1. Golden State Warriors (1st in the West)
2016: 73-9, Point Differential: +10.8 (1st), Offense: 112.5 (1st), Defense: 100.9 (T-4th)
I knew there was a chance, but it's still hard to wrap my ahead around the fact that Kevin Durant is a part of this team. They are the prohibitive favorites to win it all and have a Vegas over/under of 66.5 wins that sounds silly at first until you consider that they won 67 in Steve Kerr's first year as coach before last year's NBA record of 73 wins. I'd still caution against betting that at all considering that they won't be pushing for the record again, but with their talent, it's hard not to see them around the 70 win mark. Unlike the 2010-11 Miami Heat, this team should mesh immediately with their shooting and lack of ball dominating skill sets, and their All-NBA stars are all in the peak of their primes, giving them more staying power than the 2007-08 Boston Celtics. Durant fits in seamlessly with his shooting, passing, positional versatility, and overall unselfishness while also adding more shot blocking with more length than Harrison Barnes provided in their smaller lineups and provides the one thing they were missing in their league-best offense: the ability to get to the free throw line.
|I used this slide for school in a hypothetical free agency pitch, but it's relevant here to show KD's fit.|
2016: 57-25, Point Differential: +6.0 (4th), Offense: 108.1 (4th), Defense: 102.3 (10th)
It will be interesting to see how much LeBron James and the defending champs coast now that they finally delivered a trophy for Cleveland. With the Matthew Dellavedova sign and trade and Mo Williams late retirement, they are mostly relying on rookie second rounder Kay Felder as backup point guard, and although he is a potential dynamo, they might have to tax James with the strain of leading the second unit in his age-32 season. They remain mostly unchallenged atop the East and still have the best player of his generation to lead the way to 55-60 win campaign, but Zach Lowe made a great point in his recent tiers rankings: there's never been a Finals trilogy. Even the famed 1980's Celtics and Lakers would stumble upon the Sixers and Rockets in the middle of their historic meetings, so you never know what can happen.