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Kurtenbach: The Warriors are favorites to repeat as champions. These three teams are their biggest threats

Kurtenbach: The Warriors are favorites to repeat as champions. These three teams are their biggest threats

The celebration is winding down. The parade is over.

And one thing has been made abundantly clear since the Warriors won their fourth title since 2015: Success doesn’t leave much time for contemplation.

Welcome to the 2022 NBA offseason, ladies and gentlemen.

The Warriors are the oddsmakers’ favorites to repeat as champions, but, like with this season, there will be nearly a dozen teams that can make the argument that they’ll be in the mix to win the title next season.

I don’t know if they all have a claim, but I do see three squads in the Western Conference (let the East take care of itself) that the Warriors should keep close an eye on this offseason, because they represent the strongest threats to the crown:

Memphis Grizzlies

One could make the argument that the Grizzlies — not the Mavericks or Eastern Conference champion Celtics — provided the Warriors their biggest scare this postseason.

There is certainly an alternate universe where Ja Morant never injures his knee and Memphis upsets the Dubs in the second round in May.

But Morant did injure his knee, and the Warriors beat the Grizzlies in six games because of it.

What stood out in that second-round series was how valuable Gary Payton II was, or, I suppose, would have been. Payton was injured in the early moments of Game 2 by a cheap-shot flagrant foul from Dillon Brooks that broke the Warrior’s elbow.

I know it feels like a decade ago, but remember: without Payton, the Warriors had no one who could stay in front of Morant on the perimeter, and that provided Memphis with the upper hand in the series until Morant’s injury.

Memphis is young, Morant’s injury appears to be minor in the grand scheme, and with a couple of simple moves, the Grizzlies could be under the NBA’s salary cap by enough to add a clear No. 2 to the mix.

After the Warriors won the title, a number of them spent some time chirping at the Grizzlies in press conferences and on Twitter. There’s some energy for a real rivalry here both on and off the court.

Memphis is going to come strong again next season. If the Warriors want to position themselves to beat them again, they need to bring back Payton, at whatever the cost.

Dallas Mavericks

Source: Paradise Post

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