Can the Golden State Warriors win the NBA Championship?
After two straight trips to the Finals, one title, and the addition of Kevin Durant, people are again asking can the Warriors win the NBA Championship. Yes, they’ve lost some key players on the bench, but the Warriors are still the best team in the West, and arguably in the NBA. So, the question is not can the Warriors win the NBA championship, but who and what can stop them get there. Let’s break it down.
Defense versus offense
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One of the most common and often repeated premises is that “defense wins championships.” However, many experts will also argue that great offense always beats great defense. And when it comes to offense, the Warriors are as good as it gets. No other teams in the NBA scores as easy as the Warriors do. And no other team boasts the offensive talent the Warriors have. Last year, the Warriors were on pace to average more than 30 assists per game as a team. No other team has done that since the Showtime Lakers. This year, they are even better, averaging 32 assists per game as a team. The ball moves continuously, and the Warriors find the open man almost on every play. With such ball movement and flow offense, it is easy to answer the question positively can the Warriors win the NBA championship.
But back to their defensive rating. The Warriors are no slouch on the defensive end as well. Last year, they finished the regular season as the fifth best defensive team. This year, they are in the top 10. And while their defense has taken a dip in each of the past three years, their offense has improved. And that is also a testament to the way the NBA is played nowadays. More and more teams are shooting more threes, and the traditional defense with a big man defending the paint is long gone. The Warriors also play one of the most complex, and hard to score defense in the league. They switch on every play. Being that they have players that are long, tall, mobile, and can defend multiple positions, the Warriors can easily place Klay Thompson defend small forwards, Andre Iguodala defends power forwards, and Kevin Durant defends shooting guards.
Key Players for the Championship
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The Warriors lost several bench players and a starter to clear space to sign Kevin Durant. But they managed to bring in cheap veterans they signed for the minimum. And they still have two of the best bench players in Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala. Their death lineup with Iggy with the starters minus Zaza Pachulia is still one of the best in the league.
But for the Warriors to win the NBA Championship, they will need contributions from their big players. And that list includes Zaza, Anderson Varejao, David West, and Javale McGee. The Warriors miss the great screens they got from Andrew Bogut and his defense in the paint. Neither of the four mentioned players is great rim protectors or great defenders in the paint. But the Warriors have time until the end of the season to see who of those four will distance himself as the best option at center. The Warriors will play Draymond Green at the five for at least 20 minutes per game for sure. But the team needs someone else to play the remaining 28 minutes at center. Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark still provide some good bench support.
Teams standing in Warriors way
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The Golden State Warriors have two legitimate threats in the Western Conference. And then the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. In the West, to get to the Finals, the Warriors will have to go through the Spurs and the Clippers. The good news is that if the Warriors end up with the first seed in the West, they will likely avoid one of those two teams. The Rockets are the fourth best team in the West, but they are no real threat to the Warriors.
The Clippers and the Spurs, on the other hand, pose a legitimate threat. Both of them can prevent the Warriors from even getting to the Finals. The question can the Warriors win the NBA championship gets complicated in that case.
But if they get to the Finals, they will likely play the Cavaliers. In the past two Finals, the Warriors played the Cavaliers led by Lebron James. Will we see the third rematch between those two in this year’s Finals? Can Kevin Durant help the Warriors win another title? After all, that is why he was brought in Oakland.
Tradition and prediction
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So, can the Warriors win the NBA Championship? They have continuity on their side. You should never bet against the reigning champion. After all, the Warriors already won the title with the current roster and went to the Finals one more. And then you add Kevin Durant to the mix? That is a scary thought. One thing that can prevent the Warriors from winning the title is injuries. Yes, as currently constructed, they can probably withstand an injury to one player. But if that player is named Kevin Durant or Steph Curry, the Warriors are in trouble. Or even more importantly, Draymond Green. Draymond might be the most important player for the Warriors, even more than Steph Curry. Without Green, the Warriors cannot play their preferred small ball style. And that means they need to adjust on the fly. But with Kevin Durant there, it is hard to bet against the Warriors. And they need to avenge their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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