Author: Brant Fistel
The Golden State Warriors have now owned the Western conference for the past couple of seasons and have proven to be the team to beat in the West ever since their first of three consecutive conference championships starting back in 2015. Some teams have come close in the past, including the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who blew a 3-1 game lead against the Warriors in the Western finals in 2016. That was a different time though; a time where the once beloved Kevin Durant was on the team playing against the Warriors.
Fast forward to 2017 and Kevin Durant has now already won his first NBA ring with Golden State and is currently looking for his second in as many seasons with the Warriors. So which teams can take down the mighty Warriors?
Let’s start with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are currently sitting in second in the Western conference and have actually beaten the Warriors in the first game of their season. Impressively, this victory was earned in Golden State and on a night when the Warriors were celebrating their NBA Championship from the previous season which came at the expense of the Cleveland Cavaliers. This win marked the beginning of what has been a fairly impressive campaign from the Rockets early into this NBA season.
What has been a major catalyst for Houston has been the addition of Chris Paul in the offseason. Paul adds more veteran presence to the Rocket’s roster and gets to play alongside James Harden which is a lethal combination. Paul is averaging close to 19 ppg and almost 10 assists while helping take pressure away from James Harden by opening the floor up. The Rockets were one of the league’s best offensive teams last season and with the addition of Chris Paul they have become legit contenders in the West.
The next team that can possibly take down the warriors and the only other team that really has a chance in the west besides the Rockets is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have long been a forceful presence in the Western conference under coach Gregg Popovich and have always given the Warriors trouble despite the dominance of Golden State. Kawhi Leonard is arguably the best two-way player in the league and is San Antonio’s star. He is an MVP candidate every season and is a powerful presence on both offense and defense. Unfortunately for the Spurs this season Kawhi has been sidelined with injuries since the start. However, they have managed to climb their way to an impressive 28-14 record without their star player.
What has been the inspiring story for the Spurs this year is the high level of play from veteran power forward Lamarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is averaging 22 ppg and about 8 rebounds ppg and has been rejuvenated in his third season with San Antonio. A couple of weeks ago Leonard had his season debut against the Dallas Mavericks in what was a disappointing loss, but he looked good in his 16-17 minute time frame of play. With Kawhi back, the Spurs should only get better as the season goes on. Look for them to be contending late into the year and be the team who might even dethrone the Golden State Warriors when it is all said and done.