The Golden State Warriors are once again the heavy favourites to win the championship this year.
After defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games to secure their second title in three years last season, Jeff Sherman, the NBA oddsmaker at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, told ESPN that the Dubs were “the highest favourite we’ve ever had going into a season, of any team in any sport”.
Many see this upcoming campaign as a foregone conclusion, but the other teams in the Western Conference certainly don’t feel that way.
Several teams across the conference made big moves in the offseason with the aim of challenging the Warriors.
The Oklahoma City Thunder acquired All-Star duo Paul George and Carmelo Anthony and the Houston Rockets traded for Chris Paul.
Even the Minnesota Timberwolves have improved significantly after securing the services of All-NBA guard Jimmy Butler.
Of the aforementioned teams, it is the Rockets who believe they have enough to overcome Golden State and haven’t been afraid to say it in public.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni recently discussed what he expects when they come up against the defending champions this season.
“You’re not gonna stop them. It’s just not gonna happen,” D’Antoni said, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “They’re not gonna stop us either. Should be fun.”
It’s a very bold statement from D’Antoni as the Warriors have repeatedly shown they are capable of stopping anyone on any given night.
Last year Houston proved they were a force on the offensive end by averaging the second most points in the league at 115.3 per game, but they weren’t as strong defensively as they allowed 109.6 points, which ranked 26th in the NBA.
But the addition of CP3 gives the Texas-based outfit a strong presence on both ends of the floor and a leader.
He also gives them another option in terms of playmaking and will form arguably the best backcourt in the NBA alongside superstar James Harden.
With many doubting how the two ball-dominant figures will play together, they have already shown glimpses of how devastating they can be in their first two outings together in the pre-season.
But Houston won’t need to wait long to prove their head coach right as they take on the champs in Oakland on the opening night of the new campaign on October 20.
It’ll be a terrific opportunity to lay down an early marker and make a real statement of intent.