Editor's note: With the new NBA season around the corner, we preview the top five teams contending for the 2017-18 title in this series The Contenders. Topping the list, once again, are the unstoppable reigning champions Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors were already champions, already featured the two-time MVP, already had the greatest regular season in NBA history, and were already just a few mistakes away from consecutive titles. And then Kevin Durant — one of the greatest players of our generation — decided to join them, too.
What followed was predictable smooth sailing. Another dominant season, leading up to a near-perfect post-season, leading up to the championship. It was the NBA’s equivalent of a cheat code: with so many superstars, in the perfect system to maximise their talents, all in the prime of their careers, in perfect sync with each other both on and off the court, there was nothing that the rest of the field could do. The league had been broken.
In reaction to the seeming unconquerable edge of the Warriors, this past offseason has been the most bonkers in modern NBA history. More than a dozen All Stars have changed teams. Most of the other contenders around the league have overseen serious facelifts, all hoping to end the Warriors’ championship inevitability. With a couple of offseason changes and a full year of togetherness under their belt, will Golden State continue their reign at the top?
The story last year
The Warriors reacted to the Game 7 heartbreak loss against the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals by adding Durant to a squad that already featured Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. It didn’t take long for the new pieces to mesh perfectly: the Warriors finished with the NBA’s best record again (67-15) with the league’s best offensive rating and second-best defensive rating. In the playoffs, they got even better, going undefeated through the West (an unfortunate Kawhi Leonard injury helped) and smashing the Cavaliers 4-1 to reclaim the NBA championship. Durant, the new addition, was crowned the Finals MVP.
The Warriors made small changes, adding Nick Young to swag up their bench, Omri Casspi, and drafting promising forward Jordan Bell in the second round. Ian Clark and Matt Barnes left the team. But their biggest deals were the one that ensured continuity: the team handed Curry a $200 million-plus extension and resigned Durant to a pay-cut.
Durant, Curry, Green, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, Patrick McCaw and Young.
They will win a title if…
They’re healthy. The Warriors have virtually no holes in their game. They are the NBA’s best offensive team with unstoppable shooting from Curry, Thompson, and Durant; they are one of the top defensive teams with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Green; they have athleticism; and they pass the ball better (and more often) than any team in history. Sure, contenders like the Cavaliers, Celtics, Thunder and Rockets have made upgrades, and the Spurs are always a threat, but Golden State is still a better team than any of them, and will be even better now that their core has spent so much time playing (and succeeding) together.
Cause for concern
The Warriors don’t have a single glaring weakness, and to stop them, an opponent will need a perfect storm to befell them as it did in the 2016 NBA Finals. If the Warriors are going to lose, it will of their own doing: a mix of complacency (tired of success?), size (a bigger, meaner team on the boards), injuries (is Curry’s ankle fine?) behaviour (has Draymond kicked anyone recently?), shoes (Durant’s Nikes vs. Curry’s Under Armor), and off-court distractions (McGee and Nick Young re-united).
With the ruthless efficiency in which they decimated all opponents in last year’s post-season — included the super-duper Cavaliers — the Warriors looked to me like the greatest NBA team ever assembled. Now, they have another year under their belt to get even greater. They will win another championship.
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Updated Date: Oct 17, 2017 14:33:20 IST