Which Teams Are Most Likely to Dethrone Golden State?

Every NBA team during the 2022-2023 season will be gunning for the what the Golden State Warriors have. After a few down years in which the franchise navigated through injuries and young player development, the Warriors’ core is back and healthier than they’ve been in a long time. 

Golden State knows that their window to win another championship might only be open for a couple more years, so they will be as determined as ever to defend their crown.

This should be an extremely compelling season considering the challenge Golden State is expected to face. Even though the Warriors should rightfully be considered the favorite, there are several legitimate contenders who could stand in the way to championship.  

Let’s take a look at four teams who could replace the Warriors as NBA champions this year and predict their future progressions:

Boston Celtics

It makes sense to start with the team who the Warriors faced in the 2022 NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics gave Golden State a lot of resistance early in the series, and even took a 2-1 lead heading into Game 4. We all know what happened after that, but Celtics fans should remain confident about their team’s prospects even under interim head coach Joe Mazzulla. 

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Many people were disappointed by the performance of Boston star forward Jayson Tatum, who could not find the range from the field in the NBA Finals. The shoulder injury he suffered in the round prior versus the Miami Heat may have played a larger role in his struggles than we may ever know. However, it is important to consider that this was Tatum’s first appearance on the big stage, and not every player is at their best immediately in their first taste of championship play.

Tatum and Jaylen Brown form a two headed monster on the perimeter that is a nightmare to match up against, and their experience last year should help them bounce back this season. Look for the addition of traditional point guard Malcolm Brogdon to help facilitate what was at times a stagnant Celtics offense.

Milwaukee Bucks

Thanks to the incredible defense they played during the second half of last season, the Boston Celtics made a deep run in the playoffs. However, it is entirely possible that had Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton been available to play in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Boston’s postseason ride would’ve ended much earlier.

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The Bucks were unable to defend their 2021 NBA title as formidably as they would’ve liked last year. They still took the Celtics to seven games in that series thanks to the heroic efforts of Giannis Antetokounmpo but had trouble replacing Middleton’s versatile scoring ability.

Middleton is set to miss the first few weeks of the regular season as he recovers from a wrist injury, which may put Milwaukee behind the eight ball in a competitive conference. However, as long as he is healthy for the postseason, Bucks fans will like their chances to return to the NBA Finals. 

Los Angeles Clippers

Back from the bottom of the Western Conference are the Los Angeles Clippers, who were a fringe play-in team without the services of All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard. The two-time NBA champion hurt his ACL in the playoffs in the prior season and was not able to suit up at all in 2021-2022.

By all accounts, Leonard is ready to roll this season, and will look to re-establish the potent tandem he formed with fellow forward Paul George. As talented as both players are on offense, their ability to shut down players on the perimeter will be a huge key in their quest to make the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.

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Denver Nuggets

Just like the Clippers, the Denver Nuggets also had to play the entirety of last season without a star who was nursing an ACL injury. Point guard Jamal Murray had an incredible run during the NBA bubble playoffs in 2020 but was injured late in the 2021 regular season. 

The silver lining for Murray is that even when he was at full health, it wasn’t his athleticism that made him an effective player. His ability to shoot the ball at a high level, while creating angles off the dribble is what made him so effective. There’s no reason to think he can’t resume his prolific marksmanship from the outside, which bodes well for his return.

The Warriors have deployed a committee at the center position in the last couple of years, none of whom would be much of an impediment to Nikola Jokic. If Murray and the return of Michael Porter Jr. can divert some attention away from the big man, Denver has a chance to make a run at the title.

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