The 2017 NBA Finals, a much-anticipated third consecutive matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, was supposed to be epic. Instead, it turned out to be anything but. The four-headed monster from the Bay Area left no doubt that they were the cream of the crop, dispatching the defending champs in five games and proceeding to pop bottles like a team that just won its second title in three seasons.
From start to finish, the Golden State Warriors were simply “Golden” in the 2016–17 season. And something tells us they will take their time and enjoy being the team at the top of the NBA mountain. Yet, while there’s still a bit of time between now and next year’s opening tip-off, that doesn’t mean we can’t try and predict how the 2017–18 season will turn out. Here’s a look at who oddsmakers in Vegas pick to win the 2018 NBA Championship.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves failed to get the job done in 2016–17. The group put together an uninspiring 31-51 record, finished 13th in the Western Conference standings, and have missed the postseason for 13 consecutive seasons. Still, there is reason to be excited if you’re a T-Wolves fan. Tom Thibodeau is already starting to put his stamp on the organization, the club is ripe with young talent like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and thanks to the draft-night for All-Star Jimmy Butler, Minnesota is poised to take the next step in its evolution. Don’t sleep on the Timberwolves in 2017–18.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
Just when you thought triple-crown king — and recently-anointed MVP — Russell Westbrook might have to carry the Thunder once again in 2017–18, the organization made arguably the biggest splash of the offseason, trading for four-time All-Star Paul George.
With the dynamic duo of PG-13 and The Brodie, Oklahoma City now has a legitimate chance to make some noise in the Western Conference. Hopefully this relationship yields some positive results in the upcoming season (and possibly beyond); it’d be a shame if the Thunder franchise wasted its time giving away young assets for a one-year rental in George.
4. (tie) San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are the model of consistency, and it’s difficult to imagine that changing anytime soon. Especially if head coach Gregg Popovich continues to call the shots from the bench. However, as successful as this franchise is and has been for well over a decade, in today’s NBA, the Spurs will only go as far as all-world superstar Kawhi Leonard takes them. As we saw in the 2017 Western Conference Finals, with The Claw, San Antonio is no match for the mighty Golden State Warriors.
4. (tie) Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets definitely soared in Mike D’Antoni’s first season as the team’s head coach. James Harden flashed his freakishly ridiculous point guard skills (leading the league in assists per game, with 11.2, while averaging a cool 29.1 points per game). The Rockets scored 115.3 points per game (second of 30), went 55-27, and finished third in the Western Conference.
While this group wasn’t good enough to advance past the conference semifinals, the offseason acquisition of future Hall of Famer Chris Paul shows that the organization is ready to make a real push toward the throne. The Rockets will be a “must-see” in 2017–18.
3. Boston Celtics
We knew the Boston Celtics were good, but we had no idea they were “first seed in the East” good. Well, it turns out that’s exactly what they are. Led by All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas and his 28.9 points per game, the C’s finished the 2016–17 regular season with a 53-29 mark and earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Unfortunately, home-court advantage did the club no favors in the playoffs, as the Cavs ousted Boston in five games in the Eastern Conference finals. Moral of the story: The Celtics are a solid bunch, but they probably don’t have enough firepower to really contend for a title. Then again, the offseason addition of a certain Utah Jazz All-Star might change that…
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
For the third consecutive season, the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for Cavs fans, unlike the 2015–16 campaign, the squad could not overcome the juggernaut from the Bay Area. Throw in the situation involving Kyrie Irving’s recent trade request and there’s now a level of uncertainty in The Land that we haven’t seen in quite some time. Of course, as long as LeBron James remains in town, the Cavaliers will continue to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. If only that was good enough to be the best of the best.
1. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are the team to beat, and everyone in the NBA knows it. That’s just what happens when you add a player like Kevin Durant to a club already consisting of All-Stars like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. In the end, the only question is, just how dominant can this team be? If the 2017–18 season turns out to be anything like the 2016–17 campaign, we’re not sure the world is ready for the answer.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.