Ranking biggest threats to Warriors championship repeat


Just over four weeks ago, the Warriors took down the Boston Celtics and clinched their seventh NBA title in franchise history and the fourth in the last eight years.

Can they do it again?

Since the turn of the century, three teams have been crowned champions in consecutive seasons. The Los Angeles Lakers did it twice with a three-peat from 2000-02 and again in 2009-10. LeBron James and the Miami Heat won consecutive titles in 2012-13, and the Warriors are the latest team to achieve the feat in 2017-18 seasons at Oracle Arena.

Looking ahead to next season, who will stand in the way of Steph Curry and company joining that list again? We list the top 10 biggest threats:

10. Lakers

I know, I know. It’s the Lakers. Title favorites heading into last season, the addition of Russell Westbrook to the star duo of James and Anthony Davis fell flat on its face. In an era where two-thirds of the league make it to at least the play-in tournament, the Lakers couldn’t accomplish even that, finishing a disappointing 33-49 and in 11th place in the Western Conference.

But any team with James, who is entering his 20th season, is a threat. And whether you believe him or not, new coach Darvin Ham insists he’s going to find the best way to use Westbrook and redefine his game at 33 years old.

Acquiring Kyrie Irving in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, which every Lakers fan on Twitter believes will happen, wouldn't hurt either.

9. Timberwolves

Irrelevant since the days of Kevin Garnett, the Wolves made some noise last postseason by taking the Memphis Grizzlies to six games in a competitive first round.

Minnesota has been the talk of the offseason after trading a handful of role players, four first-round picks and 9,999 of the state's 10,000 lakes to the Utah Jazz for center Rudy Gobert to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt.

The trade for Gobert befuddled experts around the league as the Wolves are opting to go big while the rest of the NBA goes small and fast. But what if … they’re right?

8. Nuggets

Back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokić is a problem. Denver hasn’t made headlines this summer like other teams in the West, but the Nuggets upgraded their defense by acquiring Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They also had a fantastic under-the-radar signing by luring Bruce Brown away from the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.

If Jamal Murray can return to form after missing the entirety of last season while recovering from a torn ACL, the Nuggets should be in the mix.

7. 76ers

James Harden, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey is a pretty impressive top four. Add veteran stopper P.J. Tucker, who the 76ers swiped away from the Miami Heat in free agency, and the Sixers are one of the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference.

It's just a shame they missed out on Bo Cruz.

6. Grizzlies

At this point of the summer last year, I didn’t have Memphis on my list as a potential rival for the Warriors. But that’s been the case since the two teams squared off in a spice-filled six-game series in the conference semifinals.

Memphis believes it lives “rent free” in the heads of the veteran Warriors. Signing superstar Ja Morant to a five-year rookie max extension worth $193 million should give the Grizzlies some real estate deep in the playoffs for the next few years, at the very least.

5. Suns

In the most Brian Windhorst voice possible, “What’s going on in Phoenix?”

The Suns didn’t want to offer Deandre Ayton the rookie max extension this offseason, so they let him hit the market as a restricted free agent. On Thursday, the Indiana Pacers offered Ayton a four-year deal worth $133 million, which the Suns quickly matched.

So, instead of giving Ayton a fifth year, Phoenix is paying him over $33 million per season?

Anyway, Chris Paul, Devin Booker and company will look to bounce back from getting eliminated in the second round to the Dallas Mavericks last postseason.

4. Clippers

The return of Kawhi Leonard propels the Clippers up this list and creates another giant in the West.

Leonard missed last season while recovering from a torn ACL. In his second season with the Clippers, the five-time All-NBA forward helped put the franchise in position to advance to the conference finals for the first time before suffering a partial tear of the ACL in his right knee.

Remember, it was just three years ago when Leonard averaged 28.5 points per game and took down the Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals as a member of the Toronto Raptors.

RELATED: Watch Klay hilariously hold golf pose after nailing tee shot

Having played just 40 games over the last three seasons, John Wall is a bit of a mystery on a two-year deal worth $13.2 million. But if he contributes and makes life easier for Leonard and Paul George, Los Angeles just might have something cooking.

3. Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo.

I could’ve stopped the explanation there, but for real -- the Bucks were one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals without their second-best player, Khris Middleton. Antetokounmpo nearly did it himself and was clearly exhausted by the end of that semifinal series against the Boston Celtics.

Giving the two-time MVP a few extra weeks of rest this summer didn’t hurt the Bucks’ chances heading into next season.

2. Celtics

After making their first Finals appearance since 2010 and taking the Warriors to six games, the Celtics got better this offseason.

Boston signed Danilo Gallinari to a two-year deal and completed a trade with the Pacers for guard Malcolm Brogdon, adding two tough, veteran players who will fit right in with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That defense is going to be tough, and it’d be surprising to see Tatum play so poorly again in another Finals like he did against Golden State.

Boston clearly got better this offseason. And the Warriors, after losing key role players Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. in free agency, might not be able to say the same.

1. Kevin Durant

The biggest threat to the Warriors’ championship repeat is an old friend. Durant requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets just hours before free agency opened, and NBA Twitter hasn’t been the same since.

Initially, Durant named the Suns and Heat as two favored landing spots. If he landed in Phoenix or Miami, those teams would likely become championship favorites immediately. Even if Durant was traded to the lowly Orlando Magic, that team would need to be taken seriously.

If Durant stays put with the Nets and gives his partnership with Kyrie Irving another chance, it's not difficult to imagine that team finally living up to the hype and representing the East.

Or, if the "rumblings" heard across the league are true and Durant wants to return to the Warriors and the front office feels the same, you can delete this list and mark Golden State as back-to-back champs in permanent marker already.

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