As the start of the 2016/17 season of the NBA approaches, two teams will be looking forward to good seasons. NBA odds have the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers as favourites and they will be looking to live up to the billing. The Cavaliers beat the Warriors to the title last year but the Warriors hope that the signing of Kevin Durant will help them win the title back this time around. Let’s take a look at how the teams are lined up for the season.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The Golden State Warriors have had a very very busy off season and are coming with a very different bench from last season. The most important addition to the 2016-17 Warriors team though, has been Kevin Durant. There was a big hue and cry when he decided to leave Oklahoma City and finish his pairing with Russell Westbrook. The receptions to his joining the Warriors to create a ‘super team’ have been mostly critical, though some people have come out in support of his decision, saying it is completely up to Durant to decide where his future lies.
The signing of Kevin Durant meant that Warriors had to drop a lot of their bench players off the roster, players who had played key roles in their 2015-16 Title. Players like Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Leandro Barbosa who filled in very well during the regular season when the first 5 needed to cool down had been let go by the team to clear up cap space for Kevin Durant. They have retained the services of Shaun Livingston though, who was excellent during the postseason and carried the Warriors quite a few times when Stephen Curry could not quite find his comfort zone while shooting.
A lot of concerns have been raised about the Warriors defense, since their best 5 are now Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, André Iguodala and Draymond Green. The absence of a full time center ( despite having signed Zaza Pachulia) could come back to bite them against teams which are strong on the offensive front. Even if Pachulia gets a fair amount of game time he is more adept at defensive rebounds than the offensive front. This could mean fewer rebounds for warriors at the offensive end (even with Iguodala and Green’s excellent defensive capabilities). The Warriors have also signed league veteran David West who can play at multiple positions.
On the offensive front, the Warriors need to figure out a feasible ball sharing strategy which efficiently utilises the excellent shooting skills of Curry, Thompson and Durant. Curry and Thompson have publicly stated that they are willing to sacrifice shots in order to give more possession to Durant, but it remains to be seen how that can happen on the court. In the few preseason games they have played, the transition has been developing nicely, although it is nowhere near their best and they know it.
All in all the Warriors (atleast on paper) have a very fearsome lineup but it remains to be seen how they can plug the holes in their defensive strategy and how well the ball is shared between some of the league’s best sharpshooters.
The Cleveland Cavaliers made history last season by becoming the first to win an NBA championship when trailing 3-1 to the Warriors. It was indeed a historic achievement for the city of Cleveland as it won its first pro-sports championship after Jim Brown led them to an NFL championship way back in ‘64. Needless to say, LeBron James has got the monkey off his back and can play freely after delivering the championship and completing his promise to the city of Cleveland. The notable signings for the Cavs in the summer were Chris “Birdman” Andersen from the Memphis Grizzlies and Mike Dunleavy Jr. from the Chicago Bulls. They also drafted high-flyer Kay Felder and Jordan McRae.
The Cavs are again favourites to go through from the Eastern Conference unscathed but will face more competition this time around from the likes of a well built Indiana Pacers team who’ve signed point guard Jeff Teague in the offseason with Al Jefferson leading the second unit from the bench, a cohesive Boston Celtics unit which has signed All Star Al Horford and drafted rookie Jaylen Brown.
LeBron James doesn’t even stretch it out in the regular season. But the position at which the Cavs are a bit underwhelming is at the point guard position, with Kay Felder being the only backup point guard with Kyrie Irving leading the first unit. Kay Felder, even with a formidable show during the pre-season, is still a rookie and rookies have historically had a hard time shooting the ball in the league. Mike Dunleavy Jr. and J R Smith are a good “catch-and-shoot” threat on the perimeter, especially with LeBron sharing the playmaking duties along with a scoring guard in Kyrie Irving come playoff team. The Cavs frontcourt will consist of LeBron James, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love with Chris Andersen, Channing Frye on the bench.
It’s not about what these two teams can do in the regular season, but how much gas they’ve left in the tank come post-season and what will happen when the Warriors “Superteam” meets LeBron’s Championship winning team come June.