In an offseason where you could practically read an article about a big name player being moved every day while brushing your teeth in the morning , the Golden State Warriors made a couple moves themselves. Even though we are still not quite done hearing about some possible moves (e.g. Jimmy Butler), LeBron James’ move to the L.A. Lakers was the highlight of the offseason followed by a series of other moves.
But who will emerge as the top contenders this season?
There are a lot of teams that are rearing and ready for the regular season to start, including the Warriors. Let’s take a look at how five other contenders stack up.
The Boston Celtics, who are now probably the argued favorites to win the East with Gordon Hayward back, will also be bringing their core consisting of, but not limited to, Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, and Al Horford. Despite not having Hayward for all but a few quarters of last season, the Celtics were able to do well and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals and barely fell to a James-led Cavaliers team.
Boston was second only to Golden State in three-point percentage and that had a lot to do with their ability to spread the floor with their talented backcourt. They were also able to hold opponents to a .440 field goal percentage, second best in the league right ahead of the Warriors, and also held their opponents to the third lowest average point total in the league.
Having this abundant amount of talent, how will coach Brad Stevens approach his rotations throughout the season? Even more, how much luck would it take for these Celtics to get through the season without an injury? Time will tell.
The Houston Rockets, who fell to the Warriors last year in the Western Conference Finals, are looking for their shot at redemption. Their core trio of James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Cappella remains intact, and they are bringing back Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker. The Rockets still have the core to challenge the Warriors.
If you partner their original unit with the likes of veterans James Ennis, Marquesse Chriss, and Carmelo Anthony, this team sees nothing but the stars above when talking about their potential.
Harden and Paul, the two most cerebral parts of the Rockets team, were able to effectively challenge the Warriors last season. They actually scored more points per 100 possessions than the Warriors, while also allowing the sixth fewest points per 100 possessions.
If this new team’s chemistry can blast off from the get-go, they have the potential to be just as dangerous, if not more, than last year.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, who at this time last year were excited for their “Big Three” of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, have regrouped following what was a disappointing end to their 2017-2018 campaign after being knocked out in the first round. After watching Anthony leave to join the Rockets, the Thunder went and grabbed Dennis Schroder from the Atlanta Hawks, who will be all the more important to the team now that Russell Westbrook will be coming off of a knee surgery.
The Thunder led the league last season in steals and were just outside the top ten in blocks per game. Led by a combination of Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson, the Thunder continued to pickpocket their opponents, despite the latter not being available from the end of January and through the rest of the season.
Despite their defensive statistics, the Thunder were eighth in offensive efficiency. While eighth place is not bad, they did not seem to meet the high expectations that were set in place when George and Anthony joined. Part of it had to do with Anthony’s poor season showing, but Oklahoma City is hoping to rebound this season, especially with the addition of Schroder and getting back Roberson.
Of course, most of the Thunder’s season rests on the shoulders (or rather, the knees) of Westbrook. Will his lightning quick strike ability and do-it-all mentality be as good as before? One can only imagine.
The Philadelphia 76ers, in my opinion, were one of the most fun teams to watch last season. Fueled by the electrifying duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, it was hard to tell that this was the same team that had two years ago only won one more game than the Warriors had lost - largely because they didn’t have Simmons and Embiid.
Between their on-court chemistry and their off-field banter, making videos like the one posted below, you could tell that they enjoyed being teammates and were ready to show the rest of the NBA who they had become.
After rolling into the playoffs on a 16-game win streak to end the regular season, the 76ers had the Finals on their mind.
The 76ers didn’t make too many changes this offseason, unless you count Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons’ work on their jump shots. They added Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler, and also added a pair of journeymen post players in Amir Johnson and Emeka Okafor, who along with Muscala, will take some of the pressure off of Embiid.
This years’ 76ers will be that much more fun to watch with Fultz.
5. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz, like the Philadelphia 76ers, were pretty entertaining because of their youth last year and that was mostly because of Donavan Mitchell. Others had their moments, but Mitchell seems to be not only viewed but also treated as their next franchise player.
The Jazz continued with their steady stream of top tier defense, allowing the fewest points per game in the league, along with the Spurs. Rudy Gobert acted as the ultimate rim protector, and they had a young complimentary core of players like Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, and Ricky Rubio.
After trading for Jae Crowder(during last season), signing Thabo Sefolosha, and drafting Grayson Allen, the Jazz look to make a run for the championship through the use of that stellar defense and the offensive firepower of Donavan Mitchell.
Quinn Snyder has a lot of tools to work with at his disposal, and it will be interesting to watch how the pieces unfold throughout the season in Salt Lake City.
The Warriors have their work cut out for them. It won’t be an easy road to a three-peat, but the team already seems to have gotten mostly back into form and looks ready for the season to start.
As they continue to progress throughout the season, most eyes will be watching Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, arguably the two biggest names on the Warriors who are most likely to not come back next year. How will they approach the game with an extra mouth to feed on an already dynamic offense? Let’s hope Steve Kerr has already resolved this issue, because once the season starts, a lot of teams will be preoccupied with championships on their mind.
Who’s the biggest threat to the Warriors for the 2018-19 season?
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