By: Jay Blackwell
On July 4th, 2016, Kevin Durant shocked the sports world by spurning the Oklahoma City Thunder, after years of suggesting he wouldn’t, and choosing to form a super team with the Golden State Warriors.
To many it just proves the notion that the rich just get richer as a team that won a record setting 73 games last season would get another top five player on their team. The tandem of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson was already viewed by many as the best backcourt in NBA history just added Durant to go along with the walking triple double, Draymond Green, to form arguably the best front court in NBA history too.
This team isn’t going to go undefeated. They’re not going to win 73 games. Still, everyone is pretty convinced this will be a championship team this year and with four of the top fifteen players in the world on one team it’s easy to think that but after all this is sports. No one figured last years Warriors squad was going to lose to the struggling Cavs who they had on the brink of elimination.
If there’s one team that could challenge the Warriors it is the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving proved he can go toe to toe with the two time MVP, Steph Curry, just fine. Curry’s on the ball defense is by far the biggest weakness in his game and Irving exposed him with his effortless shooting, and quick moves off the dribble. He consistently had Curry in foul trouble and effectively took him out the game. While the addition of Kevin Durant will always keep the Warriors in any game (as if they weren’t always before) it will do nothing to stop LeBron James defensively. Durant while a decent defensive player, defense isn’t his strong suit, and James will still be able to dominate the game with his athleticism, basketball IQ, and overall all-around performance.
The problem for the Cavs is James and Irving can’t do it alone. They’ll need the Tristan Thompson we saw in games six and seven to show up again. They’ll also need free agent JR Smith to resign, and put his shirt on too. More importantly they need their 118 million dollar man to play like it. Kevin Love needs to be a legit force as the big three in Cleveland. If one of the big four for Golden State is having an off game chances are at least two of them aren’t. Cleveland can’t afford a missing Kevin Love.
Another intriguing team to potentially upset the Warriors are the young up and coming Portland Trailblazers. To many this may seem as a surprise as conventional wisdom says only the Spurs and Cavs are the biggest threats to the Warriors.
I expect Portland to make a big jump in the standings this year after finishing a promising fourth in the West last season. Talk to anyone who knows anything about the Western Conference and they’ll tell you Damian Liiliard is just as much Steph Curry then anybody in the league. Lilliard just has the disadvantage of playing in Portland and not being seen on a national stage as often. Still, he’s a stud. He’s got the range believe or not of Curry albeit with less efficiency but he can still launch it from deep comfortably. He’s more explosive than Curry and can attack the basket. As mentioned above, Curry has trouble with quick explosive point guards who can shoot. Damian Liiliard is the type of player who can take over the game and I expect him to be a serious MVP candidate this season.
His partner in crime is just as much Klay Thompson as anyone in the league. Starting to see where I’m going with this?
CJ McCollum can flat out hit the three with both comfort and ease shooting a solid 42% from the field last season. The backcourt of the Blazers is indeed a poor man’s Splash Brothers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.
The Blazers also went out and added former Warrior Festus Ezeli and with the leadership and guidance of Head Coach Terry Stotts this Blazers teams looks like a young building Warriors team in the making. I’m picking a Portland vs. Golden State Western conference finals, and after challenging the Warriors last season in the playoffs I expect Portland to be up for the challenge.
It’s going to be an interesting year in Oakland this year with expectations obviously championship or bust. The Warriors can expect to get every teams best every single night and that will prevent this team from setting any regular season records. Get ready NBA fans this season is going to be more exciting than we think.