The Golden State Warriors seem destined to run the league for the foreseeable future, with no clear foil in sight. I am here to figure out just who that next competitor will be, so without further ado, on to the power rankings.
29. Brooklyn Nets
The next time the Nets are good Draymond Green will have died of a stroke
The “I genuinely can’t map out a path to beating the Warriors” contenders
28. Atlanta Hawks
27. Indiana Pacers
26. Charlotte Hornets
25. Detroit Pistons
24. Orlando Magic
You tell me how any of these teams contend with the Warriors. These teams are flat-out fucked as currently constructed, and they have no easy way out to evolve.
The Trail Blazers
23. Portland Trail Blazers
The poor Trail Blazers. They have no chance at all but are totally locked in with their roster. They are the Warriors-lite and are destined to get swept in the playoffs by the Dubs forever.
The “Were 15 years behind you but at least we are in a big market” contenders
22. Chicago Bulls
21. New York Knicks
These might be the single two most mis-managed franchises in sports, and currently featuring rosters light years away from contending with the Warriors… but its New York and Chicago. Hard to put them behind teams like the Atlanta Hawks. Lets say the Bulls move Jimmy Butler for a treasure chest of assets from the Boston Celtics, or the Knicks commit to a future with Kristapas Porzingis, and then you add a huge free agent signing down the road? These teams will always be closer than the Hornets-Pistons-Hawks realm just because of their market.
The Banana Boat
20. Los Angeles Clippers
With the current Paul-Griffin-DJ core they have precisely 0 chance. If you told me they were absolutely running that team back for the next 5 years I would 100% list them 30th. BUT, there is an interesting, and the key word here is interesting, scenario with LeBron James finally heads West after the 2018 finals and joins up with his good buddy Chris Paul, fellow free agent Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. This team would be washed up as fuck and would totally get smoked by the Warriors, but the pure intrigue of the Banana Boat together (specifically, Paul and LeBron together) slots them at 20th. God I would love to see the veteran ring chasers they could recruit to come play with them.
The “Our Owners, Front Office and Coaches are competent so at least trust in that” contenders
19. Dallas Mavericks
18. Miami Heat
Pat Riley and Rick Carlisle probably have as good a chance of any non-LeBron player of taking the Warriors down these days. Both these teams don’t really seem likely to emerge as a title contender in the next 5 years, but with their excellent coaches and front offices I am totally willing to bet on them before the Clippers (Doc), Bulls (GarPax) or Knicks (Phil) on pure trust alone. And hey, maybe the heat land Gordon Hayward.
The “We might be really good in 2020 when Klay leaves” contenders
17. Phoenix Suns
16. Sacramento Kings
This is the “The Warriors are winning for as long as they have the core 4” tier as well. Neither of these teams is even remotely contending with the current rendition of Golden State. However, after 2019 when Klay might need to move on, but these teams could look very, very tough. Imagine a Suns roster with Bledsoe-Booker-Josh Jackson-Marquesse Chris and Dragan Bender with a bunch of cap room. Or a kings team with De’Aaron Fox-Buddy Hield-Michael Porter Jr-Lauri Markannen and WCS? Obviously so much can go wrong, but if you’re content to wait 3 years for your next non-Warriors champion, both these teams are at least on the right timeline.
The “We have Anthony Davis on our team” contender
15. New Orleans Pelicans
I’m not really sure how the Pelicans make this work. However, they have Anthony Davis, and nobody else does. That gets them to 15 by itself.
The “Maybe everyone gets hurt in 2018” contenders
14. Toronto Raptors
13. Washington Wizards
It’s really difficult to see how either of these teams could ever surpass the Celtics, not to even mention the Cavs, and that doesn’t even get us started on the Warriors. However, these teams are at minimum “good” now, and that alone is a better starting spot than like half the league. A future injury here and a random player development there and maybe we have a 1% chance. But by time value of money, thats probably a better investment than a 5% chance from the Suns in 2021.
EDIT: On second thought, these teams might as well be 28 and 27. Jesus Christ the Warriors are good. Even if they lose one of the core 4 they’re still killing these two teams. Good luck, NBA.
The “Somehow we will shoot even more 3’s than you” contenders
12. Denver Nuggets
11. Houston Rockets
These teams are both fairly good now (The Rockets obviously far superior) and should continue getting better over the next 2-3 years. Both have dominant offensive superstars in James Harden and Nikola Jokic, and offenses than can seemingly at least attempt keep pace with the Dubs. The problem is neither of their defenses are up to the challenge of competing with the Warriors, and neither of them seem like a real player for a big free agent signing or lottery pick. So maybe one of these teams get so good and so analytical they can out Warriors the Warriors. Seems unlikely but so does anyone not named LeBron beating the Warriors, so they land at 11 and 12.
The “NBA Rule Change” Contenders
10. Utah Jazz
9. Memphis Grizzlies
If the NBA decides this offseason it wants to go back to more of a 90’s NBA feel to counteract the offensive explosion, than these teams become interesting competitors to the Warriors, as they both offer the antithesis of the Warriors playing style. These teams would then rough and tough it agains the Dubs and just crush them on the glass and slow it down. Look, it’s gonna take something drastic to top the Warriors, why not a rule change?
The “Russell Westbrook and OKC Management are really motivated” contender
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
In an era where my teams will just decide to “tank” and wait out the Warriors, the Dubs are about as good as a lock as any to really give it their all to contend with the Warriors, and that in combination with the presence of Russell Westbrook is good enough for the 8 spot. And hey, maybe the make a shrewd move for Oklahoma’s own Blake Griffin this offseason and run out something like a Russ-Oladipo-Roberson-Blake-Adams starting 5 and just get extra physical with the Warriors. That would be fun.
The “See you in 2020” contenders
7. Milwaukee Bucks
6. Philadelphia 76ers
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
These are the “modern” NBA teams that are equipped to beat the Warriors with length, defensive versatility and young superstars. None of these teams have even a chance to beat the Warriors these next 2 seasons, but if you guaranteed the Warriors were taking the next 2 years anyways, these three teams have to be at the top of your betting boards to take down the dubs.
The Bucks, led by the amazing Greek Freak, could offer a downright incredible amount of defensive versatility with a lineup of Delly-Khris Middelton-Giannis-Jabari and THON Maker, not to mention possible FA signings. That kind of switching and length is exactly is what will be needed to take down the Warriors. That lineup doesn’t look intimidating enough on offense yet, but there’s a very real argument Giannis might be the best player in the NBA in 2020, and Jabari and Thon are full of offensive potential.
The 76ers look to running out a devastating core of Markelle Fultz-Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with young athletes like Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Nik Stauskas flanking them. There’s little question Fultz-Simmons-Embiid is the best young core in the NBA today, and the idea of Embiid against the Warriors utter lack of a big man is incredibly seductive for all Warriors haters. Imaging a 2020 finals where MVP Joel Embiid is throwing up 30 and 15 and 3rd year players Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons assert themselves as all-stars is not too far fetched.
And finally, everyone’s favorite “next” team, the Timberwolves. Yes, they did just vastly underperform expectations here in 2017, but a Tom Thibs led defense with versatile athletes like Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony Towns and Jonathan Isaac (?) definitely seems like a contender to take down the Warriors one day.
The “Future Superteam” contenders
4. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston Celtics
Here’s your next super teams. Wether it be in 2018 or 2020, these two franchise seem most equipped to put together the next “superteam”.
For the Celtics, the path to a super team is clear. A 208 team featuring Isiah Thomas-Jimmy Butler-Gordon Hayward-Jaylen Brown and Al Horford is in play, and would clearly represent a real challenge to the Warriors, as throwing Butler-Hayward-Brown and Horford at the Dubs on defense would be serious challenge.
For the Lakers, the “superteam” isn’t as clear. Is it a Lonzo Ball-D’Angelo Russell-Brandon Ingram-Paul George core? Or do the Lakers cash in on some assets and get LeBron to Los Angeles finally and send out a 2018 team with Russell Westbrook, Paul George and LeBron James? Magic Johnson will surely figure something out here.
The immediate contenders
2. San Antonio Spurs
These are seriously the only two teams who, as currently constructed, can at least claim they are hoping to beat the Warriors in 2018.
For the Spurs, do they come back with the same core and hope a healthy Kawhi is the answer, or do they make the move for Chris Paul and come at the Warriors with a Pop-CP3-Kawhi big 3? The basketball IQ and defensive ability to of that team would be a real competitor.
For the Cavs, the hope here is they can pull of a Kevin Love-Paul George swap and finally add some defensive versatility and offensive creativity to help take the load off LeBron. If that swap goes down and the Cavs add maybe one real bench piece (the dead corpse of a LeBron friend doesn’t count), then maybe the Cavs can give the Dubs a run in 2018. Oh, and they still have LeBron. Thats a really good place to start. He beat the 73-9 Warriors, he can do it again.