The defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors are a lock to repeat and win their third championship in four years. Many teams in the Western Conference have done their best to add talent and compete, but there are a select few who have the Warriors on their mind all the time.
Here they are:
5. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers have met the Warriors in the playoffs the past two years. In nine games played, however, Portland has only managed to get one win.
Despite the lack of success against the Warriors, Lillard’s competitive spirit has not wavered:
“I might have too much pride for that or be too much of a competitor where I couldn’t bring myself to [join a superteam],” Lillard said on the possibility of him teaming up with other players. “But it also makes it more fun. You get to take a monster down and that’s always fun.”
4. Gregg Popovich
Popovich almost had his first taste of postseason victory against the Warriors in Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals. However, a Kawhi Leonard injury and lost 25-point lead was critical in the Spurs soon being swept in the series.
Every Popovich-coached team competes at a high level due to unparalleled ball movement and constant defensive effort. But with drama surrounding Leonard and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili no longer being the players they once were, Pop has a tough task ahead of him.
3. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook has no love lost with former teammate Kevin Durant and has played his best basketball against the Warriors this season. In two games (both wins), Westbrook has averaged 34.0 points, 9.0 assists, and 9.5 rebounds.
The reigning MVP would undoubtedly go all out in a playoff series against the Warriors. Brodie is the ultimate competitor and has his best chance to beat them with new additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony backing him up.
2. LeBron James
LeBron James worries about the Warriors because they are likely the team he will face in the Finals for years to come and could continue to blemish his Finals record.
"I need to sit down and figure this thing out. And so I don't know as far as me personally right now,” James said following last year’s Game 5 loss to the Warriors. “But as far as that team, they're going to be here for a while. They're going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their guys are in their 20s. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don't show any signs of slowing down.”
LeBron’s upcoming free agency will be won by the team that gives him the best chance to beat the Warriors in the playoffs. Him beating a 73-win team that added a former MVP could legitimize his candidacy as G.O.A.T.
1. Daryl Morey
The Houston Rockets have faced the Warriors in two of the past three postseasons. They’ve made majors moves like trading for Chris Paul and other solid role players like PJ Tucker and Gerald Green.
"I think I'm not supposed to say that, but we're basically obsessed with 'How do we beat the Warriors?' Morey said. “But we calculated it—it's like 90 percent if we're gonna win a title, we've gotta obviously beat the Warriors at some point. So we're extremely focused on that. A lot of our signings and what we do during the year is based on that.”
The Rockets have focused on shooting the three-point shot as much as possible and focus on exploiting Warriors guard Stephen Curry on defense. Morey will do whatever it takes to beat the Warriors, and could potentially sign LeBron James to do it.