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Oct 17, 2017
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There's a reason 93% of the general managers predict that the Golden State Warriors will win the 2018 NBA Finals, and why they are also the odds-on favorites at 5-12.

Despite the many changes during the offseason (personnel- and system-wise), it looks like there's still no one who can stop the defending champions from hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy next summer. The Dubs have managed to keep their invincible core of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson intact, and even upgraded their bench with a few solid signings.

With everything going for the Warriors, can they actually mess this up?

"Barring injuries" is a common phrase you'll come across when discussing an NBA team's potential. Like any other great squad, health is Golden State's biggest Achilles heel. A superstar sitting out a few games won't hurt, but a couple missing extended time will be alarming. Curry and Durant seemed to have put their respective injury histories behind them, but posting the best regular season records in the last three years may finally take its toll.

Speaking of physical well-being, their primary cause of concern in that department might just be head coach Steve Kerr, who was sidelined in the first 43 games of the 2016-17 regular season and initial 11 of the last playoffs due to back issues. Assistant coaches Luke Walton (now with the Los Angeles Lakers) and Mike Brown were capable fill-ins, respectively, and the Warriors did offset his loss with sheer talent, but they can only go so far without the master tactician.

Thanks to Durant's pay cut, Golden State was able to bring back the majority of its championship crew, re-signing Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, Zaza Pachulia, and JaVale McGee. Still, questions abound the retooled supporting cast. Did they sign Washington Wizards or Lakers Nick Young? Can Omri Casspi stay (36 games with three different teams last season)? Is rookie Jordan Bell all talk? Will McGee revert to his old, boneheaded ways? And more importantly, is this the year Father Time defeats Iguodala?

We can talk about all those minor storylines, but the 2017-18 campaign will boil down to how the "Fantastic Four" will follow through their title run. For one, Klay Thompson has expressed his willingness to take less money to stay with the Warriors. Although with a couple of rings under his belt, who's to say he isn't pondering over individual greatness, a la Kyrie Irving? It's already hard to play in Steph's shadow, and with KD on board, getting out is nearly impossible.

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Draymond Green may not have a problem with being the last option, which sums up his role as the heart of the Golden State, yet it's the other side of his attitude that needs to be checked. His passion is a double-edged sword—either he gets in the face of someone from the opposing team or it gets him suspended. No one forgets about the reigning Defensive Player of the Year also being "The Nutcracker." Basically, Draymond's greatest enemy is himself.

If anything, Kevin Durant should win Most Valuable Player this year. He was in the thick of the race last season before going down with a knee injury that sidelined him for 19 games. Now, having gotten the monkey of his back and with another top seed on the horizon, the award is for Durant's taking, even though another Warrior cannibalizes some of his votes. Here's hoping that he won't succumb to the pressure of dethroning The King as the best player in the NBA.

And finally, Stephen Curry—the epitome of the Warriors culture. Even with his shots not falling, the mere presence of the two-time MVP is already a terrifying weapon in itself. It would take a freak accident (hopefully not), the green-eyed monster, or a more consistent version of 2016 NBA Finals Game 2 Delly to stop Curry. In other words, only a miracle can prevent him from capturing his third championship and securing his legacy as one of the basketball greats.

But it's free to dream, right?

 

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