NBA Western Conference Season: Warriors have plenty to keep

Jay Asser 09:59 27/10/2015
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Still the man to beat: Golden State’s MVP star Stephen Curry and Co will be favourites.

The Western Conference is once again so loaded that one of any number of teams could reach the NBA Finals, but the easiest answer remains the most obvious one.

The Golden State Warriors are the reigning champions for a reason after a historically dominant season culminated in the franchise’s first banner in 40 years.

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They won 67 games in the regular season, including a sparkling 39-2 mark at Oracle Arena, while leading the league in scoring at 110.0 points per game, in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) at 109.6 points per game, in pace (number of possessions per 48 minutes) at 100.69 possessions per game, all of which resulted in a massive plus-10.1 average point differential.

Golden State returns this season with nearly the entire title team intact, including MVP Stephen Curry, as they now have the experience of winning a ring and until proven otherwise, remain favourites to repeat.

Chasing the Warriors are a myriad of teams with their own claim to the throne. Maybe the biggest threat to the team from The Bay is a franchise that didn’t even make the playoffs last season.

Despite a talented, young roster, the Oklahoma City Thunder are in win-now mode thanks to the possibility of superstar Kevin Durant leaving when his contract is up next summer.

The 2014 MVP played in only 27 games last season due to a crippling foot injury as the Thunder lost the tiebreaker for the eighth seed to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009. If Durant returns to his destructive form, he and explosive guard Russell Westbrook will be out for blood.

In Houston, not only did James Harden fall short of Curry for MVP honours, but the Rockets were also taken out by Golden State in the conference finals. After adding Ty Lawson to bolster their biggest positional weakness at point guard, however, Houston have as good as chance as any team to knock off the Warriors this year.

It’s another year into the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era, but the aging San Antonio Spurs are now pillared by two young stars in Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Leonard is fresh off claiming Defensive Player of the Year, while the Spurs landed Aldridge, the most significant free agent on the move this past summer, to give them an ideal bridge into the future when Duncan finally retires.

The final contenders in the top tier of the West are the Los Angeles Clippers, who are still searching to get past the conference semi-finals, and the Memphis Grizzlies, built on their identity of ‘Grit & Grind’.

The continued emergence to superstardom of Anthony Davis makes the New Orleans Pelicans interesting, while at the bottom of the West, the play of future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant will be fascinating.

 From top to bottom, the Western Conference has storyline after storyline, but more importantly, contender after contender for the NBA crown.

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