1. The Golden State Warriors are undoubtedly the favorites to win the NBA title, but after a record-breaking season, do you think the Dubs have enough gas in the tank to go all the way?
KEN GRACE: Some will argue the Warriors may have been a little short-sighted in going after the NBA record for most wins in a season instead of resting their players like many other teams did this season. When the Chicago Bulls went 72-10, the league was much more physical. The Bulls, though they ran one of the prettiest offenses ever, played a very physical style of basketball. The NBA is not as physical as back then and the Warriors do play with some degree of finesse. They also, as proven in Game 2 versus the Houston Rockets have a very good supporting cast that features guys like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to name a couple. The Dubs are more than just Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. They are a complete ensemble with enough parts to carry them for another title run. That being said, they have plenty of gas to win the title because they have plenty of talent. The real question(s) is can they stay healthy enough to get there and do they have the mental fortitude necessary to repeat as NBA champions.
ANTHONY DICOSIMO: Before I give my answer as to whether or not I think these Warriors are going to win a title or not, let me just go through some facts:
1. This is the winningest team in NBA history.
2. They have the greatest shooter in NBA history
3. They have arguably the most handsome coach in all of sports.
That being said, it’s going to be tough, man. They are going against an amazing Western Conference with teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, and another historically great team in the San Antonio Spurs who will continue to be a threat to win titles until the inevitable heat death of the universe destroys all of life everywhere, and even then Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili will survive it because Gregg Popovich gives them the rest they need.
So, my answer is, sure. They could, but between winning 73 games and going up against a Western Conference that is as very good as it may have ever been is going to be tough for the Dubs and their sexy coach.
DAN TRIA: The Warriors are not only the best team this season, but, ever. I watched the 72-win Bulls and this Warriors team will not be pushed in the NBA Finals like the Seattle SuperSonics were by Chicago. The Warriors are recovering from injuries and Steve Kerr did a great job balancing “recovery vs. record.” What we forget is the Warriors won so resolutely they didn’t need to play starters for bulk and/or high stress minutes. Game 1 against the Rockets proved this team has a few levels of dominance it hasn’t reached yet. The bigger question is, will the Warriors be focused enough to go 8-0 on the way to meeting the Spurs for the de facto NBA Finals.
2. Of the 15 other teams, who has the best chance to usurp the Warriors?
GRACE: The obvious answer here are the San Antonio Spurs. Of the nine losses the Warriors suffered, the Spurs held them to the fewest points (79). But it isn’t just about points, it’s about style of play, match-ups, and talent. The Spurs have what it takes to beat the Warriors; they have a system the players have bought into and they are experienced. However, another team Golden State fans should be wary of are the Oklahoma City Thunder. If you think, after missing the playoffs altogether because of injury that Kevin Durant is going to just roll over because the Warriors seemed destined to win it all, then you’ve got another thing coming. Durantula is going to play with a huge chip on his shoulder and may be playing his last games as a member of the Thunder as well. Pair him up with Russell Westbrook and his wardrobe, err, I mean ability to take over a game, and they could give the Warriors problems as well.
Not to be outdone, the Eastern Conference has a couple of contenders as well. Of course there is LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers who many view as the favorite to come out of the East. When you have King James anything is possible and with everything the Cavaliers have been through they could prove to be mentally tough enough to get the job done. Another team many will probably brush off, but has a chance to beat the Warriors, are the Atlanta Hawks. I know, I know, I’m probably reaching to some, but just humor me for a little bit. The Hawks have their lapses mentally, but they play some of the best defense in the NBA unlike last season. They also match-up very well against the Warriors, with the possible exception of Andrew Bogut. Not only that, but the Hawks have the ability to get up and down the floor in transition and they also can shoot the three. Their only problem is they may not be able to get past the Cavs in the second round and that is if they can get past this latest edition of the Boston Celtics.
DICOSIMO: Even with all the love and admiration I have for the Spurs who are going 20 years of being the most boring team in professional sports, I think the Thunder are going to make it out of the West. Durant poses problems for any team that faces him. Sure, Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard are incredible defenders, but this is Kevin Durant. It wasn’t too long ago he was in the conversation about being the best player in the world. A conversation that now features Curry, James, and Westbrook, and there’s no way a competitor like Durant hasn’t noticed. Regardless of if he is or not, (and he’s not, I’ll touch on that shortly), Durant is still okay at playing basketball, and we will be reminded of that this postseason.
TRIA: San Antonio by far. No mind is equal to Pop. I believe he did not show his hand during any meetings with the Warriors this year. He’d rather punt the regular season games and win the postseason series – and that is a very real possibility. I expect the Spurs to push the Dubs to seven games, but ultimately come up just short, and yet I wouldn’t be surprised if Pop pulled it off. As NBA coaches go, the best of all time are Auerbach, Pop, Riley, Sharman, and, way down the list is the grossly over-rated Phil “Goink” Jackson.
3. Who are the top 3 players you are watching in the postseason and why?
GRACE: For starters, I will be checking out Paul George of the Indiana Pacers who seems to be ready to go as the playoffs have arrived. George has something to prove and has an excellent chance to do so against a Toronto Raptors squad that’s not used to being in the position they are now as one of the best teams in the league. The Raptors are ripe for the Pacers picking and if they do so it will be because of great performances from Paul George.
Los Angeles Clippers’ superstar Blake Griffin is another player to keep your eyes on as well. He’s back after dealing with injury and that should help the Clippers, who are kind of being overlooked, out a lot. Again, he is another player with something to prove on a Clippers team that desperately needs a deep run, or at least a good showing to keep its current nucleus in tact.
Lastly, I will also be keeping my eyes on LeBron James. The King comes into the playoffs once again under a lot of pressure to deliver a title to his city. Should his squad make it to the NBA Finals, this would make his sixth straight trip to the Finals. While the Cavs have done a pretty good of getting James rest, the possibility of him losing yet another NBA Finals and the pressure of it all could make for some very interesting moments for LeBron and his hairline.
DICOSIMO: This has to be the postseason Kyrie Irving shows the world how great he can be. He’s started off strong in Game 1 by dropping 31 on a tough Detroit Pistons team, who are one of the better 8 seeds we’ve seen in awhile. Now, he won’t go out and get 31 every night, but we will continue to see him improve and evolve from being the basketball boy wonder, to being a bad mother f*****.
Remember The Clippers? Yeah they’re still around and no one is talking about them. They have tons of talent, and when Blake Griffin wants to go off, he’s disgusting, and I just wanted to remind you that even though I’m not picking them to go to the NBA Finals, I would not be surprised if it happened. Three NBA All-Stars, and a championship coach go a long way.
Russell Westbrook is one of the best players in the world as far as I’m concerned. It’s controversial to say it, and I don’t know why. Curry is the sexy name today, and for good reason. He is the reigning NBA MVP, and champ, and he should be talked about. But, other than Curry’s 30-point average compared to Westbrook’s 23 and that Curry averaged more steals, Russ has been better in nearly every other category, namely, rebounds and assists to which he has averaged four more assists per game than Curry. Those four per game make up for the seven points he trails Curry by.
Winslow is incredibly exciting, and living here in South Florida has allowed me to appreciate his sublime game. The shot isn’t there yet, but the basketball IQ and defense are off the charts. No rookie came into a better situation, and I believe he will cause LeBron to lose his hair (again).
Aldridge never had a big playoff test. Now he’s a Spur and expectations are much different. He’s a fascinating player that pairs well with Kawhi Leonard. If Aldridge becomes a force like Kawhi, he could cause Draymond Green serious problems and force Golden State to play a bigger lineup, neutralizing their Lineup of Death.
Reggie Jackson is so unstable. The NBA needs to have a Jackson-cam. Simply follow him as he yells about phantom fouls, celebrates prematurely and obnoxiously, or acts out as Cleveland renders him to be the slightly-better version of Dion Waiters that deep down inside, Stan Van Gundy silently admits regrets signing.
Which upcoming free agent has a chance to make a little more dough after a potentially stong postseason?
GRACE: Warriors forward Harrison Barnes could find his pockets flowing with a few extra dollars if he can have a strong showing in the postseason. Curry is hurt, and while we hope his injury is not too serious where it keeps him out multiple games, Barnes needs to play well to spell Curry. He is one of the few guys they have on their team who can get his own shot, like Curry. If teams know they have to worry about him when he’s on the floor, it’s one more way the Warriors can frustrate their opponents. On the flip side, it forces the Warriors front office to pony up a little more cash to keep him around.
DICOSIMO: Andre Drummond, Andre Drummond, and maybe DeMar Derozan. If Drummond can be productive in the sweep they’re going to receive courtesy of the Cleveland LeBrons and prove that he can be the best center in the game, I can see Fatty McMoustache giving him tons of cash. DeRozan is going to LA, but does anyone care?
TRIA: Hassan Whiteside can get a max contract if he acts like Dr. Whiteside instead of Mr. Hassan. Yes, I tortured the metaphor, but a shot-blocking athletic 7-footer who fixes his flaws is quite rare. Whiteside was terrible at free throws, then all of a sudden, he wasn’t. Same pattern for his shooting, and eventually, he may pass out of the post. Ultimately, Miami will be faced with having to max him out or lose him. Next year will determine if Hassan is for real, or if he reverts back to whom Amin Elhassan called a jackass.
Who ends up lifting up the Larry O’Brien Trophy when all is said and done?
GRACE: There are many possibilities and scenarios that could happen, and these are the playoffs, but regular season consistency barring injury usually prevails. Long story short, the Warriors will be NBA champs again. It will not be easy, but the Warriors have proved all year long they are worthy and deserving of the title.
DICOSIMO: The Cavs, and I would say that even if I didn’t live in Cleveland, and they weren’t my favorite franchise in sports since I was a boy. They are going to have the easiest road to the Finals, and they will watch those teams out west beat up on each other to get there. Go Cavs. Suck it Warriors. I hate you.
TRIA: Golden State beats Miami in five games. The war of attrition with San Antonio prevents me from predicting a sweep, and Miami will beat the LeBrons in six, allowing some rest for the Heat. Curry will be NBA Finals MVP, and legit dynasty questions will be invited. That being said, San Antonio will be the Frazier to the Dubs’ Ali. The Warriors are the best team ever, and play the most aesthetically pleasing basketball in NBA history. The playoffs are a delightful coronation of Golden State.