7 NBA teams which could upset the Golden State Warriors/Cleveland Cavaliers

The Spurs cannot be counted out by any means

The level of competition in the NBA is intense for the most part. It's true that any given team can beat any other on a given night. That being said, there are two teams in the league which seem to be virtual locks to advance from their respective conferences.

The Golden State Warriors just set the record for most wins in a regular season with 73. Now they've added one of the best scorers of all time in Kevin Durant. This team is a safe bet to make it to the Finals.

In the Eastern conference, one can place their bets on whichever team LeBron James chooses to be on at the time. The defending champions Cavaliers are enjoying a confidence and swagger which comes with a championship and having the greatest player in the world on your team. The championship contender from the East seems to be decided already.

Explore the NBA Draft 2024 with our free NBA Mock Draft Simulator & be the GM of your favorite NBA team.

However, as we witnessed in 2011 and 2004, there is no such thing as a certain bet in the league. While the two teams mentioned above are head and shoulders above the competition, there are a few challengers which could pose a threat to the Finals rematch. Here's a look at five teams which could advance from their respective conference and defeat the previous finalists.

#1 San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have been a championship contender since before some players in the league were born. With Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich serving as the cornerstones of the franchise, they've maintained a two-decade-long standard of excellence which sees them as the most successful franchise in professional sports in the USA.

Now that Tim Duncan has retired as perhaps the greatest player of all time, the Spurs will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. Currently, their core nucleus Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker is intact. They've added LaMarcus Aldridge to their budding young star Kawahi Leonard, and this off-season they went out and added a great winner in Pau Gasol. This makes an already dangerous team even scraier.

Aldridge and Gasol are two of the best shooting big men in the league from mid range. They'll both benefit from being in a system which has been tailored around a part forward for a very long time.

The Spurs present a strong challenge to win the title this season. They missed out on the Finals only owing to some jumpers not falling their way. With Leonard prowling the perimeter, the Spurs can neutralize some of the firepower of the Warriors.

Look for them to cause problems for the Warriors in they match up in the playoffs.

#2 Los Angles Clippers

Doc Rivers Chris Paul
With Doc Rivers and Chris Paul running the show in Los Angeles, anything is possible

The Los Angeles Clippers bowed out of the 2016 playoffs in a strange run of bad luck. It’s bad enough having a superstar player sustain a Playoff ending injury. The Clippers saw both of their superstars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin succumb to such misfortune in one round of the playoffs.

It's worth mentioning that the clippers are the only team to have defeated the Warriors and the Spurs in the playoffs recently. With Chris Paul orchestrating the offense, Blake Griffin playing like the best power forward in the league, DeAndre Jordan manning the paint and JJ Redick making it rain, the Clippers can pose a potent threat to any team in the league.

This off-season they added Marreese Speights and Brandon Bass, thus finally getting some scoring bigs on their bench. While Cole Aldridge played an inspired role down low, these two players add more versatility on offense with their presence.

#3 Atlanta Hawks

Dwight howard atlanta hawks
Atlanta Hawks made a big catch with Dwight Howard in free agency

This might be a good time to remember that the Orlando Magic made it all the way to the NBA Finals in 2009 by surrounding Dwight Howard with shooters and riding him. That season is seen as lightning in a bottle as Howard never really made it back to the big stage since then.

This season Howard is going back to his hometown team, the Atlanta Hawks. They are an outlier in the league in that they have been without a true superstar and yet they've maintained excellence.

Affectionately referred to as the Spurs of the East, the Hawks have now added one of the best big men in the league in Howard. Depending on how quickly the team can gel, these upgraded Hawks could put the brakes on the Cavaliers in the playoffs if they get a few lucky breaks.

#4 Boston Celtics

Coach Brad Stevens is undoubtedly one of the best in the business

The Celtics have emerged as a scrappy team with tenacious defense. They are not an opponent to be taken lightly on any given night, as they want to beat you with their defense.

In the off-season, they've added Al Horford to their roster, which gives them a strong interior presence. In the past, they just had Isaiah Thomas to rely upon to generate offense in a pinch. Although a capable all-star, teams were able to collapse on him and put the muzzles on the Celtics offense as a result. Horford will make teams pay for pursuing that tactic with the resultant space he gets to play with.

And if the rumors of Blake Griffin or Russell Westbrook going to the Celtics are true, consider this team as a lock for the conference finals, and perhaps beyond

#5 New York Knicks

The Knicks are in the best position they’ve been in a decade

The Warriors lead the list of teams which had a stupendously good off-season. While consensus may be divided, it is safe to presume that the Knicks come second on this list with their numerous additions.

Anytime you have an otherworldly scorer like Carmelo Anthony, you can't really be ruled out of contention. The Knicks won big in the draft last season when they took what was seen as a gamble at the time by choosing Kristaps Porzingis. He's done more than enough to silence his critics and we can bet we'll see an improved version of him this season.

The Knicks finally seemed to have moved away from Phil Jackson's love affair with the Triangle offense. After numerous players and analysts voicing the opinion that prominent point guards wouldn't want to play in the triangle offense, the Knicks have evolved their philosophy and added Brandon Jennings and Derrick Rose to bolster their backcourt.

Contenders in the Eastern Conference have long been divided in two: whichever team LeBron James happens to be on, and the rest. With little or no emphasis placed on the rest. Last season did see some improvement in the competition in the East though. And this season promises to be even better.

#6 Toronto Raptors

The Air Canada Center isn’t an easy place to get a win any more

The team from Canada were one of the biggest surprises in the league last season. Led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen, the Raptors played at a level not since they fielded Chris Bosh in their lineup.

The Raptors finished with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference after the Cavs. Last year may have been a surprise, this time around, they have the benefit of experiencing a winning season under their belt.

The Raptors had an unfortunate injury go against them in the playoffs as Jonas Valanciunas missed crucial games down the stretch in the conference Finals. When playing at full strength, they can be a handful.

In the offseason, they've resigned DeMar DeRozan to a 5 year, $139 million contract and added Jared Sullinger. Canada can no longer be slept on in the East. Look for them to fight for the top three spots in the conference.

#7 Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are a team no one wants to face in the playoffs

The Grizzlies have been relatively quiet off late, owing to Marc Gasol missing time with a bone injury in his right foot. He played just 52 games in the 2015-16 season. It’s easy to forget that the Grit and Grind of the bear was feared throughout the league not too long ago.

This off-season, the Grizzlies have added a well-rounded star in Chandler Parsons to their roster and re-signed Mike Conley for the most exorbitant contract in the history of the league at $153 million for 5 years. They've also added Troy Daniels, Andrew Harrison, James Ennis and Deyonta Davis.

If they can catch a break in the medical department, the Grizzlies may just maul the Warriors out.

Honorable mentions: Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks. The Bulls have a lot of raw talent to be slept upon, and too little coherence to be counted upon. In the West, the Dallas Mavericks have made the moves to be able to surprise on a good day. But as Dirk Nowitzki himself put it, all the Mavericks have accomplished in the free agency recently is drive up the price of players so they can go elsewhere with a better contact. They will present a competition, but only to be rolled over eventually.

Quick Links

Edited by Staff Editor
App download animated image Get the free App now