Challenging the Warriors
Challenging the Warriors
NBA BUZZ - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - February 20, 2019 - 12:00am

The trade deadline had come and gone.  The high profile and high scoring pickup game and the other attractions over the weekend had entertained basketball fans all over.   It’s time to look as to which team has the most chance of toppling the almost unbeatable Golden State Warriors who’s sitting at the top of the West with a 41-16 record.


No other team in the NBA has a more potently destructive starting unit than GSW and their bench crew starring Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston, Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook and Jonas Jerebko can outduel top teams on a good night.

The Milwaukee Bucks, barring any misfortune to their starters, could be the Warriors’ biggest problem.  Currently, they have the league’s best record (43-14) and is lording it over at the East.  New addition Nikola Mirotic will debut on Saturday versus Boston and this gives their frontcourt a solid rotation that also includes Ersan Ilyasova, and allows resident superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo more freedom to operate.  Their starting unit all average double figures (Malcolm Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton).   Offensively and defensively, the Bucks are for real.

It’s not a weak East anymore.  The Toronto Raptors (43-16) have a better record than GSW and they will surely battle Milwaukee for Eastern supremacy.  Getting Marc Gasol not only gives them a defensive presence but also a scoring threat.  With his passing skills, Gasol will have the vision to find post up shooters and cutters.  Kyle Lowry averages almost 10 assists a game to go with his 14 points per.  Kawhi Leonard is playing like Kawhi Leonard.  Fred van Vleet is out with an injury but new addition Jeremy Lin could bring back Linsanity as a Raptor.

Philadelphia (37-21) is now a serious title contender with a revamp crew.  Tobias Harris gives the much needed support to Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons.  Embiid leads the Sixers in points, rebounds and blocks.  JJ Reddick completes the starting unit and their combined per game average of 99.3 points tells us how prolific this team is. 

Gordon Hayward is getting his rhythm back and this is good news for the Boston Celtics.  Brad Stevens knows how to coach this mixed team of veterans and young talents.  With leadership of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, the cast of Jason Tatum, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and the much improved Daniel Theis could break away from the tie at fourth place with the Sixers.

Indiana is third in the East but Victor Oladipo is out for the season with a knee injury.  Although Myles Turner has stepped up, the productions of Domantas Sabonis, Tyreke Evans, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Darren Collison is not up to par compared to the players of the above mentioned teams.

I only see three legit threats to GSW in the West – Oklahoma, Houston and Denver. 

With two MVP-like performers on their roster, the Thunder should worry the Warriors.  They currently are third on the WC standings at 37-20, four games behind GSW.  We can say that OKC is a Russell Westbrook – Paul George thing but man in the middle Steven Adams is silently effective, likewise Dennis Schroeder and recently crowned slam dunk king Hamidou Diallo.   The team lacks depth and this could wear out their version of the dynamic duo in the long run.

Denver (39-18) is 2 games above OKC and 2 games behind GSW.  They sit 2nd in the WC ladder mainly because Nikola Jokic is doing an MVP-worthy performance and Jamal Murray is providing great backcourt duties.  Paul Millsap provides muscle and veteran smarts and reportedly, Isaiah Thomas is cleared to play.

As long as James Harden scores at least 30 points every playing day, Houston will always have lift off.  But Harden alone can’t bring his team to glory and being so ball dominant, he isolates an equally ball hogging teammate in Chris Paul.  Like Westbrook, Harden could be chasing history but a Rocket liftoff is wholly dependent on Harden’s support crew.

Let’s all forget LeBron James and the LA Lakers.  Despite previous hypes, entering the post season is just California Dreamin’.

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