The Golden State Warriors head into the new season as the clear favorites to seize further glory after thrashing the Cavs in the 2018 NBA Finals. The legendary line-up of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala vanquished any pretenders to their throne with consummate ease. Golden State has now further bolstered its roster with the signing of four-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and it is gunning for a third successive NBA championship title. Steve Kerr’s men will be full of confidence ahead of the 2018-19 season and if the key players stay healthy it will be difficult for anyone to stop them.
The Dubs only managed to win 58 games in the regular season, the lowest tally in Kerr’s reign. That was a significant drop on the 67 that Golden State achieved in 2016-17 and the record-breaking 73 it secured in 2015-16. It left the Warriors with a win record of .707, the third highest in the league, and it finished second behind the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference standings. However, the Dubs came into their own once again in the playoffs, securing 4-1 series victories over the Spurs and the Pelicans before clinching the conference championship title with a 101-92 win in Game 7 against the Rockets. Golden State then obliterated Cleveland in the NBA Finals to win a third championship in four years.
The Dubs averaged 112.8 points per game last season, the highest mark in the league. That is expected to rise this year as a result of rule changes that will cut down the amount of contact that defensive players can make and theoretically lead to an influx of scoring for most teams. In Curry, Thompson and Durant, Golden State is blessed with three of the most devastating offensive forces in the league and it should emerge as a major beneficiary of the rule changes.
The Dubs tied Durant down to a two-year contract worth $61.5 million, ensuring the continuation of the formidable Golden State super team for at least one more season. It also handed a one-year, $1.5 million deal to Kevon Looney to keep the undersized center at the franchise. The big news saw Golden State snap up free agent Cousins, who averaged an impressive 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists last season. The Warriors could only afford to offer him $5.3 million, a huge downgrade on the $18 million he earned in New Orleans last year, but he jumped at the chance to join arguably the most impressive team ever assembled in the NBA. Jonas Jerebko also joined from Utah on a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
The Warriors managed to keep hold of all the key players that have led the franchise to success over the last few years. Curry, Green and Thompson have been the bedrock of Golden State’s success during Kerr’s tenure, while Durant’s arrival in 2016 took the team up to another level and saw it dominate Cleveland in consecutive Finals. The only players it lost in the off-season were Chris Boucher, JaVale McGee, Omri Casspi and Zaza Pachulia, while David West retired.
Curry has cemented his status as the greatest shooter in NBA history and he is also a world-class ball handler. If he misses a game through injury, the Warriors’ results typically go south. Durant cannot match Curry’s shooting prowess, but he is the more complete all-round player. Perhaps only LeBron James can match him in that regard. Durant, the NBA Finals MVP for the past two seasons, is not held in particularly high regard among neutral fans after moving to Golden State and making it invincible, but he is brutally effective on court and nobody can deny his greatness. Thompson is another elite shooter, and the defensive work of Green and Iguodala underpins everything.
It will be fascinating to see how Cousins slots into this team when he returns from injury. Boogie is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and he is not expected to be ready for competitive action until the end of 2018. But he has been an All-Star every year since 2014, and his arrival will give the Dubs an All-Star caliber player in every position of the court. Cousins was enjoying his most productive ever season before injury struck him down, and his monstrous presence could further invigorate this ultra-successful franchise.
Anything other than a third consecutive NBA Championship would be seen as a colossal failure for this star-studded team. Anyone looking to get betting on the NBA will see that Golden State is the clear favorite to clinch a famous three-peat and strengthen its case to be named the greatest team of all time.
Certainly not the Cleveland Cavaliers after LeBron moved to the LA Lakers in a huge deal. The Rockets are likely to provide the sternest opposition in the Western Conference once more. Houston enjoyed a strong season last time around after bringing in Chris Paul to form a devastating backcourt duo with MVP James Harden. It has kept hold of Paul and Carmelo Anthony, while signing Carmelo Anthony on a one-year contract worth $2.4 million. However, it has lost Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza and that could hurt its defense, while the rule changes may not play into its hands. It might be a bit early for the Lakers to challenge Golden State this year. The Eastern Conference is now wide open after the Cavs lost their star, and the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers look most likely to fill the void. However, the Dubs would be widely expected to destroy whatever team the east puts forward if, as expected, it surges into a fifth consecutive NBA Finals.