The 2017-2018 NBA season is being dubbed (pun intended) a coronation party for the Golden State Warrior’s dynasty. Last year was a warm-up act as they learned how to bring Kevin Durant’s other-worldly skills to bear within their juggernaut offense. This season they should all be familiar and able to gel from game one. Things don’t always work that way however.
Anyone that watches the NBA knows that the road down highway 82 is full of potholes, twists, and turns. Many alleged perfect teams have fallen due to an injury or an emerging team. The Warriors will have struggles this season, and they will have doubt. What can undermine their coronation? Here are three of my thoughts:
Steph Curry has faulty ankles. He is one sick Kyrie Irving crossover away from having literal broken ankles, and being out for an extended period of time. Kevin Durant has had knees problems in the past, and as someone that is tall, skinny, and freakishly athletic, he is prone to making quick, explosive moves that tend to blow-up knee ligaments. All teams are susceptible to injury, but when you are the preordained champion the worry of injury is greater than most.
2. Olympic Carmelo Anthony
I loved watching the 2012 and 2016 Olympic highlights to see Carmelo play the perfect third or fourth wheel on offense. He has an extremely high basketball IQ and knows how to get open without the ball. Having him play off of the dynamic playmaking ability of Russell Westbrook and Paul George potentially can be career changing for Carmelo.
If he can give a full season of Olympic Carmelo to the OKC Thunder, then he will no longer be a ball stopping one-on-one sideshow and could emerge as an NBA champion. The Oklahoma City Thunder are a serious threat to the Warriors, but the blending of their three superstars is the key. The past-his-prime Carmelo is one that must sacrifice his game, and let Westbrook and George lead the way. If Carmelo can transform into a highly efficient, floor spacing weapon, then the Thunder will be at their lethal best.
1. Hungry LeBron James
The last time that LeBron James was league Most Valuable Player way back in the 2012-2013 season. Kyrie Irving asked to be traded away from Cleveland in part because he was overshadowed by LeBron. The Cavalier’s roster is filled with players that are highly questionable going into this season. Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie’s replacement, is not starting the season with the team since he is recovering from well-publicized hip injury.
In Thomas’ place, the Cavs are relying on Derrick Rose to fill-in as their starting point guard. He has been dealing with knee issues for years and is not the modern deep shooting threat that teams desire. Dwayne Wade is a year older and only played sixty regular season games last year; it was also a career low in terms of minutes per game. The often-maligned Kevin Love is moving from starting power forward to starting a center in order to allow new addition Jae Crowder to start at power forward to add three-point shooting to a starting line-up that lacks range.
All this adds up to monster LeBron. He is going to need to do more and have the ball in his hands more. He is going to be angry and engaged from the opening tip against Boston on opening night. If he can manage to maintain his level of greatness while not getting hurt the entire season, and make it back to the NBA Finals, then the Warriors should be very nervous.