Culture of Hoops

NBA Season Preview 2017-18: Top NBA Title Contenders Other Than The Golden State Warriors

Screen Capture courtesy of NBA/YouTube.

Screen Capture courtesy of NBA/YouTube.

Make no mistake about it, the Golden State Warriors are unequivocally the favorites to win this coming season’s NBA title, repeating as winners and winning three of the last four championships. Look at the NBA betting odds anywhere, and you’ll see the Dubs on top everywhere. And, validly so when you consider their top four players in Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, as well as their offensive style of play, defense, and head coach Steve Kerr. They do it all on the court. In this NBA season preview, we look at who else might win the NBA title besides the Dubs.

Possibilities in the East

Easy call here to say the Cleveland Cavaliers since they’ve represented the east the past few seasons. Also not difficult to assume the Cavs will be right there in line behind Golden State because they have LeBron James, arguably this generation’s best player. That sound of booing you hear is coming from all of the Kobe Bryant fans. Yes, Kyrie Irving, perhaps the real NBA Finals MVP two seasons ago, is gone, but in his place is a replacement committee of Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, and hopefully at some point this season, Isaiah Thomas, the main piece in the Cavs/Boston Celtics trade that saw Kyrie head off to Beantown. The key for the Cavs’ title aspirations is health, plain and simple. It’s an older/injury-prone group of players and they’ll likely need to be mindful of minutes for their key players during the regular season, so I don’t think they’ll be the top team in the East during that 82-game stretch; in the postseason, definitely.

So, who’s the top team in the East in the regular season then? Who else but the Celtics, who also had the best record last season to no avail when the postseason came around. By virtue of health, Irving is better than Thomas, but even more, Irving will absolutely love the open offense that Brad Stevens runs in Boston. Absolutely love it! Him and Gordon Hayward, who signed as a free agent from the Utah Jazz, both will. The one factor for them to worry about is their defense, which took a hit when Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder were traded away. Sure, Marcus Smart is still there, but will he be enough or resembling anything close to enough to slow down LeBron in the playoffs? Nope. Expect the Cavs to jump over the Celtics because of the weaker defense.

Never Forget About That Team By The Alamo

You don’t win as many titles (five; and another one in 1999) as the San Antonio Spurs have in the 2000s because you stink or get lucky. They have a great system and culture in place, which begins with Gregg Popovich, the enigmatic and charismatic head coach and leader of this band of merry men. The core players remain intact with Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and even the old time mainstays, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker return. Of course, Parker will be out for a bit, but it can be argued his replacement, Patty Mills, doesn’t make them miss a step. The team added Rudy Gay for scoring punch, and in this system, we could see him thrive and be more efficient. A few things need to break their way, but if there’s any team that can do it, the Spurs could bump the Warriors out of the postseason and represent the west.

Others Just Below the Above Teams That Could “Contend”

I put contend in quotes because while I think they’ll have an excellent regular season, I just don’t know if they’ll go passed any of the above teams in the postseason. It really is a Warriors World, anyway. But, for the sake of being fair to some degree, here are some teams to consider…

The Oklahoma City Thunder added Carmelo Anthony and Paul George for peanuts to team up with NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook. However, I just see so many issues with alpha dogism in regards to who gets the rock. You have three of the top dozen or so players that took the most shots per game last season, and really, doesn’t that make sense? Each one was the main player for their respective teams. Who takes the backseat, and will only a few degrees of doing so be enough?

Chris Paul joins the Houston Rockets and has the high potential to drop so many dimes to all of those shooters, including offensive dynamo, James Harden. While I love the offensive power here, I just don’t think there will be enough defensive power to stop the Dubs or Spurs in the west. They’ll be super fun to watch though!

The Washington Wizards return their core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Jr., Marcin Gortat, and Kelly Oubre, Jr. They’ll likely win 50 games, but not as likely to make some big noise during the postseason, especially without any significantly impactful player added to the roster.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are a backcourt that could match up with any other in the NBA, maybe even the Warriors. Maybe. Okay, maybe not. However, the duo is great and they can lead the Raptors to another successful regular season, but my gut feeling is that their prime time to be serious contenders has passed.

The tl;dr version of this article is simple – the Warriors will win the NBA title.

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