We’re halfway through the first round of the NBA playoffs, and people are wildly speculating about how things will shake out. Will the top-seeded Boston Celtics lose in the first round to the Chicago Bulls? Could the Milwaukee Bucks be a real contender in the East? Have the Cleveland Cavaliers turned it around or are they still struggling?
While many analysts will tell you how every series is important and could change the playoff landscape, the truth is none of it matters. The Golden State Warriors will win the 2017 NBA championship.
To say the Warriors are great is an understatement. The team has won more games over the past three regular seasons than any team in history, including the 1995-1998 Chicago Bulls teams. They finished this season with 67 wins and the best point differential in the league.
This is a team that took last year’s team that won an NBA record 73 wins and replaced Harrison Barnes with Kevin Durant. The addition of one of the top five NBA players in the league will more than made up for losing bench guys like Festus Ezeli. Is there another NBA team that can even hope to match up to a lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green? Answer: No.
Kevin Durant has been dealing with injuries the last few months, and even missed Games 2 and 3 of the Warriors’ first round series with the Portland Trail Blazers with knee issues. An injury to Durant could be devastating to the Warriors, and force them to win the NBA championship in six or maybe even seven games.
The Warriors were still great this season when Durant was injured. The team finished the year on a 15-1 stretch, most of which was done without their newly acquired forward, and are up 3-0 against Portland even though he didn’t play in Games 2 and 3. So even if Durant is not 100 percent throughout the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine anyone giving the Warriors any trouble.
And who are the Warriors top competitors? Besides Kawhi Leonard, every member of the Spurs was a better basketball player three years ago and they’re struggling against the Grizzlies. The Cavaliers went 26-26 the last 52 games of the season. The Celtics lost two games at home to the Bulls and might not get out of the first round. The only team that seems poised to take a shot at the Warriors are the Rockets, but they don’t have nearly the same level of talent around Harden as the Golden State. And despite being a great offense, they’re still less efficient and high-scoring as the Warriors and their defense is much worse.
So while it’s fun to see the Milwaukee Bucks giving the Toronto Raptors a hard time or watch John Wall and Bradley Beal finally make the leap to championship contenders, it doesn’t change the fact that every team not named the Warriors are just competing for second place.