Around the Hill: Which Team is the Biggest Threat to the Warriors?

By Michael Tom, Maroon-News Staff

Undeniably the biggest threat to the Golden State Warriors this year will be the Houston Rockets. Although two of the last three seasons for the Rockets have ended in losses to the Warriors, this year will be different due to the blossoming of several young players and an improved defense bolstered by key veteran acquisitions.

Rockets center Clint Capela has steadily improved each year since he first joined the team in 2014. At just twenty-three years old, the 6’10” big man is averaging a double-double with 14.4 ppg and 11.1 rpg.

Even more impressively he is averaging nearly two blocks per game. Capela is a feared presence on the inside and will be an invaluable rim protector against the skilled drivers of Curry and Durant.

The growth of Capela has been a major factor in the Rocket’s defensive surge. They are ranked 4th among all teams in steals and are top ten in overall defensive rating. The recent acquisitions of Luc Mbah a Moute and PJ Tucker have further transformed their defense by providing high-energy performance off the bench.

Perhaps the strongest reason why the Rockets are a threat is Chris Paul. Not only does Paul lead the team in steals per game but he also provides them with hall-of-fame-level point guard play when Harden is resting. This was the largest weakness of the Rockets, who in prior years struggled without Harden on the court. Simply put, the Rockets are the real deal.

 By Teddy Campbell, Maroon-News Staff

The Golden State Warriors have played in three straight NBA Finals, winning two, but this is the year their streak is broken. On paper, the Dubs are still the best team in the league. They have two former MVPs in Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, and two more legitimate stars in shooting guard Klay Thompson and forward Draymond Green.

They’re in first place in the stacked Western Conference, but they don’t have to look far to see their newest rivals in the form of the Houston Rockets, who sit just a half-game back.

The Rockets have been the James Harden show for a number of years. It’s been entertaining, but they’ve never been a real threat. Enter Chris Paul, one of the most dynamic point guards in the league. Suddenly, the Rockets are championship contenders, and have even beaten the Warriors twice this year.

Sometimes when two players come together who are used to being “The Guy” for their teams, they can butt heads. But both Paul and Harden are averaging more points than their career averages, at 19.3 and 31.4 points per game, respectively. Harden would be the favorite for MVP if not for the Giannis Antetokounmpo show going on up in Milwaukee.

The NBA deserves better than the same teams in the Finals every year. The Cavaliers are doing their part to not get back, crumbling so fast that they just had to demolish their roster.

It’s time for the Warriors to get knocked off, and the Rockets are just the team to do it.

 By Theo Asher, National Sports Editor

*Cue ESPN 30 for 30 music* What if I told you, that the greatest threat to the Warriors… isn’t in the Western Conference? What if I told you, that this team is not the Boston Celtics or the Cleveland Cavaliers? Yes – the Toronto Raptors have what it takes to run with the Golden State Warriors.

As much as I’d love to argue for Toronto as the devil’s advocate in this debate, the North is actually legit. They have been jockeying with Boston throughout the season for first place in the Eastern Conference, and they’ve hung tight with some of the NBA’s best: They defeated Houston by 16, Cleveland by 34, Boston by 20 and San Antonio by three.

Granted, they’ve fallen to Golden State twice, but both were by margins of less than five points. Here’s why that slim margin is surmountable: Toronto, although lacking in star power to Golden State, has the decisive upper hand in some seriously important statistical categories come playoff time. The Raptors’ turnover percentage is fourth in the NBA (12.1) while the Warriors’ turnover percentage is 29th (14.5). Furthermore, the basketball community has been way overestimating Golden State’s ability to play two-way ball at an elite level.

While they kill it on offense (second in offensive efficiency), they lag behind in defense (eleventh in defensive efficiency). Toronto is the only team in the NBA in the top five of both categories, sporting third and fourth in offense and defense, respectively.

If the league hasn’t gotten my message by now, they really should. Toronto has won five games in a row, each of them by 15 points or more. The only other team to do that this season? You guessed it: the Warriors.