Jones: If not the Warriors, five with best chances are …

Can anyone dethrone the Warriors? Here are one guy's possibilities.

Picking the Golden State Warriors to win the 2019 NBA championship is akin to shooting fish in a barrel.

Coach Steve Kerr’s Warriors, who have won back-to-back league titles and three in the last four seasons, are the overwhelming favorites to make it a threepeat, according to the most recent odds posted by Bovada Sportsbook.

Those odds, as of July 19, have Golden State as -175 to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy again next June, meaning a bettor would have to wager $175 to win $100.

Next in line, according to Bovada, are the Boston Celtics at +550, meaning if a bettor were to wager $100 on Boston winning the crown, they would win $550 if that would indeed happen.

The Celtics are followed by the Los Angeles LeBrons.. er, Lakers, at +700, the Houston Rockets at +750, the Philadelphia 76ers at +1600, the Toronto Raptors at +1800 and the Oklahoma City Thunder at +4000.

All of that having been said, let’s do what the other 29 teams in the NBA can only dream about and say Golden State won’t win the title next season.

Most definitely a stretch, I know, but play along, please. If that transpires, which teams have the next-best chances to do so?

Here’s one guy’s take on “the other five:”

1. Boston Celtics

As Bovada’s odds indicate, the Celtics are the overwhelming favorites to take the Eastern Conference crown LeBron James has doffed for the past eight seasons, the first four with the Miami Heat and the most recent four with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

A healthy Kyrie Irving could drive the Celtics to the NBA Finals this season.

Boston has ascended to this point this offseason basically, by doing nothing, other than to hope Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward return as the same players they were before they were beset by serious injuries.

Oh, the Celtics did do the necessary home-repair projects by re-signing rugged defenders Marcus Smart and Aaron Baynes, but if Irving and Hayward can come back healthy, combined with arguably the best coach in the league in Brad Stevens, it would be a big surprise to see any team come out of the East other than Boston.

2. Philadelphia 76ers

While the Sixers failed to land one of the whales such as James, Paul George or Kawhi Leonard they were attempting to reel in, they have had a productive offseason by dealing for Wilson Chandler from the Nuggets and bringing back sharpshooter J.J. Redick, coming off the best season of his career, and veteran big man Amir Johnson.

Ben Simmons and the Sixers are primed to throw the hammer down this season.

Philadelphia also mixed in a pair of first-round draft picks in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet and received post player Mike Muscala in the three-team deal with Oklahoma City and Atlanta that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Hawks.

While the Sixers lost solid contributors Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, the young core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and a supposedly rebuilt Markelle Fultz (in terms of his problematic jumper), along with veterans Redick, Chandler, Johnson, Muscala, Dario Saric and Robert Covington, have Philadelphia positioned to take another step forward.

Trust the process, Embiid.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

If there’s one team in my “other five” that is a reach, the Thunder are admittedly it.

However, props to general manager Sam Presti, as the Thunder were able to convince Paul George to stick around as Russell Westbrook’s tag-team partner on a longterm extension.

Paul George returning to OKC was the biggest signing this side of LeBron James to the Lakers this offseason.

Bringing in point guard Dennis Schroder and big man Nerlens Noel will provide Band-Aids for OKC’s biggest wound a year ago — its bench — and its best wing defender, Andre Roberson, will return from the knee injury that ended his season a year ago.

Presti finding a way to jettison the aforementioned Anthony is addition by subtraction. Melo just didn’t fit.

The Thunder no longer have a big three, though tough-guy pivotman Steven Adams may have something to say about that, but it says here they may be the biggest threat to Golden State’s dominance in the West.

Emphasis on “may be.”

4. Houston Rockets

Sure, coach Mike D’Antoni’s bunch rolled to 65 wins in the regular season a year ago and attained the No. 1 overall seed, then held a 3-2 lead on the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

However, Chris Paul’s right-hamstring injury in the final minute of a Game 5 win vs. Golden State, which prevented him from playing in Game 6 and Game 7, probably derailed what could have been a championship season for Houston.

NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden is back as The Man and general manager Daryl Morey re-signed athletic center Clint Capela and brought in Michael Carter-Williams and James Ennis.

Chris Paul’s right-hamstring injury may have cost the Rockets an NBA title last season.

So, why aren’t the Rockets higher on this list?

Well, the oft-injured Paul is now 33 and his games played have gone from 74, to 61, to 58 in the last three regular seasons, respectively, after playing all 82 games in 2014-15. That season represents the only time the All-Star point guard has played more than 70 games in the last six campaigns.

If OKC experienced addition by subtraction with Anthony being sent packing, the opposite is the case for Houston. Melo has repeatedly said he will not come off the bench, so whom would he (attempt to) defend if another postseason clash with Golden State were to happen?

Losing strong, long defenders Trevor Ariza (Phoenix) and Luc Mbah a Moute (LA Clippers) to free agency, combined with adding Anthony to the mix, is a recipe for a possible big step back this season, IMHO.

5. Toronto Raptors

IF we knew Kawhi Leonard was 100-percent healthy… and IF we knew he was going to be the same player who earned first-team All-NBA recognition twice, the Raptors would be higher on this list.

However, those are two titanic “IFs” and it remains to be seen just what version of Leonard will be on display this season.

The swap that included DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard is a big part of the Raptors’ makeover.

Blaming Dwane Casey for the Raptors — like everyone else in the East — not being able to knock James off his throne was ridiculous.

Not that Toronto couldn’t have used a bit of a reset, but bringing in Leonard and Danny Green in the deal that sent DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to San Antonio could have been done without deep-sixing Casey, the NBA Coach of the Year and one of the most respected and classiest guys in the league.

If (there’s that word, again) Leonard is healthy, motivated and engaged in the walk year of his contract, he and Green make Toronto much better, defensively, and perhaps, offensively, as well. Leonard should be a good fit to play alongside point guard Kyle Lowry, as well.

Whether that is indeed the case or not remains to be seen, though.

Your thoughts?

There you have it, this guy’s take on “the other five,” besides the mighty Warriors, with the best chances of winning the NBA championship this season.

Feel free to let us know your takes on it and the reasons behind your picks.

3 Comments on "Jones: If not the Warriors, five with best chances are …"

  1. Good to see your thoughts here, CJ.

    I agree with you on the potential of OKC. They have some really strong players in Westbrook and Adams. Adding Schroeder is a big plus for them.

    I think the Utah Jazz are going to be a lot better than the Rockets.

    Boston will probably suffer from injuries. Kawhi in Toronto is a great story. The Raps were so demoralized after LeBronto that they had to clean house, even with really good men like Dwayne Casey and DeMar Derozan.

    As for Philly, another growth year, but not likely a major threat until Simmons and Embiid grow up.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Todd! Interesting thoughts on the Jazz. They play actual defense … which makes me think your prediction isn’t that far-fetched. Thanks for reading! – Sam A.

    • Thanks very much, Todd. Always great to hear from you and read your perspective. I, too, like the Jazz, a lot. My only concern with them is can Mitchell repeat that great rookie season, with every opponent knowing he is by far Utah’s best offensive player? Not many other real weapons there. Again, great to hear from you!

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