In 2016-17 the Golden State Warriors finished the regular season with a league-best 67-15 record. They then went on to push passed opponents in the Playoffs in convincing fashion. Their addition of eight-time All-Star forward Kevin Durant proved to be too much firepower for any other franchise to overcome. In their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, the Warriors dispatched with the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games (4-1). That Game 4 loss to the Cavs was the only blemish in their historic attempt at a clean sweep of all their playoff games.
Heading into 2017-18, Golden State’s management did its best to retain as much of its title-winning roster. As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And that they did. Kevin Durant generously left money on the table ($9 million), signing for less than the maximum, in his 2-year, $53 million deal; in order for Golden State to bring back role-players. The Finals MVP’s financial sacrifice is not expected to be in vain, as the Warriors are the hands-down favorites to bag the 2018 NBA title.
The team to beat cannot rest on their laurels too easily.
In the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers have upgraded their roster with a basket full of seasoned veterans and defensive role-players. They signed former MVP, Derrick Rose. They traded Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, who is currently out with an injured hip, and defensive stopper Jae Crowder. The team also recently signed LeBron James’ former teammate in Miami, Dwyane Wade, who reached a buyout agreement with the Chicago Bulls. The Cavaliers’ depth is now scary-good. Stars like LeBron and Kevin Love can be preserved during the season for a deep playoff run, and hopefully, a grudge match with the Warriors. If both teams do meet, it will not be as simple as a rerun of 2017. Discussions about the Eastern Conference would not be complete without mentioning the Boston Celtics. They traded for Kyrie Irving and signed Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.
The Western Conference is also seeing a shift in power. The Houston Rockets boast of the most talented backcourt duo in the league, pairing James Harden and Chris Paul. The Oklahoma City Thunder have surrounded the 2017 MVP, Russell Westbrook with some much-needed support. They traded for Indiana’s Paul George and New York’s Carmelo Anthony, essentially forming their own “Big 3” star combination. Of course, the ever-steady and consistent San Antonio Spurs cannot be discounted nor taken for granted. Led by arguably the best two-way player in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs have been a consistently ever-present mainstay in the playoffs. Their emphasis on defense and strong basketball fundamentals have been components of an impressive recipe for success. The young and upcoming Minnesota Timberwolves pulled off a heist on draft day, landing Chicago’s Jimmy Butler in a trade.
In the end, all of this player movement, all of these moves are all for one thing; a shot at chasing down the defending champion Golden State Warriors, contesting their dominance of the biggest basketball league in the World, and preventing what could be an unshakable modern-day dynasty.