51 Questions: What three things can keep Golden State from a title?

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We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season. Today:

What three things can keep Golden State from a title?

Here is a question we’ve asked a few times on the PBT Podcast:

Who would you pick to win the NBA title: The Golden State Warriors or the field?

Almost everyone asked pauses — this Warriors lineup with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, plus Andre Iguodala and a solid (if now thinner) bench, has the potential to be an unstoppable force.

But they are no guarantee. What could keep the Warriors from their appointment with destiny? Here are the top three things:

1. Injuries

It feels like a cliche/cop-out answer, but it’s also the truth — if the Warriors are not the team everyone fears by the playoffs, this is the most likely reason. Every NBA team is a key injury away from not being the same. If Durant or Curry went down and were not available for the playoffs, suddenly the Spurs and Clippers would look like a real threat to keep the Warriors from a third straight trip to the NBA Finals. Even injuries to key parts of the bench — Iguodala is at the top of that list because of his key role in the new death star lineup — would make the Warriors far more vulnerable to a team like the Cavaliers (where the margin is already thin). Speaking of them….

2. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are going to come out of the East and make a third straight trip to the NBA Finals (with that same injury caveat above). They have the best player on the planet, other elite guys in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, a solid and capable bench, and we have seen them do this before. LeBron is not the kind of leader that wins a ring then lets his team coast the next season (there’s a reason he’s been to six straight NBA Finals). If Golden State is healthy they are a matchup challenge for the Cavs, just like they will be for everyone else, but this is the team with the best roster and shot to overcome it.

3) Maybe the Warriors don’t blend like we expect

There was a time like this, just before the season started in the fall of 2012, where the Lakers had added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to an already strong team (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, etc.) and we all anointed them the Western Conference champions. Then they never even make the playoffs. They never came together as expected. Injuries were certainly a big part of that, but chemistry was a real issue. What is Golden State starts slow (a real possibility) and the strain of that leads to cracks they can’t repair? What is Durant can’t handle being in the role of villain all season long? What if egos get in the way of guys who want touches and numbers? All of that could lead to this team not living up to expectations — they are a strong team, but the margin between them and San Antonio or Cleveland is not significant.
None of this is likely, but it is possible.

As great as the Warriors could be, I wouldn’t be afraid to bet the field.