Breaking News:

Keep up with So Much Sports on Twitter @SoMuchSports

Second half look: Golden State’s top challengers

By: Phillip Wilson

The Spurs are always a contender in the West. Nobody should be surprised if they beat the Warriors.

Kevin Durant might be out with an injury right now, but he will be back and when he does come back the Warriors will once again look like a lock to win the Western Conference and appear in a third-straight NBA Finals. However, the Western conference is absolutely no cake walk and the Warriors will be tested mightily despite their super-team status.

The Warriors biggest threat will obviously be the always championship-caliber San Antonio Spurs; but the Houston Rockets, led by MVP front-runner James Harden; the Russell Westbrook led Oklahoma City Thunder; and even the Clippers despite never living up to their expectations, can all be threats.

The Spurs really require no explanation. Greg Popovich runs a perfect system that is still going as smooth as ever even in the post-Tim Duncan era of the team. Kawhi Leonard is one of the best all-around players in the league, they have veterans, they have depth and they can beat any team in the league.

So let’s move on from talking about how the Spurs are obviously a contender and move on to some other teams.

James Harden may be this year’s MVP and with how the Rockets are playing this year, they can be a big threat.

The Rockets may have lost to a Stephen Curry-less Warriors in the first round of the playoffs last year, but this Houston team is a different animal and in a seven game series they must be considered to be a threat. They are on pace to shatter the NBA record for most 3-pointers attempted in a season. Now beating the Warriors at their own game will be tough to do, but the Rockets have also significantly improved their all-around defense. Even the notoriously defensively inept Harden has shown more effort on the defensive end, adding to his increased level of leadership for his team.

Houston also has a strong supporting cast around Harden, with a lot of talented scorers. Most notably, Lou Williams, who came over in a trade with Los Angeles. The former sixth-man of the year can add a crucial scoring punch off the bench. And besides just their outside shooting, the Rockets have a solid interior presence on both ends of the court with Chris Capela and Nene, which could overpower the Warriors if they are used effectively. One of the side effects of adding Durant was losing a lock down and big-bodied defender like Andrew Bogut inside.

The Clippers might be a team that may be tough to get behind based on their history of failing on the big stage, but purely on talent and internal desperation, they might be a candidate to pull off a big upset.

The Clippers have an elite level of all-star talent and a strong supporting cast and a great coach. Several questions and a few disappointing seasons in a row have caused some questions to linger over the Clippers. As of now, the Clippers are fifth in the Western conference just behind the Utah Jazz, when they are all on the same page, they are as good as they come. And while the Clippers have routinely been unable to advance past the second round of the playoffs, they also have a lot of experience, a chip on their shoulder and a coach who knows how to get it done.

Both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are stars. The both went down with injuries earlier in the year, but both have since returned. Griffin is a super gifted athlete and talent and Paul is the unquestioned leader of the team and best floor general in the league. If the Clippers don’t beat themselves then they can pull off a big upset in a best of seven series.

Now we’re at the Thunder. The triple-double machine that Westbrook is makes them a threat alone. He must undoubtedly have a Michael Jordan-esque performance for the Thunder to get past the Warriors in the playoffs, but some keep trades have also bolstered this squad. They added Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott into the mix. The Thunder must improve defensively, however.

But it’s impossible to truly gauge what kind of fuel the Thunder will have when they go up against Durant, the franchises’ former star who bolted to the dark side. Determination and desire and will is a special x-factor for Westbrook, and also Durant too.

The Warriors are still the head of the pack in a loaded Western Conference, but the gap might be closing just a bit.

The following two tabs change content below.

Phillip Wilson

Staff Writer
Without sports, Phillip doubts life would be as fun and exciting. Whether you're a diehard fan or just a casual watcher, Phillip believes everyone should have something to root for and sports provides that. Combined with the great values of sportsmanship and competition that he witness greats like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson showcase, sports have become something Phillip really appreciates and loves. And that love for sports is what led Phillip in the direction of becoming a sports journalist. At a young age, not only did Phillip just watch sports, but he studied tendencies, stats, and the players and coaches mannerisms and reactions in postgame press conferences. It was a deeper level he could appreciate about sports. He loved the in-depth analysis of what happened in games. And when watching the late great Stuart Scott on ESPN, Phillip learned the value of being unique and leaving your own lasting impact into sports journalism. Footsteps Phillip can only strive to follow in.

Latest posts by Phillip Wilson (see all)

Comments are closed.