I dont really thing there was, looking back on it. Here's my reasoning Lakers had TWO top 5 players still in their prime on the same team. No only that, they had a bench full of veterans and all-NBA/all-defensive talent. Demarcus Cousins was also going to be on this team (before the ACL injury during the offseason). In Golden State during the 18-19 season, boogie averaged 16pts/8rebs off an achilles injury. He was not the Boogie from 2018 who was putting up MVP numbers before he tore his achilles, but still an excellent big man who can hit the 3 and pass very well (basically a diet Jokic) Lets Take a look at some of the other "contenders": 1. The Lakers' "rivals", the Clippers, for the title this year had Kawhi, who was fresh off a finals MVP and Paul George who was fresh off a career year. They joined the clippers, a 48-win 8 seed in 2019 and took the Warriors to 6 games. One of those games featured a 31-point comeback. But the issue was that they never had any chemistry. This point was massively underestimated all season long. The Clippers had awful chemistry, everyone knew it, but they STILL were picked as favorites. They were poorly coached, had no offensive scheme outside of turn-taking iso-ball between PG, Kawhi and Lou/Montrezl, and just tried to Out-talent every team they played against. They turned out to not be true contenders for a title 2 Houston Rockets - they traded CP3 for Westbrook, and also traded 3 first round picks The small-ball experiment proved to be ineffective in a playoff series. They were taken to 7 games by OKC, a team they were supposed to win more convincingly. Not only that, but they lost in 5 games in the second round to the Lakers. So it seems they are WORSE off this year than last year. The Russ and Harden duo isnt great because BOTH players NEED the ball to be effective. Not only that, but Russ is definitely the weakest MVP candidate of the 2010s. Since Kevin Durant left, he has struggled in the playoffs, and has more sub40% shooting games in the playoffs than any other star than demands the ball as much as he does. Also Mike D'antoni didnt have a plan B since the Rockets traded Clint Capela to go all-in on small-ball. So once Vogel figured out how to stop it (double harden, leave westbrook open, and close out on shooters HARD, rotate on defense faster), it was a done deal. 3. Milwaukee Bucks Giannis had an amazing regular season, and def deserved the MVP award, but like the 60-win ATL Hawks team, also coached by Mike Budenholzer, the team turned out to be a bust. Giannis has no other superstar on that team. Khris Middleton was great, but he is not a good 2nd option. The bucks clearly needed another scoring threat once the 2nd round started. Not only that, but the Bucks weren't coached well in the playoffs. Theyvery well couldve lost 2 games to Orlando, and Erik Spoelstra outclassed coach Bud in the 2nd Round. And honestly, Giannis playing more minutes wouldnt have made the Bucks win the series. They lost in convincing fashion in 5 games. This was mostly due to Giannis being a very limited offensive player. He is awful in Half-court sets, and a good coach (Nurse and Spo) will effectively scheme around it. If it's that easy to scheme for your MVP Superstar player, you will NOT win a championship. And that is what we saw in the ECSF. The Bucks turned out to be a very good reg season team, that was flawed and easy to beat in the playoffs, much like the Houston Rockets 4. Philadelphia 76ers - They turned out to be busts. Overpaid Al Horford and Tobias Harris. No shooting. Ben is easy to scheme against. And they lose to a zone as shown multiple times during the regular season. They came into the league hyped up, but fell apart. Just a massive disappointment. They would not have gotten swept in round 1 if ben was healthy, but they definitely lose to the Celts. The celtics are better, and Brad Stevens is better than Brett Brown 5. Celtics as it stands, they are currently down 3-2 to the Miami heat. They are a good team, but just too young. Jayson and Jaylen have also had games this playoffs where they dont perform well when needed. Not only that, but Kemba hasnt been great for the past 2 series. Kemba is a better fit for the Celts, but he's not as good as Kyrie and the trade might be a downgrade. But if they win tonight's game and force a game 7, they can definitely beat the Heat and get to the finals. They are currently the most talented team left in the playoffs. it's just a matter of can Jayson Tatum be consistent enough to win against the Heat 6. Miami Heat -They are playing some of the best team basketball we have seen all year. They are like the '14 spurs and '15 warriors in the way they move the ball and are unselfish. The 2020 Heat have completely bought into the idea of working hard and playing for each other. If they do win tonight and beat the celtics, though, i dont see them beating the 2 headed dragon that is Lebron and AD. I just think the Lakers are more talented and will win 4 games before they lose 4 games, strictly off the talent gap So those are my thoughts. I dont think the NBA had as much parity as they touted in the beginning of the season. I think the AD trade made the Lakers the far and away favs to win the title. They have 2 superstars that are better than literally every other duo/group by a tremendous margin, and a bench that is chalk-full of veteran talent. I could very well be wrong, and the Lakers lose to the eastern opponent, but i just dont see it.