The Golden State Warriors have seemingly dominated the NBA in the last three seasons and are expected by many to make their fourth straight Finals appearance this season. They have won two championships in 2015 and 2017 and in 2016 set the single season wins record by going 73-9. This year they had four All-Stars: 2x MVP Stephen Curry, last year’s Finals MVP Kevin Durant, 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson.
It is unlikely Golden State’s superteam will be bested in a seven game playoff series, but these five teams have the best chance of doing so.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
This selection may come as a shock to some people, but Minnesota has been playing impressive basketball this season and currently sits third in the Western Conference. What their young core lacks in playoff experience, they could make up for in energy and hunger to prove their worth. The T-Wolves have a Big Four of their own with All-Stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has playoff experience and Jamal Crawford off the bench provides veteran leadership that is crucial to a young team. Don’t be surprised if the team nobody’s talking about goes on a run deep into the playoffs.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
Perhaps one of the most disappointing teams this season, it might be fair to say everyone outside of Oklahoma has given up on OKC. Bringing Paul George and Carmelo Anthony over in the offseason was supposed to transform this team into a legitimate contender, yet they currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference, which is where they finished last year. Despite all of this I still think there is time for this team to click and when, or if, they do — then watch out. Westbrook is once again (nearly) averaging a triple double and Paul George is a DPOY candidate. The Thunder have shown signs of brilliance for stretches this year. If they can somehow make that last for a seven game series they may have what it takes to upset Golden State.
- Boston Celtics
Even without Gordon Hayward the Celtics still have the pieces to make a run at the title. Kyrie Irving is having another exceptional season and we know he is just as effective in the playoffs. While a team like the Warriors has more skill than Boston, head coach and basketball mastermind Brad Stevens has shown he can make an average team good and a good team great. The real question for the Celtics is whether or not their young players will continue to perform at a high level into the postseason. So far Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum have played a large part in the team’s success. If that continues as well as consistent contributions off their bench, the team with the league’s best defense could bring banner 18 to Boston.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
I could simply write LeBron James and move on, but I’ll elaborate a little. In his 15th season James is having one of his best years. After a lackluster start to 2018, LeBron and his new look team are back to playing Cleveland Cavaliers basketball — all while without 20 and 10 man Kevin Love. Trade deadline acquisitions Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood are two highly underrated scorers and George Hill has playoff experience from his time in San Antonio. Mix in veterans Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Kyle Korver, and Jeff Green and that is a very deep, experienced team. This newly rejuvenated Cleveland squad has all the pieces to make their fourth straight trip to the Finals and get another crack at Golden State.
- Houston Rockets
The team with the best chance to unseat Golden State? That’d be the team with the NBA’s best record led by MVP-favorite and league scoring leader James Harden. Harden along with Chris Paul have been nearly unbeatable this season when they’re both in the line up and are each averaging over eight assists per game. Houston’s two-headed monster has fit in perfectly with head coach Mike D’antoni’s offensive-minded coaching style. Clint Capela is having a career year and the recent signing of veteran and proven scorer Joe Johnson, gives them another option for late game scoring come playoff time. Houston has already proven they can beat the Warriors in the regular season. If they hold on to the number one seed and earn home court advantage throughout the playoffs, I could very well see a high scoring, back and forth series ending in a game seven in Houston — where the home team comes out on top.
The task of knocking off the Golden State Warriors is a difficult one because they know what it takes to win a championship and seem to win effortlessly. They know the ins and outs of the playoffs and do not rely solely on one or two players to win games. However if anyone is going to end the Warriors quest of going back to back, it will be one of these five teams.