Three under-the-radar teams that could challenge the Golden State Warriors

Photo Credit: SB Nation

Now that the Golden State Warriors did what everyone expected them to do and walked away with the 2017 NBA championship, their second in three seasons, the odds were released for each team to win next year’s title. And wouldn’t you know it? The Warriors have a better chance to win the championship next season than every other team in the NBA combined with odds at (-175) via Bovada.

While you’ll have people arguing that teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets or Boston Celtics have a shot to beat the Warriors in a seven-game playoff series, the secret to exposing the Warriors simply has to be in the unexpected. After all, they went 16-1 in the playoffs this past season with an 8-1 record against the Cavaliers and Spurs despite some doubts from people thinking that they may be vulnerable to those teams. Here are three teams that no one expects to beat the Warriors in a seven-game playoff series that may actually have a chance to do so within the next few years if not starting next season.

Philadelphia 76ers

Over the past few seasons, there has been a lot of “trusting the process” going on, but not much actually watching the process in action. This season, the potential energy in that process should begin the shift over to kinetic energy, as this team that just last season won only 10 games is now loaded with both potential and current stars all of a sudden.

The 76ers will have two Rookie of the Year frontrunners, Ben Simmons, last year’s #1 pick, and Markelle Fultz, this year’s #1 pick, in addition to two of the three Rookie of the Year finalists from this past season, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, in the starting lineup. If players like Robert Covington, TJ McConnell and Jahlil Okafor can continue to improve and play a full season, the 76ers can be much more than a playoff team starting as early as this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves have gone from a team with a couple of promising young stars to one of the few teams in the NBA with a legitimate “Big Three”. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are both former Rookie of the Year award winners, with Wiggins winning it two years ago and Towns winning it last season. Both have improved in each of their seasons in the league, and last season, they both finished in the top 16 in average points per game. Wiggins averaged 23.6 points per game (16th), and Towns averaged 25.1 points per game (12th).

In the offseason, the team pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bulls to acquire Jimmy Butler, who has been one of the top players in the league over the past few seasons. He also finished in the top 16 in scoring this season, averaging 23.9 points per game (14th). This past season, only the Timberwolves and Warriors had two players in the top 16 in scoring (excluding the New Orleans Pelicans since DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the team in the middle of the season). No team had three players in the top 23 in scoring, and only the Warriors had three players in the top 33; the Timberwolves now have three of last year’s top 16. Look out.

Milwaukee Bucks

The next big thing in the NBA is already getting bigger and better, and he has been for some time. 22-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo, who many people feel can be the next dominant NBA player after LeBron James, can play literally any of the five positions on the floor at 6’11”, and he has been improving every season. In fact, he even won the Most Improved Player Award this past season after leading the Bucks to the playoffs following a season during which they finished 12th in the Eastern Conference.

He posted a stat line of 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, something only done by he and NBA MVP Russell Westbrook this past season, while leading the NBA in combined steals and blocks per game with 3.53. With other up-and-coming stars like Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon chipping in, the Bucks could be something special very soon.

 

-Asher Fair

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