The number one story coming into the 2016 NBA offseason was which team was going to come out victorious in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. Many assumed that he would most likely stay put in Oklahoma City, but the Clippers, Warriors, Spurs, and Celtics all had an outside chance. Kevin Durant shocked the basketball world when he announced that he would be signing with the Golden State Warriors. Many thought that the Warriors could be the greatest super team ever assembled, and some even made the outlandish statement that they could potentially go 82-0.
There have been a handful of dynasties that the NBA has seen since its existence, and a lot of these teams did not have to deal with the salary cap restrictions that current NBA teams are faced with. Many teams in the NBA have turned to creating a big three under the salary cap restrictions. The Cavaliers have their big three in LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, and the Clippers also have a big three in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. Many great teams of the past had their own big threes and great team play that would be able to put up a fight and even beat the current Warriors team.
Here are 15 teams past and present that could beat the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors:
15. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers were in the running to sign Kevin Durant. They wanted to create a big four in a similar way that the Warriors have just done, but the Clippers did not win the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, to their displeasure. The Clippers still have an elite level team, but they seem to underperform each and every year. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would give the Clippers an advantage on the offensive and defensive rebounds, but may also be a detriment in playing at a fast pace. Chris Paul is a great defender who could keep Steph Curry from single handily winning the game. Kevin Durant would be the most successful of the four stars on the Warriors. Newly drafted forward Brice Johnson is athletic enough to pester Kevin Durant, but he is an unproven rookie. The Clippers will have a fighting chance when they face off against the Warriors this coming season.
14. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have acquired Pau Gasol to boost their front court, and this would help them control the boards and bully the Warriors on the inside. The Warriors would have a major advantage on the fast break, but if LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol grab offensive rebounds at a high rate, the fast break opportunities would not be as plentiful for the Warriors. Tim Duncan may have retired this offseason, but the addition of Pau Gasol may be an upgrade for a Spurs team that had the second best record in the NBA last season. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are not the star caliber players that they once were.
The Warriors undoubtedly would have an advantage in the back court with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. The Matchup between Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant would most likely be the deciding factor in who would be victorious in this match up. The Warriors were able to avoid a playoff series with the Spurs this past season, but with the Thunder losing Durant, expect the Spurs to be Golden State’s biggest obstacle in heading back to the NBA Finals in 2017.
13. Cleveland Cavaliers
The defending NBA champions beat the Warriors when they had a three to one series lead on them, so there is probably no team that is better suited to presently beat the Warriors new super team. Next season, the Cavaliers will have a similar line up from the one that played the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. The only subtractions are Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Delladova, and these two players were not major contributors for the Cavs. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving would not be as productive on offense as they were in the finals. Kevin Love would need to improve his offensive output against this powerhouse Warriors team.
The Warriors most likely would be the favorites in a match up against the Cavs, but the Warriors choked against the Cavs before so it is not unrealistic to assume the past could repeat itself. Plus, any team that has LeBron James has a fighting chance.
12. 2004-05 San Antonio Spurs
This marked the beginning of a dynamic trio that would stay together for over 10 years. That trio consisted of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli, and at the time they were all elite basketball players. The Spurs under Coach Greg Popovich have not always had the flashiest players, but they have played exemplary team basketball which has had teams confused as to where the ball is traveling and who is going to score on any given play.
The Warriors by bringing in Kevin Durant have undoubtedly messed with their chemistry a little bit. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and the rest of the team are unfamiliar on how to play alongside Kevin Durant. There will be some growing pains when this team starts playing, and this is why a championship caliber team like the 2004-05 Spurs could take on the Warriors and surprise them.
11. 1988-89 Detroit Pistons
The bad boy Pistons played a brand of physical basketball that would make them Warriors seem frail. The Pistons dynasty of the late 80s was arguably the best defensive basketball team the NBA has ever seen. They did play dirty, and players like Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer wanted to get underneath their opponents’ skin and defeat them mentally. The Pistons had to defeat the mighty Celtics and show time Lakers in order to garner an NBA championship. Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Mark Aguire provided the bulk of the points, but Vinnie Johnson could come off the bench and heat up from the field quickly. Dennis Rodman would be capable of guarding any of the Warriors’ new big four.
We saw the Warriors have trouble with a bigger Cleveland team in the finals, so imagine what these Pistons could do. The Warriors would have a difficult time scoring against the bad boy Pistons, and it would be an uphill battle if they were to face off.
10. 1964-65 Boston Celtics
This historic team had five Hall of Famers on it at once and was led by the Great Bill Russell. All driving lanes would be closed down for the Warriors by Bill Russell. The Warriors would have a tough time grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds in this game, and Russell himself grabbed 24 rebounds a game. The Celtics were not the greatest offensive team, but they may have been the best defensive team the NBA has ever seen.
The Warriors would have a tough time finding space to get open shots against this team. With the addition of Kevin Durant it may take time for the team to fully gel and find a groove that has them playing the best team basketball. The Celtics were in the midst of winning 8 consecutive championships, and this chemistry and winning culture would give the Celtics a slight advantage.
9. 1991-92 Chicago Bulls
The 1991-92 Chicago Bulls may not have been the greatest team assembled in the history of the Chicago Bulls, but they still were able to bring home a championship at the end of the season. The team’s starting lineup consisted of John Paxson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and Bill Cartwright. B.J. Armstrong was also a very capable backup point guard, and could be called upon to cover Steph Curry if needed. Horace Grant was an extremely athletic and long power forward, who would be more than capable of covering either Kevin Durant or Draymond Green.
Jordan seemingly was playing at perhaps the highest level of his career during the 1991-92 NBA season. The new look Warriors would give the 1991-92 a good game, and a game between these two teams would more than likely go down to the wire. It might come down to who has the ball last.
8. 2007-08 Boston Celtics
The 2007-08 Boston Celtics were constructed quickly and in a genius matter by Danny Ainge. Ainge got both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in trades, and the Celtics were poised to make a run at a title. The Celtics boasted a starting lineup of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. As talented as this team was offensively, they may have been even more dominant on the defensive side of the ball. They also had a young defensive stud on the bench in Tony Allen.
The new look Warriors seemingly have a potent offense, but they would struggle to score against a staunch defensive Celtics team. The Celtics could also score their share fair of points. Garnett, Allen, and Pierce were all elite level scorers, and could easily get 20 or more points each and every game. The Warriors would need to play flawless to win.
7. 1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers
Prior to the 1999-00 NBA season, the Lakers hired Phil Jackson to come in and instill a winning culture into the Lakers. The team responded and won 67 games that season. The team was led by the dynamic duo of Shaq and Kobe, and also had a great amount of depth coming off of their bench. The bench consisted of Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, and John Salley. The Warriors seem to be losing depth, and the losses of Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and others will not be easy to overcome.
Shaq and Kobe are both all timers, and it is hard to see anyone on the Warriors who would be able to physically keep up with Shaq in the low post. The Warriors also traded away Andrew Bogut, diminishing the front court help that would be needed to guard Shaq.
6. 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers
Wilt Chamberlin and the Philadelphia 76ers had been struggling for years to overcome the Boston Celtics, but they finally did in 1967, and brought an NBA championship back to Philly. Like the Golden State Warriors, the 1966-67 Sixers had four great scorers in Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Billy Cunningham, and one of the greatest scorers in NBA history in Wilt Chamberlin. All four of these players averaged over 18 points per game, so this team could keep up with the Warriors offensively. They only gave up 94 points a game as well, so they were almost as good on defense as they were on offense. Wilt averaged 24 rebounds per game on the season, so the Warriors would have a tough time grabbing boards in this hypothetical match up. The 76ers defeated the legendary Celtics eight times during the season and playoffs, so the Warriors wouldn’t be so tough.
5. 1985-86 Boston Celtics
The Celtics were one of the elite basketball teams of the 80s, and their best team was assembled for the 1985-1986 NBA season. Larry Bird was the leader of a championship-hungry team which also featured Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, and Danny Ainge in the starting lineup. This team was virtually unbeatable at home and was just as good defensively as they were offensively. The Warriors would get bullied in the post, and the Celtics had the defensive ability to shut down their stars.
Draymond Green would probably have an advantage on Robert Parish because of his agility. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant, would be pestered throughout the game, and the Celtics bench also provided a lot of offensive and defensive fire power. If the Warriors started jacking long threes and making them, they would have a chance at toppling this great Celtics team.
4. 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers
The 1986-87 Lakers was the best installment of the “Showtime” Lakers. Klay Thompson in 2016 bragged about the 2015-16 Warriors being better than these show time Lakers, but the addition of Kevin Durant is the only way to make a match up like this even competitive. The Lakers had a starting lineup of Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, James Worthy, A.C. Green, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Magic and Kareem are two of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen, and no one on the current Warriors roster has reached the level of Magic and Kareem. Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis, and Mychal Thompson provided good bench depth, and the Warriors second unit is starting to look suspect. The Lakers were also a defensive juggernaut.
It is hard to see the Warriors being able to stop Magic or Kareem, without letting James Worthy and company thrash them.
3. 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers were one of the elite teams of the NBA during the late 70s and early 80s, but could not accomplish the feat of winning an NBA title. Harold Katz took over the team in 1982, and acquired Moses Malone. Moses was one of the most dominant players in basketball at the time, and helped lead the lowly Houston Rockets to the NBA finals in 1981. Malone was a ferocious rebounder and had a high motor which would help him in guarding a player of Draymond Green’s caliber.
The 76ers also had Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Julius Erving, and Marc Iavaroni in the starting lineup, and Bobby Jones was a versatile defender who could guard any of the Warriors new 4 star lineup. The Warriors would need to play a perfect game to beat the 1983 NBA champions who only lost one game in the playoffs.
2. 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers
During the 1971-72 season the Lakers wrote themselves into the record book by winning 33 consecutive games, and that record still stands today. The Lakers had two players in Jerry West and Gail Goodrich that averaged over 25 points per game similarly to Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are good players, but they would be overmatched by Jim McMillian and arguably the greatest center to ever play the game of basketball in Wilt Chamberlin. Chamberlin may be seen as a player that would not be able to keep up with the Warriors fast pace of play, but Wilt the Stilt averaged 43 minutes a game and was extremely durable. Jerry West was an expert at distributing the basketball and finding his teammates when they were open. This matchup would be high scoring and exciting to watch, but the 1971-72 Lakers would be favored.
1. 1995-96 Chicago Bulls
This may have been the greatest team in NBA history, and their record win total for a season stood for 20 years until the Warriors broke it. The Bulls sported a starting lineup of Ron Harper, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Luc Longley. Luc Longley could easily be replaced by Rodman at the center position, and the bulls could insert the more versatile Toni Kukoc to play the fast pace the Warriors are accustom to playing. Steve Kerr would be a great three-point shooting threat as well off the bench.
The Bulls would most likely over power the Warriors on the defensive side of the ball. Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman were all first team NBA quality defenders. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson would not have an easy time finding open shots. The Bulls would be the favorites against this new look Warriors squad.
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