If Golden State can stay healthy, and if they can integrate a willing Kevin Durant into their 73-win system (which appears to be going well in the preseason), it’s hard to imagine the Warriors not winning the West.
The Spurs will be good but seem to lack the athleticism, and their defense likely steps back with Pau Gasol filling Tim Duncan’s shoes. The Clippers could be the biggest threat to the Warriors in the West. They have great frontline athleticism and an elite point guard in Chris Paul, but they lack both depth and they have struggled mightily to defend the Warriors the past couple of seasons. And that was before the Warriors added Durant.
We have delved into what it will take to beat the Warriors, now Howard Beck has done a long-form piece at Bleacher Report where he got some honest quotes from other team executives.
“That they get hurt or hate each other, for sure,” said the Western Conference executive. “We’re all rooting for that.”
One Eastern Conference team executive suggested something just short of groin-kicking: “The good teams with coaches that are bloodthirsty, they’re going to say, ‘Let’s go out and try to knock them around a little bit.’”
Certainly, being physical with them is going to be part of the plan for many teams. But nobody is rooting for injuries, or at least I would hope not (that’s bad karma for a team executive).
The real question is not can the Spurs and Clippers challenge the Warriors, but rather just how good will the Warriors be? The team may not chase 73 wins again, but they are going to win 65 or more just based on talent. If all that talent meshes well and the rotations are tight come to the playoffs, it’s hard to picture this team losing. Even to Cleveland in a seven-game series, and while that would be close Doc Rivers may explain best what Durant does to the Warriors:
“I don’t know how much better they’ll be for the first 45 minutes of the game,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “They’re gonna be a lot better the last three minutes of the game.”
The Cavaliers and Thunder had the athletes and defenders on their team to blitz Curry when he got the ball late in games and not get destroyed off the ball. Now, blitz Curry and Durant gets the ball. It’s nearly impossible to defend.
NBA GMs unanimously predicted a third straight Warriors vs. Cavaliers NBA Finals. Those games have been booms for ratings, with so many NBA stars gathered in one place. Whether it is good for the entire NBA is another question. And one we have all season to contemplate.