The Washington Wizards entered the 2018-19 NBA season with the goal of contending for the NBA championship title. However, their performance earlier this season showed that they don't even have the capability to fully dominate the LeBron James-less Eastern Conference. Things started to become more complicated for the Wizards when they lost the face of the franchise, John Wall, in a season-ending injury.
After losing John Wall and some of their core players, Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr., before the February NBA trade deadline, All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal is aware that the Wizards have a lesser chance of making a huge noise in the Eastern Conference. In a recent interview with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Beal named two Eastern Conference teams who he thinks have the "best shot" at taking down the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors.
"I would say, at this moment, Toronto looks really good and Milwaukee looks really good. I feel like they're both long and athletic and they can both shoot the three-ball really well. I think those are the things you're going to need in order to compete with that team out [in Golden State]. But even looking out West, Golden State will have their hands full because there's a lot of hungry teams out there too. But they're the champs so until they're dethroned, the expectation is that [they're the best team]."With their star-studded roster, it's really hard to imagine an NBA team who could beat the Warriors in a best-of-seven series. After winning back-to-back NBA championship titles, the Warriors didn't only retain their core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green, but they also managed to upgrade their roster with the acquisition of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins in free agency. If they stay away from injuries, the Warriors could enter the NBA Playoffs 2019 with a starting lineup featuring five NBA All-Stars.
Despite the clear difference in terms of star power, no one can blame Bradley Beal for believing that the Bucks and the Raptors have a real chance of preventing the Warriors from winning their third consecutive NBA championship title. The Bucks and the Raptors are the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Both teams currently have a better record than the Warriors, who recently regained the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference.
When LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, several Eastern Conference teams, including the Bucks and the Raptors, became more aggressive in upgrading their roster. The Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors traded for Marc Gasol before the February NBA trade deadline and continue to boost their depth by signing players from the buyout market. Meanwhile, the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Bucks acquired Nikola Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans and are also still finding ways to boost their second unit.
Aside from the Bucks and the Raptors, other NBA teams who have a strong chance of representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals 2019 are the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers.