The Golden State Warriors are the outright favourites to lift the Larry O'Brien trophy in June 2017 after their acquisition of the free agent Kevin Durant.
It is widely expected that, despite a number of Eastern Conference franchises strengthening their rosters since the end of the season, they will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals for a third consecutive year.
However, the soon-to-be New York Knicks man Courtney Lee has other plans. He believes the new-look team can go all the way, and harbours serious aspirations of claiming a championship ring next year.
The 36-year-old is yet to sign on the dotted line, but it is widely accepted the veteran shooting guard will join an exciting roster involving Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah - who will also be unveiled during a press conference this afternoon - in the Big Apple, and the former Brooklyn Nets man believes his new team should instantly be challenging for a title.
Speaking to Basketball Insiders, he said: “We’re contenders, man. They didn’t make the playoffs last year, but we’re looking to change that and win big. The ring is the ultimate goal for everybody on the team. I know it is for me. When they talked to me and told me about the pieces they were adding alongside the players who were already there, I didn’t think anything less than a championship [was the goal]. We’re trying to get the Knicks back into the playoffs and win big.”
Noah will move back to his hometown after his nine-year relationship with the Chicago Bulls came to an end, and Lee said the forward was a vital component in convincing him that Madison Square Garden was the best place to be as he rejected a bigger offer from the Philadelphia 76ers.
“This offseason, he’s getting out of breath just being on the phone — like he’s running sprints — but it’s because he’s talking about the city," Lee said. "Talking about the fans, talking about the team and everything we can accomplish together. He’s excited and he was recruiting me pretty much the entire time, telling me that I was the missing piece and what not. He kept telling me, ‘Let’s get it done!’ Noah was in my ear a lot.”
The Knicks certainly have a stronger team than the outfit that finished with a 32-50 record last season, but to deem themselves competitors may be a stretch too far. If this was the summer of 2011 then certainly, but unfortunately it is not.
Don't get me wrong, they should be reaching the playoffs with consummate ease, but to say they could beat the Cavaliers and then the Warriors - or even the San Antonio Spurs - is a stretch too far. It's good to have ambition and believe, but Lee is getting a little ahead of himself.