Kevin Durant may be out for the next few weeks, but his Golden State Warriors remain prohibitive favorites to win the NBA’s Western Conference and advance to the 2017 NBA Finals. The same goes for the Cleveland Cavaliers of the East. They’re clearly the two best teams, but who can stop their collision course towards a championship rematch? That’s our roundtable question this week.
Shahan Kamal, Campus Correspondent
A lot has changed in the NBA in the last few weeks, but the one team that stayed the same was the Spurs. The Cavaliers made some power moves to bolster their roster and fill some holes, and I think they’re officially a lock to make the finals. Kevin Durant is hurt now, so the Warriors are at a disadvantage given a matchup with the Spurs if he’s not entirely healthy come the playoffs. The Spurs battered the Warriors in Oakland to start the season, and Durant was the only bright spot for Golden State in that game. Not to mention, Stephen Curry has been in a slump as of late and you never know how long it’ll last. It only takes four below-average games out of seven for a team to get knocked out, and the Spurs are dangerous when they get an advantage. They’re the only team capable of stopping the inevitable Cavaliers and Warriors rematch.
Sophie Ross, Campus Correspondent
I think, well I hope, that the Warriors are a given for a spot in the finals this year. The Spurs are only four games behind them in the West, which makes me nervous because Stephen Curry hasn’t been shooting particularly well as of late and Kevin Durant is hurt. I am hoping for a Cleveland and Golden State match up, so the Warriors can redeem themselves from last year. The biggest threat to that happening are the Celtics and the surging Wizards. Both are within six games of the Cavs and have star point guards in Isaiah Thomas and John Wall. The Wizards just beat the Warriors, so if they can beat the Warriors they can definitely beat the Cavs.
Chris Hanna, Staff Writer
Given the aforementioned recent injury to Kevin Durant, I think it is very possible the Warriors are unseated as the West’s representative in the Finals. The most likely teams to take their place are the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets, but I think an underdog can emerge come playoff time. That underdog is the Los Angeles Clippers, who have all the right pieces in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. They have the capability to click at any moment and if they click in the playoffs, I could see them represent the Western Conference.
As for the East, any one of the current top four teams have a legitimate shot. But I’ll give the nod to the Toronto Raptors, who just acquired Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic and have shown they can beat and keep up with other top teams in the conference. I think it could be Toronto against the Cleveland Cavaliers in an Eastern Conference Finals rematch, with the Raptors keeping LeBron James out of the Finals for the first time since 2010.
Matthew Kren, Staff Writer
The Cavaliers, in my opinion, are a foregone conclusion for the finals once again as no one will beat LeBron in a seven-game series in the East, that is just silly to think about. The Warriors on the other hand are in some serious trouble, as many have mentioned the shooting slump of Steph Curry and the injury to Kevin Durant. Add in the fact that Durant was averaging 8.2 rebounds per game, they will have to resort to small ball and a run and gun offense, which plays right into the hands of the Houston Rockets. With the addition of Lou Williams, the Rockets, like head coach Mike D’Antoni alluded to, could feasibly shoot 50 3-pointers a game. I am all in for Williams, James Harden, Ryan Anderson and three-point contest winner Eric Gordon making a majority of those shots. I think in a series against the Warriors, the Rockets will win in six, as they have two performances from Harden and two great shooting nights.
Matt Barresi, Staff Writer
So much has happened in the NBA these past weeks, with injuries and trades re-arranging teams league wide. Despite all that, I still think the team with the best chance to disrupt a third Cavaliers-Warriors finals is the Toronto Raptors. They handled the trade deadline magnificently, picking up Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker who are going to create matchup nightmares for everyone in the East, while giving up nothing that really hurts them. They have good depth and with their acquisitions, Dwayne Casey’s lineup flexibility is among the best in the league. Demar Derozan has become a full fledged star. While Kyle Lowry’s loss hurts them, I still think they are capable of avoiding the dreaded No. 4 seed. Hopefully Lowry’s absence will allow Cory Joseph and Delon Wright to further develop, just making them deeper for a playoff run. Plus after playing in the Olympics over the summer, Lowry getting rested might even help him. I think when it comes down the stretch of close games, Toronto can, and will, hang with the Cavaliers and anyone in the East.
Kenny Beardsley, Campus Correspondent
With the recent knee injury to Kevin Durant it is time to worry in Golden State. A once-super team now sees themselves in a dangerous position with a gutted roster. To sign Durant the Warriors had to open cap space, losing key players including Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Marreese Speights, Festus Ezeli and Leandro Barbosa. Now that the Warriors are without a sufficient supporting cast and have instead a hurt superstar, the window to dethrone the back-to-back conference champions is open. The Houston Rockets are ready to jump through the window. James Harden, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and compant are dominating the league with the three-point shot averaging 14.6 three point field goals made per game 115 points per game. The Rockets have split the season series with the Warriors 1-1. A healthy Durant might not even be enough to save the Warriors from this offensive behemoth.
Shahan Kamal is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Sophia Ross is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kenny Beardsley is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.