The 2016-17 NBA regular-season is shaping up just as fans and analysts had predicted back in July, when four-time scoring champion and former Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors during off-season. A surprising move that many had described as soft, Durant’s addition to a team that was already the best shooting outfit in the league – and who were just one win shy of repeating their triumph by becoming NBA Champions – adds more meaning to the term ‘super-team’.
The Golden State Warriors completed an impressive regular-season with a record of 73 wins and 9 losses. They came back from a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals against a Durant-spearheaded Oklahoma City thunder, and led 3-1 against LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers, but couldn’t close out the Finals.
This season, many in the Basketball sphere are predicting an encore Warriors-Cavaliers match-up in the Finals.
Stephen A Smith of ESPN had lambasted Durant's decision and had called it 'the weakest move ever by a superstar', especially since Durant joined a team that had just beaten him.
But those defending Durant pointed towards LeBron and recalled him leaving the Cavaliers to join forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to create a 'super team' in Miami. The Miami Heat, with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh reached four straight NBA Finals and won two of them.
They say that the current NBA generation differs considerably from those of the Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird era. They couldn’t have ever imagined Jordan joining forces with Isaiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons, or vice versa. Superstars were supposed to go up against other superstars, not join forces.
The Warriors already had the best backcourt and shooters in the history of the NBA in two-time MVP Stephen Curry, and his ‘Splash Brother’ Klay Thompson. With the addition of Durant, a 6’11 shooting phenomenon with a 7’6 wing-span, who can pull up from anywhere, they have the potential to be invincible. Can other teams stop them? Will other teams be able to outscore them?
While they have already lost four games this season, and Thompson’s form was not on point in the first few games of the season, the Warriors have managed to click quicker than fans and analysts anticipated. They are beating teams by huge margins, the latest a 45-point win over the Portland Trailblazers in a 135-90 blowout.
The regular-season feels like a foregone conclusion now. Barring any major injuries, if the Warriors and the Cavaliers play to their potential, they should meet in the Finals again. It will be match-up of two 'super teams'. The Cavaliers, too are a strong outfit, as with LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, they have the best player in the world and two All-Stars who average more than 20 points per game. They also have a bench that is as deep as the Warriors’.
As a matter of fact, with the trade of big man Andrew Bogut and Harrison to the Dallas Mavericks, and Mo Speights to the Los Angeles Clippers (another 'super team' with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and De André Jordan if they learn how to get past the second round of the Playoffs), the Warriors do not have that deep of a bench and defensive players who are worth twice their weight come the Playoffs and The Finals.
The Eastern Conference is weak and devoid of the necessary talent to challenge the Cavaliers. The Toronto Raptors are good but not good enough, and the New York Knicks are promising for the first time in so many years, but as Colin Cowherd, a sports broadcaster at Fox Sports America said, “The Knicks are an All-Star team of 2010.” Kristaps Porzingas, the 7’3 Lithuanian who has the potential to be a scoring superstar is at least three to four years too young, and Carmelo Anthony, Joachim Noah, and Derrick Rose are three to four years too old.
The sheer superior competition and strength of the Western Conference as compared to the Eastern Conference that the Cavaliers are a part of, make the journey of the Warriors not as easy as it seems. The San Antonio Spurs are always a threat, and the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder have Durant’s former teammates in James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who are currently tearing up the scoring charts and leading the MVP race. They could make the Playoffs even more exciting.
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Updated Date: Dec 24, 2016 12:03:12 IST