Writer: Elliot Adway
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
With the new age of the NBA rolling on, there’s one question that every team with contention dreams ask themselves:
How do we catch Golden State?
Let’s break down every contending teams’ quest to becoming an admirable threat to the throne out in Oracle.
Dark Horse Contenders:
Last year people (besides yours truly) were proclaiming the Tom Thibodeau led Timberwolves as the team up next to potential wreck havoc in the western conference. As things turned out to be disastrous (in more ways than imaginable) they did however pick up a top 15 talent in Jimmy Butler to combat along side two former number one overall picks (Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns). Add in Jeff Teague and another Thibodeau prodigy in Taj Gibson you have a solid starting five that could potentially scare Golden State.
I promise my personal bias towards one of the best players in the world Dion Waiters has nothing to do with the Heat being a dark horse contender. They’re well equipped with a veteran savvy point guard in Goran Dragic who will once again form a dynamic pick and roll combination with Hassan Whiteside. After the all-star break, the Heat went 30-11, but the slow start would cause them to be a couple of games shy of the eighth seed out east. Add in newly acquired Kelly Olynyk, first round draft pick Bam Adebayo, and a returning James Johnson, this team can ride the momentum they gained from the second half of the season into the next.
John Wall committing his future to the Wizards will likely be the only celebration of any source this upcoming year. Okay that was a little harsh, but with little to no moves made in the off season besides locking down your franchise player, what is there to look forward to in DC? Well they were one win away from the eastern conference finals, which means they were technically five wins away from the finals, which also means they were nine wins away from being NBA champions! Okay I’m done trolling. Jodie Meeks and JJ Hickson are good role players but those minor moves keep the Wizards at dark horse contention status.
Los Angeles Clippers
Surprise surprise! How could the Clippers actually be a dark horse contender after losing the most important player in the history of their franchise? By dealing CP2 (he doesn’t get the three until he actually makes the third round of the playoffs) the Clippers in return form a stout defensive backcourt in Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverly, instant offense in Lou Williams, and key reserve players in Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. Add in former Denver Nuggets wing Danilo Gallinari and all of sudden you have a big athletic lineup that should in theory own the paint. Does that recipe taste like a Golden upset? Odds are it doesn’t, but the sky’s the limit for this new look Blake Griffin led Clippers squad if everything goes as planned (it won’t).
There’s no way the Houston Rockets could’ve gotten better this offseason right? Well just like death and taxes, it was a guarantee that Daryl Morey would once again (for the 500 billionth time) fall in love with the idea of adding a superstar to play alongside The Beard. Surprisingly enough, Morey actually struck gold this year by adding CP2 to the equations for basically all of his supporting cast. Bold moves like that can either go a multitude of ways. What if this all flops and Houston sees a premature playoff exit? What if Paul and Harden become the greatest duo of all-time? What if the Rockets actually do the unthinkable and knock off the Warriors? Last year they had a zero percent chance of beating Golden State, now they at least have the aggressive attitude and mindset to turn that zero into a ten.
Shout out to Danny Ainge for actually landing a meaningful free agent that shouldn’t fold in the postseason! Hi Al Horford. Boston literally had a glow up that would make Chief Keef proud. Few except those crazy enough to believe in Beantown thought the Celtics had a legit chance of beating the Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers last year. Now with all the uncertainty surrounding one particular family member out in “believeland”, that delusion quickly turns into something that could very well happen. Put Isiah Thomas with the additions of Gordon Hayward, Top 3 draft pick Jayson Tatum, and a Swiss Army knife type player in Marcus Morris, we might be looking at the next team to lose to Golden State in 5 games. Don’t worry Celtic fans, you still have Brooklyn’s draft pick next year, meaning you’ll be picking top 5 again.
San Antonio Spurs
Is there ever a point of time when the San Antonio Spurs aren’t contenders? The answer to that question is hell no until Yoda decides he’s tired of winning 60 games a season and passes the force to Obi Wan. Until then you have the best 2 way player in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol resigning for 3 more years, the hopeful continued development of Dejounte Murray, Lamarcus Aldridge alongside his ability to score from the block and elbows, and newly acquired Rudy Gay. Adding Gay to the 2nd seed from last year makes the team more versatile, and adds a scoring punch that Pop has never had before. A line up of Parker/Green/Leonard/Gay/Aldridge could very well be the line up that gives KD the same nightmares from that Gatorade commercial. Granted, Parker is still recovering from an injury from the playoffs and likely won’t be ready until Jan.. wait what am I saying? I could go play point guard for Gregg Popovich and somehow someway the Spurs would still win 60 games. Patty Mills is more appealing than me even though I do have a mean floater.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Last year we were all witnesses to the Russell Westbrook show as he single handedly willed the Thunder to victory without any type of help on the perimeter. While it was definitely a joy to watch, it was also visibly exhausting the superstar point guard. So what does Sam Presti do? Pull a rabbit out of the hat and lands Paul George for a pair of 504 Levi’s and a Mitchell and Ness SnapBack. Throw in Patrick Patterson on a very generous multi year deal and you have potentially the most versatile defensive team in the NBA. The Thunder struggled immensely last year with shooting the three and spacing the floor. PG13 bolsters both the defensive side of the ball, and making shots on the perimeter, Roberson can now focus on his sole purpose and work on knocking down some free throws, Steven Adams can patrol and own the paint, and Russell will continue to be Russell. Oklahoma City will best match up with Golden State on defense, but what good does that do if you can’t outscore the Warriors? The hope out in Loud City is that their suffocating defense and the shot making ability of their two superstars could result in a massive upset.
Funny how quick things change right? A year ago social media went crazy with 3-1 jokes aimed at the Warriors and praised the almighty King James for slaying and proclaiming his spot in Oracle Arena. Then the Warriors decide to add the second best player in the world and the rest is history. The Cavaliers have the highest payroll in the NBA, but with the sudden surprise of Kyrie Irving’s desire to move out of Lebron’s spotlight, that could very well be their downfall. As the great La Flame once said, “Been bustin’ bills, but still ain’t nothin’ change.” Tristan Thompson and JR Smith were both rewarded with lucrative deals (Shout out to Klutch Sports) that some will debate if they even deserve the pay day. With all the money that Dan (Lebron James) Gilbert spent on the Cavs’ supporting cast, and now the inevitable departure of Uncle Drew, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the team, and little to no assets and cash to make a splash before the beginning of next season. How do you possibly contend when your second best player decides he wants out? It helps having number 23 on the court.
Golden State Warriors
Believe it or not, the biggest threat to the Warriors repeating could very well be themselves. Chemistry was never an issue last year even after integrating Kevin Durant. Golden State will be returning the same starting five of Curry/Thompson/Durant/Green/Pachulia that torched the Cavs in 5 games to win their 2nd title in 3 years. Add in Swaggy P and Omri Casspi, now you have instant offense coming off of the bench alongside Iggy, David West, and Shaun Livingston. They even bought the rights to Oregon rookie Jordan Bell to duplicate Draymond’s energy while he gets a rest. So how the hell do the defending champs lose? Injuries play a huge role in all teams, but the Warriors have been fortunate enough to be healthy last year with the exception of the near disaster of Kevin Durant’s MCL and the couple of playoff games he missed due to tweaking his calf. If Golden State loses one of their key starters, that easily opens up the possibility of teams like the Spurs, Rockets, and Thunder to take down the Warriors and represent the West in the NBA Finals.
To sum everything up, it will likely take an unfortunate injury to the Warriors to make them vulnerable enough to be taken down. Even then, that may not be enough. My advice to all teams with aspirations to beating the team out in Oracle: Go to church and pray.