2 average point differential is nearly four points better than anyone else's, which is absurd. The Bucks have one of the league's better offences and the best defensive rating by a wide margin. That's a championship formula.
But Milwaukee flopped against the Raptors in last year's Eastern final, and there are still questions about whether the supporting cast can step up when opponents ratchet up the defensive pressure on Giannis in the playoffs.
Most bookmakers give them a slight edge in a triumvirate that also includes the Bucks and the Clippers, in that order. Then there's a big drop-off to the rest of the field.
Like the Bucks, the Lakers have a questionable supporting cast. Unlike the Bucks, they have two superstars: LeBron and Anthony Davis, who form a complementary (and borderline-unstoppable) ballhandler/big-man combo. As long as they stay on the floor and get a modicum of support from the likes of rejuvenated big man Dwight Howard, former Raptors three-and-D specialist Danny Green and (gulp) newly acquired wild card J.R. Smith, that's enough to carry an NBA team to the title.
NBA is ready to resume on Thursday night with two games: Jazz (fittingly) vs. Pelicans at 6:30 p.m. ET and Lakers vs. Clippers at 9 p.m. ET.