As the NBA preseason is in full swing, the all-important question of who will be left standing at the end of the regular season begins to be pondered.
Most can agree that the west is absolutely loaded, but to me two teams stand out from the rest as favorites to emerge from the Western Conference Finals: The Los Angeles Clippers and The Golden State Warriors.
There are a lot of similarities between these two organizations. They are both extremely well managed and coached. They also both emphasize team basketball; a rare thing in an NBA that can often be clouded by egos and personal accolades.
The Clippers vastly exceeded expectations last year, giving Golden State a scare by winning two games in their first-round playoff matchup. However, there is no denying that the key ingredient to an NBA championship is talent.
You can build a world class organization, but without the talent to propel you through the playoffs, you’ll never win the chip. This is precisely what happened, as Golden State’s talent proved to be too much for the Clippers to handle.
Los Angeles put up an extremely impressive effort, but without a true superstar on their team, they never really stood a chance of contending for the title. These concerns are no longer relevant however, as the Clippers had a legendary offseason and landed two superstars to add to their roster.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are elite level NBA talent, and they are unselfish enough to fit right into the Clipper’s team-oriented style of play without causing waves. Leonard and George are both two-way players, with the ability to light it up on offense and lock down on the opposing team’s best player.
The Warriors, however, lost some key players in the offseason. With superstar small forward Kevin Durant opting to leave the team and go to Brooklyn, the Warriors are losing an important lifeline to stay in games when the team’s outside shooting goes cold.
They also lost some key role players, but they picked up Willie Cauley-Stein who should give them some much-needed size and rebounding. They also received skilled scorer D’Angelo Russell from Brooklyn via a sign and trade, which should provide the team with some additional offense.
On paper, the Clippers look like the obvious choice to be the favorite. They got much better with their offseason moves, whereas most would say that Golden State got worse. But when you acknowledge the context of the situation, it becomes clear that Golden State’s outlook is very promising.
With a talent like Kevin Durant comes an obligation to feed him the ball a certain amount of times throughout games.
Although he can score in bunches, isolating him on the post has actually stalled Golden State’s offense in the past, causing its other players to go cold from the lack of offensive involvement.
Without Durant on the floor, the Warriors can return to the free-flowing offense that got them to two consecutive finals before Durant even joined the team. And as for talent, Golden State still has plenty.
Draymond Green’s passion and versatility has led many to liken him to Bulls legend Dennis Rodman. Klay Thompson is a deep-range assassin, with the ability to put up points quicker than nearly anyone else in the league.
And the only person who can actually shoot better than Thompson is his back-court partner Steph Curry, who also happens to be elite in almost every other facet of the game.
Although Leonard and George’s unselfish nature will make the Clippers' transition easier, it is not easy to assemble a team of incredible talent and gain chemistry quickly enough to win the championship that same year; just ask LeBron James.
Despite the Clippers’ promising future, the Warriors’ experience and chemistry will prove to be invaluable, and they will likely yet again conquer the Western Conference, giving Curry, Thompson and Green their fourth championship ring.