Another NBA season is upon us, and what better way to ring it in than by exhausting some of the hottest takes in the Ringer office? Below are 10 takes of varying heat levels. Our writers have been tasked with grading them on a scale of believability from A to E, with A being all the way in and E being all the way out. Here is how the take meter breaks down:
A. Tattoo the take on the back of my calf.
B. As here for it as Thibs is for former Bulls players.
C. Somewhere in the middle, like the Pistons.
D. Barely believable, but enough to publish on The Ringer dot com.
E. As out on this take as Jimmy Butler is out on Minnesota.
Let the takes begin.
1. The Eastern Conference will be more entertaining than the Western Conference.
Jason Concepcion: (C) I don’t know—define entertaining? In terms of on-court product, the night-in, night-out horse race of the East’s top four teams will keep things spicy all season long. Assuming Kawhi Leonard is healthy and not casting longing glances at the Lakers through the Canadian snowfall, it’s quite possible that the Raptors improve on last season’s franchise-best 59-win mark. If not for LeBron James’s greatness, the Celtics would have made the NBA Finals last season. Now Boston can call on a healthy Gordon Hayward. The Sixers have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, two of the most vibrant young players in the league. And Mike Budenholzer has the Bucks shooting 3s. It will be fascinating to watch these teams jostle for postseason positions. In the West, the Warriors rule, the Rockets are the clear no. 2, and everyone else is just happy to be there.
THAT SAID: The Jimmy Butler rebellion has provided an endless stream of wild anecdotes, reports, and sit-down interviews, all before the season even started! That’s entertainment!
John Gonzalez: (A) We already know how the West will shake out. We know how the playoffs and Finals will, too. Any potential for drama on that front has already been eliminated. But the East is wide open. The Celtics seem like the best and deepest team on paper, but the Raptors and Sixers can’t be far behind. Throw in Giannis in a brand-new system and anything could happen. Maybe the brand of basketball won’t be as good in the East as it will be in the West, but at least the ultimate outcome isn’t predetermined. Plus, the Knicks are going to be terrible. It’s always really fun when the Knicks are really bad.
Jonathan Tjarks: (A) The West is still the Warriors, the Rockets, and then everyone else. The East has three elite teams on relatively even footing in the Celtics, Raptors, and the 76ers, and the gap between them and the middle class in the conference isn’t nearly as big as it is out West.
Dan Devine: (D) There are going to be some bad teams at the bottom of the East, and some others which might not be bad, but might also not be all that delightful to watch. (Looking at you, Charlotte, Detroit, and Cleveland.) But I’m a firm believer that there’s something to love on every NBA team, and there might be enough bright spots—Trae Young! Kevin Knox! Don’t-Call-Me-Minnesota-Love-Anymore Kevin Love!—to illuminate that dark Eastern basement from night to night.
Justin Verrier: (C) The few games between the conference’s one-percenters could make for some of the best regular-season basketball, but the thrill of catching early glimpses of some of the fun young players that populate the dregs of the conference will soon give way to rock fights that only a blog boy could love.
Haley O’Shaughnessy: (D) The East being its most entertaining in years doesn’t change the talent disparity between conferences. Sure, there will be more quality teams than last season. But the middle of the West is also hyper-competitive. A team originally thought of as third-best in the West in the preseason could finish seventh with just a few losses. If nothing else, compare the potential All-Star teams. There’s no contest here.
Paolo Uggetti: (D) The heavy hitters at the top of the East should beat up on the bottom of the conference with ease, which could pave the way for tightly contested seeding battles between the Celtics, Sixers, Raptors, Bucks, and Pacers. The East won’t be better, but it could be very entertaining, even if the entertainment will be an acquired taste.
Danny Chau: (E) We all love talking about how “wide open” the East will be with LeBron’s departure, but we’re still realistically looking at only five teams with the personnel to actually take the throne, and I don’t think any of those teams has the star power to divert attention away from what’s happening in Los Angeles. That’s not yet taking into account the depth of intrigue that the West has: Utah and Denver are two small markets that have 100 percent committed to franchise players Donovan Mitchell and Nikola Jokic, respectively; the West also has the two most compelling rookie prospects in Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic. Even the West’s garbage fires are more thrilling than the East’s. The Wolves are more interesting than at least half of the Eastern Conference.
2. The Lakers won’t make the playoffs.
Uggetti: (E) What are we doing watching the NBA if it isn’t to watch LeBron James take another team to the playoffs? The last time LeBron didn’t play in a postseason, the first iPhone was two years away, Twitter wasn’t around, and I was 10 years old. I am 23 now. How is the best player ever going to miss the playoffs for the first time in 13 years with a team that’s at least as good as the Cavs were last season? It’s not happening.
Tjarks: (C) I have a hard time counting out a team with LeBron, but surely he has to miss games from injury at some point in his career? The Lakers don’t look like they will play much defense, which means they could struggle to put away some of the teams they should beat. They won’t have any off nights either; everyone will be up to play LeBron.
Verrier: (D) Barring a trade, I think the Lakers will struggle. Young players make mistakes, and two-fifths of the rotation was drafted within the past three years; the regular season is a grind, and their two most reliable ball handlers are a 32- and a 33-year-old who are net neutrals (at best) on defense; the 3-point shooting is still theoretical. The Lakers will be fun—but so will the Suns. Sill, LeBron + pace + raw talent + a more solid defense last season than you’d expect = too much to count them out completely. A 6- or 7-seed feels right.
O’Shaughnessy: (E) The argument against the Lakers making the playoffs is their roster, which has a collection of young players and inconsistent career spark plugs. But you know who else is on that roster? LeBron James.
Concepcion: (E) Barring LeBron missing a significant chunk of the season due to some unforeseen malady, it’s inconceivable that the Lakers could miss the playoffs. He dragged a roster comprised of spare tires and old soup cans, plus Kevin Love and the ghost of J.R. Smith, to the Finals for his eighth consecutive trip. I don’t know if the Lakers are a 50-win team, but LeBron alone gets them close. And that will be enough to make the playoffs.
Chau: (D) The D stands for “Don’t forget about the Dwight Howard season.” And yet, as much as we love to dunk on that 2012-13 disaster, those Lakers made the playoffs! Dwight and Steve Nash were husks of themselves, practically whoopee cushions filled with the gas of dying stardom! I refuse to believe that LeBron, who is the best player on Earth until proved otherwise, can’t make it work with a bunch of undeniably talented young players with complementary skill sets.
Devine: (D) Tell me LeBron can’t push this team to the Finals, and I’m with you. Tell me LeBron can’t get this team to finish ahead of at least seven of the Kings, Suns, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Clippers, the our-pets’-heads-are-falling-off Spurs, Trail Blazers, the Pelicans, and The Shit Jimmy Runs—and I’m not anymore. Unless this is the year LeBron stops being indestructible. Then all bets are off.
Gonzalez: (E) This is a conversation that LeBron had with a reporter a few weeks back. They were talking about a totally different topic, but the exchange works just as well in this context.
“How long have you been following me?” James asked.
“Apparently not long enough,” the reporter replied.
“Apparently not long enough,” James echoed.
3. The Raptors will win the East.
Gonzalez: (C) Could certainly happen. Toronto had the best record in the East last year and the second-best record in the entire NBA. Not to mention that their boogeyman, LeBron, will spend most of his season scaring the Western Conference. Plus, they hit the upgrade button on DeMar DeRozan and added a better player at both ends of the floor in Kawhi Leonard. The Celtics appear deeper, and you can’t count out the Sixers (or maybe you can, but I refuse), but there’s a real chance for the Raptors to control the conference and have the last laugh.
Tjarks: (B) It’s definitely there for them. The question is whether Nick Nurse figures out (or has the juice to make the call) that Fred VanVleet is better than Kyle Lowry.
O’Shaughnessy: (B) Toronto outwardly seems mysterious because its best player, DeRozan, was replaced with Leonard, who managed to play only nine games last season. But its pieces aren’t mysterious at all: The Raptors still have their rock-solid first unit and bench, and Leonard was predicted to be an MVP candidate this time a year ago.
Uggetti: (A) I have been on this train since the first week of August. The tattoo is already on my calf. Give me the Kawhi Leonard resurgence in the North, a breakout year for OG Anunoby, plus an even better season for the Bench Mob of VanVleet and Co. I am all the way in on the Raptors, and only half of that is due to Celtics/Sixers contrarianism.
Devine: (B) Boston makes the most sense, but if Kawhi Leonard is Kawhi Goddamn Leonard, with that young supporting cast, Toronto might (again) be a top-five team on both ends of the floor, be better equipped to handle postseason pressure, and absolutely make its first Finals in franchise history.
Verrier: (C) On paper, the upgrade from DeRozan to Leonard should make a 59-win team better in almost every way. But the last time a superstar had success as the first option in his first season after forcing a trade is … Charles Barkley? And those 1992-93 Suns didn’t have to go through a team that can throw out a closing lineup of current or future All-Stars at all five positions.
Concepcion: (B) The Celtics, with a healthy Hayward, are the class of the East. They’re talented, deep, and (as you may have heard) well coached. But the Raptors, on paper, are right there. Kawhi, again assuming he’s healthy and engaged and doesn’t get traded, is a top-five player and the most devastating two-way player in the game. Danny Green, who was part of the deal that brought Leonard over from San Antonio, is a 3-and-D specialist with big-game experience. Toronto getting Green as the “throw-in” is unspeakably incredible. It’s like ordering sushi and getting a free pizza. They join Lowry (still doing it!) and a bevy of promising young defenders including Anunoby and VanVleet. The Raps put up a top-five defensive rating last season with DeRozan, a noted bad defender, in the starting lineup. Now they have Kawhi and Danny Green.
Chau: (A) There are worse sentences I could have tattooed to my body. This one actually sounds like I’d be able to play it off as an obscure line from Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. Just don’t make me get Leonard’s “Klaw” brand logo tattooed on the other calf.
4. Anthony Davis will be on a different team by February.
Devine: (E) You’ll have to pry him from Dell Demps’s and Alvin Gentry’s cold, dead hands.
Gonzalez: (E) I realize that some people are bored with AD playing for the Pelicans and want to see him moved to a team where he has a chance of winning something significant. The fact Davis hired Rich Paul and Klutch to represent him might even indicate that he wants out. But I think we’re way ahead of ourselves here. What incentive do the Pelicans have to move him right now? They had a surprisingly good season and playoff result. AD is a draw. And, counting this season, he has at least two years remaining on his contract. The man isn’t a free agent until the summer of 2020 at the earliest. I don’t see him going anywhere yet.
Uggetti: (E) News flash: The Pelicans are going to be good. Davis is a top-five player in the league and should he stay healthy [knocks on all the wood], New Orleans will be a legitimate playoff team. Davis is not getting traded this season. Come back to me next season.
Chau: (E) Trading AD for absolutely no reason several years before the team would even have any pressure to do so would be worse than the Khalil Mack trade. Yes, the Pelicans lose leverage with every passing minute, but that’s something you risk if you have a top-five player in your possession. You don’t let that kind of talent go until you have to, unless you’re Jon Gruden.
O’Shaughnessy: (E) This doesn’t seem like the season that Davis asks for a trade. He’s coming off the best 33-game stretch of his career, during which the Pelicans looked like a competitive playoff team. Now, if this season ends in the first round (or if New Orleans has a poor showing in the second round), he might begin to question his future with the Pelicans.
Tjarks: (E) What else does New Orleans have going for it as a franchise? It is going to ride out the Davis era for as long as it lasts. This is as good as it gets for the Pelicans.
Concepcion: (D) I suspect no. To quote Gentry: “We wouldn’t trade him for anyone. Even Beyoncé.” Of course, this comment falls into the “Things You Have to Say” category. Anything less than a hard “FUCK NO” lessens New Orleans’s leverage. Short of Davis, who’s signed through 2021, demanding to be moved a la Jimmy Butler, there’s no situation in which the Pelicans let him go.
Verrier: (E) There’s no incentive for the Pelicans to have this conversation before next summer, at the earliest.
5. Harry Giles will be the NBA’s best rookie.
Chau: (D) Giles doesn’t have the clearest path to a Rookie of the Year award—not with at least six other Kings big men vying for minutes. But Giles, whom I considered a generational talent when he was in high school, has a mature and varied skill set that will, at the very least, separate him from the morass of bigs in Sacramento. Players who can hit an open 3, protect the rim, slide in space, and make plays from the post and the perimeter don’t grow on trees. He just needs to stay healthy.
Devine: (D) I want good things for the fine people of Sacramento, and Giles has done his best to provide a cause for optimism. But I’m riding with the dude who just won everything there was to win in Europe before he turned 20, then got handed to Rick Carlisle.
Uggetti: (C) Giles was a measured gamble for the Kings, and should he pan out, it will be an awesome story to keep track of this season. But it also will take patience and time (and a clean bill of health). Giles is still only 20 years old, but he has as much talent as anyone. Whatever happens this season, the Giles story is a sliver of hope that Sacramento badly needs.
Tjarks: (D) Sure. It’s possible. But is he going to get the chance to really shine in a crowded frontcourt in Sacramento? He also hasn’t had a healthy season since he was 16.
I meant (D).
O’Shaughnessy: (D) The reason I’m not entirely out on this is because Giles has two things going for him in the ROY competition. He has a year of experience adjusting to the league (the Ben Simmons Effect), which means he’s already at least somewhat experienced the culture shock that happens with all rookies. Giles also has the “pleasant surprise” factor going for him. Compared to the hype surrounding the new class, his talent was forgotten after a year on the Kings bench.
Gonzalez: (D) My initial reaction was to go with E on this one. Feels like Deandre Ayton has an easier path to monster numbers, and Luka Doncic is already making everyone slobber over his slow-mo, doughboy moves. But I’ll leave the door just slightly open to this possibility because I feel bad for Riley McAtee and Kings fans everywhere. They don’t have much; let them have this.
Concepcion: (E) Did Doncic pass away?
6. Markelle Fultz will have a better sophomore year than Donovan Mitchell.
Concepcion: (E) [The heat of the take singes my eyebrows off.] NO.
Tjarks: (E) I loved Fultz coming out of college, but I’ll believe it when I see it at this point.
O’Shaughnessy: (E) Who came up with this question?
Devine: (D) Anything’s possible, I suppose, but this smells like some real “A salty Chris Ryan was allowed to insert one question into the quiz” stuff.
Uggetti: (D) Fultz made one 3 in preseason, but you can certainly bet that this site, and the internet at large, will overreact to any success he has this season. A Fultz resurgence would be a great story, but this is still a reach.
Chau: (E) Mitchell was doing things out of the gate last season that I would have wanted Fultz to show the ability to do three years into his career—and this was before it was clear that Fultz would need emergency rehabilitation on his jump shot. In one season and two playoff series, Mitchell has demonstrated a preternatural sense of how to score against NBA-caliber defenses, the same state of grace shared by some of the most iconic perimeter players in the league. That’s the level that Mitchell is operating from these days. We’re still wondering if Fultz can be trusted to shoot a 3 off the dribble without relapsing.
Verrier: (D) I’m here for the Mitchell comedown, whether it’s the result of his Westbrookian efficiency clashing or the karmic comeuppance of his post-rookie-year world tour this summer. But league average is now the bar for Fultz, and Mitchell hurdled over those players time and time again last season.
Gonzalez: (D) This might be the craziest thing on a list of crazy-ass takes. Again, my initial reaction was to laugh it off and just go with E. But then I thought about how mad this is likely to make Jazz fans who are already worked up about Simmons winning ROY over Mitchell. I started imagining them stomping around the house wearing “Rookie?” shirts and getting all huffy about us even considering something like this. And that kinda makes me smile.
7. Kevin Durant is better off on the Knicks.
Chau: (D) I am all for breaking up narrative tedium, but I’m one of the few impartial fans of the Durant era of the Warriors. I’m a fan of how messy his insecurities as a person have made things between him and the general basketball-viewing public. I’m a fan of how that has zero influence on how good he is on the court. It’s not the standard arc for a player of his caliber in the league, and perhaps it can be difficult to identify with after past greats set a standard for how to comport oneself as a superstar. Shuttling off to Madison Square Garden would fold Durant back into the NBA’s version of the Hero’s Journey trope, which would be great for those who subscribe to greatness as being a single template. I’m impartial. Durant is better off winning as many championships as humanly possible. I’m not sure the Knicks can realistically assure him of one, let alone a truckload.
Concepcion: (A) Damn right! Who needs all that winning? It’s so tedious, playing deep into the playoffs every spring and June. All those extra games, flying in the plane back and forth. It’s honestly a minor miracle that no one has been injured lifting the trophy, which is really heavy and made out of metal. Everyone always lifts it with their arms and never their legs. And does anyone ever consider how champagne baths can easily ruin cellphones and clothing? None of that will be an issue if and when Durant makes a move to New York.
Devine: (A) I can think of no better way to shed the uncomfortable label of being “The Dude Who Needed an Already Stacked Championship Roster to Win” than by joining a franchise that is basically the diametric opposite of the Warriors. (A quick internet search suggests I have never used the phrase “light-years behind” to describe James Dolan’s team. A staggering oversight.) Durant could be the guy who makes the Knicks big-picture relevant for the first time since the days of Patrick Ewing, and this move would add something to Durant’s all-time résumé that I’m not sure he’d get anywhere else. It would also put him in another massive market chock full of lucrative off-court business opportunities for Thirty Five Media. It makes some sense. (Yes, I am a Knicks fan. Why do you ask?)
Verrier: (D) The league is more interesting when star players change it up every couple of years, so here’s one vote for a post-three-peat walkabout as KD tries to find some coherent thread to the back end of his career. But for all the promising young players the Knicks have accumulated and can add in the future, there are two pretty glaring issues they’d be hard-pressed to solve before Durant can opt out of his contract next summer: 1. Their best player has missed nearly a quarter of their schedule in his three NBA seasons and may not play this season; and 2. they still have one of the worst owners in sports. If reviving a big-market franchise and embracing a challenge are what we want from the second-best player in the world, how about teaming up with Kawhi on the Clippers to create the best intercity rivalry in NBA history?
O’Shaughnessy: (B) I’m not implying that the Knicks with Durant would be better than the Warriors with Durant. Golden State gave him the ring OKC wasn’t able to give him, but New York would allow KD the chance to address the other thing plaguing his career: his reputation. Personally, I don’t knock Durant for joining the Warriors. But it seems like the majority of NBA fans do, and the backlash has bothered him enough to make burner accounts on Twitter and reply online to CJ McCollum’s criticism with “I just did your fuckin podcast.”
Uggetti: (B) Why not? It’s certainly better for the league when the Knicks are good. The Warriors would get just a little bit worse, but not bad enough to fall out of contention completely. It’s probably not the best career move for Durant (he could stay in Golden State and win all the titles and Finals MVPs he wants). But if staying in the Bay isn’t making Durant happy, then who are we to say he should stay? (I am also rooting for this because it would make for great content.)
Gonzalez: (A) Tjarks wrote a terrific piece outlining all the basketball reasons this makes sense. You should read it. But I want it for entertainment purposes. KD in NYC, as the unquestioned main man, with Kristaps Porzingis as his sidekick sounds delightful. Plus, the East is not as good as the West. It’s true. I double-checked just to make sure. He could have his run of the conference.
Tjarks: (D) “Barely believable but enough to publish on The Ringer dot com” was my exact thought process when writing that piece last week. (Kidding.) (Kind of.)
8. Gordon Hayward should be coming off the bench.
Chau: (C) It’d be a crushing blow to the one true Eastern answer to the Lineup of Death, but Boston should certainly consider bringing Hayward off the bench, especially if the back soreness he’s dealt with all preseason persists. More than anything, Hayward is going to need regular reps to get himself back into the mental grind and flow of an NBA regular season, and playing alongside the second unit would not only make sure his minute allotment is sensible, but would also allow him to reestablish his feel as a primary option slowly in a less pressurized environment.
O’Shaughnessy: (D) There’s every reason to believe Brad Stevens will start Jayson Tatum, who is the largest threat to Hayward’s spot. And if having both of them on the court at the same time works, he won’t be coming off the bench.
Concepcion: (E) Not for any basketball-related reason, anyway.
Verrier: (C) Probably not, but not because the idea doesn’t have merit. Hayward has struggled this preseason, shooting 25 percent from the floor over limited minutes in three games. Starting his comeback as a primary option against second units could ease his reentry into a world where he’ll be asked to chase guards and pound with bigger players on switches. Then again, while Hayward’s recent admittance that he “won’t be the same player” raised some alarms, he also noted that he’s bulked up over the hiatus, perhaps rendering worriment over starting him at power forward unfounded. In the end, whether he finishes games is far more important than whether he starts them.
Uggetti: (A) Yes, yes, yes. Start Marcus Smart instead. The Celtics are an edgier team when Smart is on the floor, and though that isn’t always a positive, the defensive value that he provides is astronomical. Hayward is coming off a devastating injury and is still working his way back to 100 percent. Why not ease him back into action by weaponizing him as a sixth man?
Tjarks: (D) This man is making $30 million-plus this season. Let’s try to be somewhat reasonable with these takes.
Devine: (E) For the Celtics to be who they want to be, they need Hayward to rediscover who he was before everything changed one year ago. The best way for him to get there is on the first string, surrounded by talent that can make the game easier for him as he knocks the rust off, rather than as a focal point expected to carry the second unit. Stevens can always shift things around if he needs to, but he should start this season with the lineup that started last one, which means Hayward in the first five.
Gonzalez: (E) I can think of 128 million reasons that doesn’t make sense.
9. Utah is the second-best team in the West.
O’Shaughnessy: (C) The West will be a toss-up this season. I’m not ready to bet on the Jazz to finish with the 2-seed, but I’m not ready to rule it out, either, especially after the Rockets took a step backward over the summer.
Verrier: (A) The Jazz lost six games over a span of 78 days to close out the regular season, and in that time put together a net rating (11.7) better than the Warriors’ best during their four-year reign of terror. Maybe that’s small-sample theater … or maybe it’s a sign that Utah’s core works (at least in the regular season). At a time when every team wants to run and shoot 3s, Utah controls the pace of play with a smothering defense and an offense that operates with militaristic precision. And while the Rockets noodle with reclamation projects and the Thunder wring their hands over medical updates, the Jazz will enhance an already formidable rotation with at least another season of Derrick Favors; full seasons from Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale, and Dante Exum; and a first season of Grayson Allen.
Chau: (D) Depends on the definition. The Jazz can certainly finish with the second-best record in the regular season, but we’ve yet to see the Jazz find ways to lessen the damage of having Rudy Gobert defend out on the perimeter. The biggest point of emphasis for Utah this season will be proving that they can hang with the five-out offenses that have routinely exposed the Jazz in the past. They won’t crack into elite status until that happens.
Gonzalez: (E) When Rockets fans get all fired up and ruin our social media timelines, this will be why.
Uggetti: (D) I’m not totally out on this possibility. The Jazz’s defensive ceiling is huge, but I fear that a second-year regression may be coming for Mitchell. Utah doesn’t have another scorer as proficient as the sophomore and though they’ll make games tough for opponents with Rudy Gobert patrolling the rim, the scoring will need to come from somewhere. Can Joe Ingles or Ricky Rubio be a proper fail-safe?
Devine: (D) I’m a big believer in the Jazz’s continuity, and I think the Rockets’ summer brought them closer to the pack. But we have to look back to only May to remember how big a gap there was between Houston and Utah. Third-best, I’m down for. It’s still a two-team race up top, though.
Tjarks: (D) Not that much has changed from the second round last season, when Houston beat them like a drum.
Concepcion: (D) Come on.
10. The Warriors will be dethroned this season.
Tjarks: (C) They are the favorite, but a lot can happen for a team going for its third consecutive championship and fifth Finals appearance in a row. The odds of them being fully healthy in June aren’t that great.
Devine: (D) An injury to Steph, Draymond falling off a cliff and/or Steve Kerr having a rough time integrating DeMarcus Cousins might make me a little more open to considering it, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Gonzalez: (E) I want it to happen. I do. I miss the days of going into a season without knowing how it’s going to end. A little mystery goes a long way. Alas, it’s not happening. Not this year. Barring injury or setbacks, the Warriors will start five All-Stars at some point this season. Even if one of them gets hurt, they’ll still have … breaks out calculator … carries the denominator … four All-Stars. That’s a lot of All-Stars! GSW will win it all again. Sad face.
Uggetti: (B) I’m ready for some change, and betting on the Warriors isn’t fun. Being wrong isn’t either, but there’s always a chance, right? Give me the field.
O’Shaughnessy: (D) Injuries happen, and they happened to Steph Curry’s ankle twice last season.
Chau: (C) I’m starting to talk myself into it. Reaching five Finals in a row would be an achievement no team has captured in more than half a century. That’s a crushing amount of fatigue to try to play through. The Warriors are their own worst enemies at this point, and there are teams out there with enough top-end talent to take advantage.
Verrier: (C) The Celtics, with their duckboat parade of prototypical wing-sized defenders and snarly home atmosphere, may be the team best-suited for the task in the past three years. But getting through the East will require slogging through the series with two of the Raptors, Sixers, and Bucks, and then out-executing a team that does this every damn year.
Concepcion: (E) The Warriors have Steph Curry, the greatest shooter ever; Kevin Durant, the best player on the planet not named LeBron; Klay Thompson; and Draymond Green, a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate (sorry, KD). They added DeMarcus Cousins, perhaps the best scoring big man in the league, basically for laughs. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it would certainly be an upset.