Opinion Time: Which NBA team can contend with the Warriors?
Sentinel sports writer
The East is basically treading water, save maybe Boston. The West, although much, much deeper, doesn’t have a team with enough talent to challenge Golden State.
The Warriors had three existing All-Stars on a championship team and added one of the league’s five best players. Signing a few free agents or drafting one or two big pieces isn’t going to shift the balance of power. That’s how good Golden State is.
Cleveland has LeBron, the best player in the league, but their offseason signings are Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon and Cedi Osman. If you haven’t heard of Osman, you’re not the only one — he averaged 7.1 points per game and shot 34 percent from 3-point range for Turkish club Anadolu Efes in Euroleague. He has the speed of a 35-year-old Joe Johnson with a worse shooting stroke from deep. Way to make a splash, Cavs.
Boston added Gordon Hayward, but let Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk walk. It’s a net-positive, but barely. Philadelphia is still a few years away from potentially dominating the East, plus there are talented young cores in Washington and Milwaukee that are worth keeping an eye on.
In the West, it might be Houston who gives the Warriors some trouble. Maybe San Antonio. Both seem unlikely to me, as excited as I am about the Rockets. Otherwise, there’s nobody else. The Clippers have fallen apart and Russell Westbrook can only do so much for Oklahoma City, even with the addition of Paul George. Nobody has a collection of talent that can match the Golden State Warriors.
Sentinel sports editor
With many teams making huge offseason moves to try to compete with Golden State, San Antonio made a subtle move.
The Spurs have a talented nucleus but are they good enough to compete with the ultra talented Warriors?
The Spurs could have used a veteran point guard to take the pressure off the aging Tony Parker, but the options were limited in free agency. They did add a high-level scorer to the mix in Rudy Gay.
The 6-foot-8 Gay averaged nearly 19 points a game last year with Sacramento and should fit in well with Gregg Popovich’s winning system.
Another wing scorer will take the pressure off Kawhi Leonard, who averaged more than 25 points a game and is one of the top 5 players in the NBA. As always, the key to their success is how Popovich uses role players to round out the team.
Gay is a nice addition to join an organization that puts a premium on winning.
The key for the Spurs has always been staying healthy and keeping their aging veterans fresh for the playoffs.
Adding Gay gives the Spurs more depth and extra scoring. It was a good move.
The question is simple: Did the Spurs do enough in the off season to compete with the Warriors in the West?
Sentinel sports copy editor/designer
The addition of Paul Millsap and the departure of Gordon Hayward from the Jazz will help the Nuggets make a jump to the top of the Western Conference.
Will it be enough to challenge the four-headed monster in Golden State? No.
The only teams that could challenge the Warriors played in the heyday of the NBA — Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, Magic Johnson’s Lakers and Larry Bird’s Celtics.
Although the Nuggets won’t have a chance to take down Golden State, a playoff berth looks likely.
Millsap will provide veteran leadership, scoring and rebounding down low and will allow budding star Nikola Jokic to grow without having the pressure.
Denver’s young backcourt of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris will provide scoring and defense.
If the Nuggets can buy in as a team to Michael Malone’s defensive intensity, they can be one of the top eight teams in the West.
They won’t knock the Warriors from the throne, but they will be entertaining.
Sentinel page designer
There are only a handful of teams that can even come close to hanging with the Golden State Warriors, and most of them are in the Western Conference.
So much talent has migrated from east to west this offseason (Paul George from Indiana to OKC, Jimmy Butler from Chicago to Minnesota and Paul Millsap from Atlanta to Denver), that it seems teams are not running away from Steph Curry and the defending-champion Warriors.
This opens the window for an Eastern Conference team to have a shot in a battle-tested season.
That team is the Boston Celtics.
Freshly reunited with his old college coach who he nearly won an NCAA championship with, former Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward should thrive under coach Brad Stevens, who leads a roster among the best in the East (especially with Kyrie Irving teetering on not being a Cav next season).
Hayward joins the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt and Al Horford got some help down low when Boston received Marcus Morris in a deal that shipped away Avery Bradley. The Celtics also have a great young draft prospect in Jayson Tatum, who should contribute right away.
In a weaker conference, Boston could land an easier path and potential upset of the Warriors.