The Golden State Warriors find themselves at the center of the NBA once again after a 73-9 season that shocked the basketball world last year. Last season, it was clear to say that Golden State were favorites to get past the under-whelming Western Conference and take a trip to the NBA finals for their second year running. This time, things are different.

After losing key pieces including Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut to sign Kevin Durant, many other teams have figured out ways to exploit their weaknesses and beat them.

Despite all problems, Golden State still remains a great and very competitive team.

San Antonio Spurs

For almost two decades, the San Antonio Spurs have found themselves contending for a championship because of the franchise’s fantastic players, coaches and front office.

While their core has been aging, they have had new players emerge into big roles. Kawhi Leonard, who before was an average small forward is a two-time Defensive Player Of The Year, two-time all-star plus the reigning runner-up MVP. LaMarcus Aldridge is still a dominant big man with supreme talent. Young guard, Jonathon Simmons, who is proving himself as a reliable scorer/defender has been a surprise addition to the rotation.

If any team has the stars and depth to match up with Golden State, it’s San Antonio.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are one of the best teams in the NBA when they’re not injured. With a big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles is always ready to compete for a title. Their contention depends on luck and for many seasons now, it’s not been on their side.

In 2015, when the Clippers were completely healthy, they blew a 3-1 lead to the Rockets in the second round. Just last playoffs, LA had a firm 3-2 lead on the Trail Blazers in the first round when both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin got badly injured.

A healthy Clippers squad might be a tough team to get past when playoff time comes around, so the Warriors have to keep an eye on them.

Houston Rockets

As a very surprising team this season, Houston have managed to stop playing isolation ball and has changed into one of the best passing teams in the league. With Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson spacing the floor, numerous options open up for playmaker James Harden, who can drive to free up shooters.

The offensive play has already proven deadly to Golden State. On December 2nd when the two teams matched up, Houston destroyed their defense and ended up winning 132-127 in overtime. The Rockets definitely have experience, so if the two play each other, Houston will be ready.

Utah Jazz

Like the Rockets, Utah have shaped into a top-five team in the West this year. Their young stars are finally paying off as players Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Rudy Gobert are all starting to make a big impact.

It’s not just the starting lineup showing off, but the bench is playing at a tremendous level. Defense is Utah’s key, and they’re really showing stunning improvement. They allow 95.7 points per game on an average, which is astounding in todays’ fast paced league. If Utah can lockdown the Warriors on defense and scrape by on offense, it might be possible to see an upset.

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