The Warriors will look to win their fifth NBA title in eight years, and the only thing stopping them from completing that goal is themselves.
Golden State found itself in some drama before the regular season when Draymond Green and Jordan Poole got into a fight during a practice. The Warriors chose to settle the matter internally, and the contract extensions of Poole and Andrew Wiggins makes it seem like everything is fine, but time will tell.
The path to the NBA Finals will be an interesting one. The Clippers are tied with the Warriors and the Boston Celtics as the favorite to win the NBA title at 6-to-1 odds on DraftKings Sportsbook. But interestingly, Los Angeles is a slight favorite to win the west at +320 odds over Golden State, who has +330 odds.
Of course, this is all permitting health as many are buying in on the duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to finally fulfill the potential that was promised when the pair arrived in Los Angeles prior to the 2019-20 season. Health will be a factor for many other Western Conference teams led by one or two superstars as the field offers interesting contenders.
Let’s take a look at the top five teams who have a shot to come out of the west, as well as one dark horse contender.
Dallas Mavericks (odds to win conference +1000)
The Mavericks will go as far as Luke Doncic can take then. The young superstar will be an MVP contender, and Dallas has made interesting moves to build around the Doncic’s skillset. It traded Kristaps Porzingis in the middle of last season and brought in an extra ball-handler in Spencer Dinwiddie and a catch-and-shoot big man in Davis Bertans. Ideally, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Reggie Bullock are good wing players. What will be fascinating to watch is how head coach Jason Kidd implements Christian Wood into the team. The seventh-year center has developed a decent 3-point shot but is a below-average defender. Perhaps Kidd’s squad will hope to simply outscore teams with Doncic at the helm, but that’s a tall task if the Mavericks hope to reach the finals.
Denver Nuggets (odds to win conference +850)
Similar to Dallas, Denver will go as far as Nikola Jokic can take it. But if the Nuggets want to be true title contenders, they need Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to play into the postseason. The pair have been slowed down by injuries, which has left Jokic to do all the work. The two-time MVP is certainly capable of carrying the Nuggets, but it’s obvious the center needs help so he can be fresh enough for an extended postseason run. Denver continues to try to add pieces in helping out Jokic, but it is primarily relying on Murray and Porter to help carry some of the load.
Los Angeles Clippers (odds to win conference +320)
As mentioned before, health will be the determining factor on how far the Clippers go in the west. The addition of John Wall is an interesting one. The All-Star guard was stuck with a tanking Rockets team, and he has admitted last season took a toll on him and his mental health. Hopefully, Wall has found the help he needs. If it wasn’t obvious before, it will become apparent this season that head coach Tyronn Lue is an actually good coach and didn’t ride the coattails of LeBron James in Cleveland. The Clippers have interesting ancillary pieces in Terance Mann and Luke Kennard, but if George and Leonard are healthy, the ceiling is high for Los Angeles.
New Orleans Pelicans (odds to win conference +2000)
If you’re looking for a sleeper team, look to the Pelicans. If Zion Williamson is at full health, New Orleans presents an interesting ceiling to make it to the at least the conference semifinals. The team is clearly hoping to make it further with the addition of CJ McCollum last season, and with Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas, the Pelicans are loaded. Watch out for Herb Jones and Jose Alvarado, who will also be key contributors to the team as well.
Phoenix Suns (odds to win conference +500)
The Suns missed out on Kevin Durant and are “stuck” with Deandre Ayton, who is a great center — just not Durant. Phoenix will simply run it back with Ayton, Devin Booker and Chris Paul, but it will potentially run into trouble as this will be Paul’s age-38 season. Can he still play at a championship level the Suns need him too? How much of the load can Booker handle? These questions will be ones Monty Williams hopes to solve as Phoenix hopes to return to the NBA Finals after a season away.
Golden State Warriors (odds to win conference +330)
If all is truly well in Golden State, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Poole came through for the Warriors in key moments in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, and he is only going to get better, which is good for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as they are able to take any necessary rest they desire in the regular season. Head coach Steve Kerr has shown he is a great mentor to young talent, and the young pieces Golden State has will be one to watch. Andrew Wiggins made a career turnaround last season, and there’s no reason to doubt he won’t do it again. The Warriors hope 2020 No. 2 pick James Wiseman can develop into a key defensive cog alongside Green, and the Dubs hope Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga can develop into key playoff contributors. If they do, the Warriors will be a tough out and are the team to beat in the West.