NBA season preview: Don’t sleep on wounded Warriors
WRITE the Golden State Warriors off at your own peril.
That's the opinion of Warriors great Tim Hardaway ahead of one of the most wide-open seasons in recent NBA history.
The former Warriors star says two-time MVP Steph Curry and Co will adopt a "backs against the wall" mentality going into a season of change that has many believing the dominant Warriors will fall back with the Western Conference pack.
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"They're going to be contenders again," Hardaway, who was the Warriors' point guard from 1989-96.
"They're going to be right there in the upper echelon, in the playoffs again, so watch out - and then once they get in the playoffs, anything can happen."
NBA champions in three of three of the past five seasons, the Warriors will be without uber-talented forward Kevin Durant after he left the Bay for Brooklyn and former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala (traded to Memphis), while marksman Klay Thompson will spend much of the season on the sidelines.
But Hardaway says Curry, along with heart and soul small forward Draymond Green, can shoulder more of the workload, in conjunction with burgeoning star D'Angelo Russell, acquired from the Nets this off-season.
"I like D'Angelo, I think he's going to help them out a lot," Hardaway said.
"He's a one-on-one player, he can get his own shot, he can make plays with the best and, most importantly, he can shoot the ball and get buckets - that's what it's all about.
"They still have so many guys who can create their shots and make their teammates better.
"They will be right there, even without Klay, and once he comes back, all of a sudden they're among the best teams in the league again."
The Warriors will be expecting athletic big man Kevon Looney to take another step, while the signings of role players Willie Cauley-Stein and Alec Burks have replenished some of the depth lost by the high profile departures.
Of course, there are a number of other teams who have improved - a lot.
LA CLIPPERS $4.25
It's no surprise to see the LA Clippers as NBA title favourites after they pulled off one of the NBA great recruiting coups, attracting stone cold killer, Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard is the architect of two NBA titles - one in San Antonio and one in Toronto last season - and owns two Finals MVPs for his work.
Success follows him … and so did superstar Paul George to LA. George did have surgery on both shoulders in the off-season, meaning he's not expected to suit up for the Clippers in July, but that is ample time for the former Indiana and OKC star to get acquainted with Leonard and a deep supporting cast of Pat Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green.
LA LAKERS $4.50
Is it the year of LeBronxAD?
The Lakers went all in on Anthony Davis and he is set to form one of the most dynamic one-two punches in the NBA.
Everything relies on LeBron being engaged though.
Some believe he took last season off to establish his off-court interests and will come back on a mission.
If that happens, look out NBA.
But you only have to look at the back end to see there is a real possibility the Lakers will be starting the corpses of Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard in 2019-20.
Well unders for mine.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS $6
Can the reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo take another step to offset the loss of Malcolm Brogdon.
The Bucks still have a strong starting five in Giannis, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez and new acquisition Wesley Matthews and solid depth, but have they improved enough to take the next step?
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS $8
At $8, Philly has to be the big sleeper this season.
Troublemaker Jimmy Butler departed for Miami, they re-signed glue guy Tobias Harris and added Boston big man Al Horford and three-and-D shooting guard Josh Richardson.
Depth could be a small problem, given they'll be relying on second-year Aussie Jonah Bolden and young bucks Shake Milton and Zhaire Smith to do a lot of the bench heavy lifting, but there is enough topend talent in the mix to go all the way.
Oh, and if you believe those off-season videos of Aussie Ben Simmons splashing everything from the outside, then he's about to take another huge step in what has already been an outstanding start to his career.
For the knockers, remember, this kid is still just 23 and averaged 18-9-8 last season. It's odd to say it, given how good he's been, but look for a breakout season from the Melbourne-born stud.
HOUSTON ROCKETS $9
There are some people out there who believe a back court of Russell Westbrook and James Harden can be successful.
I'm not one of them.
Harden is one of the best scorers in the NBA, but had the highest usage rate of 40.5 per cent (percentage of plays resulting in a particular player either shooting the ball, turning the ball over or getting to the free-throw line) last season. Westbrook is one of the game's most athletic players, but his 30.9 per cent was 10th in the league.
Some say Westbrook can take the load off Harden but he couldn't coexist with pass-first point guard Chris Paul so how long before they're yelling at each other for taking too many shots?
That's before you factor in Westbrook's penchant for padding his stats and repeatedly turning to water when games are on the line.
It's going to be a very interesting season in Houston.
Golden State $15
New Orleans $51
San Antonio $67
Oklahoma City $151
New York $201