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Chris graduated from Georgia State University in 2009 with degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing. He has spent a lot of time working with the media. From engineering radio broadcast for most of Atlanta’s major sports teams to shooting high school football games behind a camera, Chris has a lot of media experience. Besides that, he loves soccer, detective shows, and a buffet list of 'nerdy' things that would embarrass his wife.

Watching the Throne: Realistic Challengers for the 2016 NBA Championship

stephen-curry-golden-state-warriors

Who can stop Golden State’s title party? (Credit: AP)

Anyone who watched the 2014-2015 NBA season and Playoffs knows how good the Golden State Warriors were. Their stellar season ended with them being crowned champions over Lebron James and an injury-riddled Cleveland Cavaliers.  Stephen Curry was the league MVP, the Warriors were the NBA’s highest scoring team, and were sitting on top of the world.

Flash forward to this season and it is inarguable that the Warriors are an even better team than they were last year. Last week, on a night when Kobe Bryant amassed 50 shots in his last game ever, Steph Curry almost scored 50 to help Golden State break the ’96 Bulls record of 72 wins in an NBA season. Now the Warriors are looking at collecting even more wins during the postseason. During the offseason, everyone wanted to know whether they could repeat. The evidence thus far would yield a resounding ‘yes’. Consider the following: the Warriors didn’t lose back-to-back games all season, nor did they lose to any single opponent more than once.

And given the way Golden State dispatched most of their opponents this season, the better question would be — can any other NBA team really get in the way of a Warriors repeat?

San Antonio Spurs

Of all the teams that can potentially beat the Warriors in a NBA Playoff series, the Spurs are the only ones who can do it without breaking 100 points. They did it once before in March when they didn’t let a single player from Golden State score 20 points. In fact, when the Spurs are on their game there isn’t a single team in the NBA they can’t stifle. Throw in a hot LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard and no one should be looking forward to playing San Antonio, not even the reigning champs.

But while anything can happen in the playoffs, it is important to note that the Warriors beat the Spurs three out of four times already in 2016 and Steph Curry pretty much had his way in the lane.

If San Antonio is to beat the Warriors, they are going to have to find a way to stop Curry from getting points in the paint.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are the second most likely team to face the Warriors this postseason and are likely itching for a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. They shouldn’t. Cleveland is in the very unique position of having one of the best players in the game in Lebron James. However, once you get past Kyrie Irving, the Cavs are lacking the appropriate “muscle” to go a full seven games with the Warriors.

But what about the play of Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson in last year’s playoffs, and what about the possibility of having a fully healthy Kevin Love?

While these points are reasons to give hope to Cavs fans, the fact that Golden State generally forces teams to play “small” or with less big men on the court negates those points. Cleveland is going to have to match up perfectly with the quick shot Warriors with uncomfortable formations with guys like Matthew Dellavedova or Iman Shumpert guarding Stephen Curry…

Atlanta Hawks

Ironically, the Cavs weakness might actually be a strength for the Atlanta Hawks if they were to somehow make it to the NBA Finals. The Hawks are very much a team built like the Spurs and Coach “Bud” generally likes to focus on defensive duties first. Of course, the trick is getting to the Finals.

It’s easy to forget that the Hawks are just a year removed from their best regular season ever. It’s easy because they have blown cold for long parts of the season. With the Eastern third seed within their grasp, the Atlanta Hawks somehow lost to an understaffed Wizards team. Even this past Saturday, they blew a double digit lead only to squeak by the Boston Celtics.

Which version of this team shows up is very much the key to Atlanta being a force in the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder

I like OKC. But they are the epitome of underachieving and generally miss a clutch factor in the big games.

Now the talent is there, and their inclusion on this list is more a reflection of that than their actual chances. Their defense leaves a lot to be desired, and oh, by the way, does anyone else think Kevin Durant possibly has one eye out of OKC?

Either way, I just want to see this again

Verdict

Anything can happen in the playoffs, but I see Golden State’s motivation levels increasing the closer they get to the Finals. It’s not going to be easy and the team with the best chance of beating them is going to have to play perfect ball and hope that Golden State doesn’t.

Because if 2016 has showed us anything, it’s that the Warriors are playing on a different level than the rest of the NBA.

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