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Denver Nuggets 2017-18 Season Preview

After an eventful offseason with a big addition, Basketball Insiders previews the Denver Nuggets.

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The Denver Nuggets go into the 2017-2018 season hoping that their continued investment in a few talented young players surrounded by capable veterans is an effective recipe to make the playoffs. The team is coming off a year in which they went 40-42, placing them 9th place in the western conference and just outside the playoff picture. Add in a key offseason acquisition in power forward Paul Millsap and the team should be poised to break into the top eight this season.

FIVE GUYS THINK…

One of my favorite offseason acquisitions was the Denver Nuggets’ signing of Paul Millsap. From the terms of the deal (three-years, $90 million, team option on the final season) to Millsap’s fit alongside center Nikola Jokic, this was simply a homerun deal for Denver. Millsap alone can’t turn the Nuggets into an above average defensive team, but he will certainly have a tangible effect on the team. Denver will also have to rely on the continued development of young studs like Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Jokic, who is quickly establishing himself as a superstar level talent. The Northwest Division is hard to get a full grasp on at this point, but with more internal development and the addition of Millsap, Denver could turn some heads this upcoming season.

2nd Place – Northwest Division

— Jesse Blancarte

The Denver Nuggets are smack dab in the middle of possibly the NBA’s toughest conference.

Nearly every team in the Northwest Division will have playoff aspirations this upcoming season. So, with a budding star player in Nikola Jokic already at their disposal, the Nuggets made a move to position themselves equally among their division counterparts by signing free agent forward Paul Millsap.

Placing Millsap alongside Jokic provides Denver a nice frontcourt combo that can stretch the floor on opposing defenses. With Jokic’s above-average passing ability and Millsap’s catch-and-shoot ability, the Nuggets should have a nice one-two punch down low to accompany their cast of young, promising guards.

However, the road to the playoffs won’t be easy for Denver. The West only got stronger this offseason and that includes their division. Should the Nuggets find themselves playoff bound, it will be a result of a best case scenario regular season.

4th place — Northwest Division

— Dennis Chambers

If we liked the Nuggets last season, we sort of have no choice but to love them this year. Golden State owns the Western Conference, obviously, but much of the talk this summer has been about the ground made up by Houston. Denver, though, certainly made their own splashy acquisition in Paul Millsap. He and Nikola Jokic should be one of the most entertaining frontcourts in the league this year, and with further emergence from young studs like Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, it’s really hard not to have these guys as up-and-comers in the West. Unfortunately they play in the league’s most miserable division, but while I’ve got them ranked fourth there, I also don’t see there being a whole lot of space between any two teams in the Northwest.

4th Place – Northwest Division

— Joel Brigham

In an NBA Sunday column, I wrote about the 2014 draft class and how, in some ways, they have already been surpassed by the 2015 draft class. Nikola Jokic could help to turn the tide, though.

After the February 11 trade that saw Jusuf Nurkic land in Portland, Jokic’s number shot up across the board. His usage, minutes and repetitions all increased dramatically and the results had most people that follow the Association gasping. After the trade, in 28 games, Jokic averaged 18.7 points, 12 rebounds, 6.1 assists on about 57 percent shooting from the field. His per-36 numbers were even more impressive: 21.9 points, 14 rebounds and 7.1 assists. He also recorded five triple-doubles.

In other words, Jokic has gotten a lot of people wondering whether or not he is a special player, and if he is the star that the Nuggets have been searching for since trading Carmelo Anthony, they have a few pieces around him that can prove to be helpful. The addition of Paul Millsap helps improve their fortunes, as well, but it’s with Jokic’s proving that last season’s numbers weren’t an aberration that the Nuggets’ postseason hopes lay. It’s also worth noting that in those final 28 games, they were a respectable 17-11.

With all the changes that have taken place in the Northwest, it’s difficult to predict where the division’s teams will ultimately land. I’d probably pick the Nuggets to finish fourth or fifth, but wouldn’t be surprised to see the top four teams from the Northwest make the playoffs. It’s safe to say they are one of my top five teams to watch this season.

5th Place — Northwest Division

— Moke Hamilton

Outside the world champion Warriors, maybe no offense in the NBA should inspire as much excitement as the Nuggets heading into next season. A group that shined offensively down the stretch last year then went out and added even more firepower in the form of star Paul Millsap, leaving Denver with a fearsome scoring machine. In Millsap and rising star Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets boast an incredible combination of skill and playmaking in their frontcourt – they can run the entire offense through it. They retain strong wing options like Gary Harris and Wilson Chandler, along with second-year spark plug Jamal Murray. They’ll push the pace in transition, and when they have to play in the halfcourt, Millsap and Jokic will create a huge number of issues for defenses with their passing and creativity from the elbows. This group will have some real questions to answer on defense, but Millsap also provides a real boon on that end. Look for them to be right there in the Northwest Division.

2nd place — Northwest Division

— Ben Dowsett

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Paul Millsap

The 2016-2017 NBA Offseason will go down as one of the busiest in recent history. Players such as Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward and Jimmy Butler all moved teams and did so in surprising fashion. In comparison, the offseason signing of power forward Paul Millsap was, in comparison, less talked about and, for longtime Nuggets fans, not as much of a surprise. However overlooked, this is the perfect acquisition for the team.

Millsap brings savvy passing, intelligent defense and the ability to score one-on-one, both from the outside and in the post. Although other teams didn’t make aggressive overtures to Millsap and the Hawks apparently never tendered an offer, the Nuggets got just the player they wanted in Millsap.

Top Defensive Player: Wilson Chandler

Look for the Nuggets to rely on Wilson Chandler as a primary defensive player. Chandler has both the skill and experience to lead the Nuggets on defense, though his health has been a concern in recent seasons. Building around Jokic is great for the Nuggets’ offense but deprives the team of possibly using a more athletic, defensive minded player to anchor the team’s defense. Chandler, with his length, strength and size is best suited to guard the elite small forwards in the league, which makes him very valuable defensively. Chandler is in a contract year also, so don’t be surprised to see a boost in his overall performance this season.

Top Playmaker: Nikola Jokic

After narrowly being edged out for Top Offensive Player by new addition Paul Millsap, Jokic holds the crown decisively for the Nuggets as the team’s Top Playmaker. The Nuggets are now built around Jokic and his rapidly developing game. There was a point last season where the Nuggets tried in earnest to make the pairing of Jokic and center Jusuf Nurkic work. Since trading Nurkic, Jokic has emerged as a star whose combination of excellent court vision, deft passing and high IQ gives the Nuggets a unique and talented base to build around. Running the offense through Jokic alleviates pressure on point guard Jameer Nelson, who finished last season as the team’s primary point guard but whose best days in the NBA are behind him.

Top Clutch Player: Paul Millsap

Again, this is a team built around multi-skilled big men with a knack for nifty passing. The incumbent top clutch player is Jokic as he was the only player with a positive net rating (1.9) in clutch minutes (in a minimum 20 games according to NBA.com), to go with the highest shooting numbers of any Nuggets player and passing numbers comparable to point guard Jameer Nelson.

However, under the same criteria, Millsap comes to the team with a much higher net rating (16.4) than Jokic, higher usage percentage (30.8) than Jokic (23.8) and similar passing numbers. Look for the team run the offense through Jokic late in the game and give the ball to Millsap to utilize his ability to score the ball on final possessions. It’s a close call here, but Millsap gets the nod.

The Unheralded Player: Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray. Both Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay came to the Nuggets as the seventh pick in their respective drafts. Despite the attention having been on Mudiay for the past two years, all eyes should be on Murray going forward. Murray played point guard in high school and when drafted by the Nuggets expressed his interest in returning to the position. Murray received his wish, playing in and starting a few games at point guard at the end of last season. Expect the Nuggets to continue to explore how viable Murray can be in this position. If Murray builds on his brief but successful run at the point, this could pay huge dividends for a team fretting whether Mudiay will ever transition into the player they hoped he would become.

Best New Addition: Paul Millsap

The nod again goes to Millsap. Nuggets fans are aware of the team’s past interest in Millsap, so this move comes as no surprise. The ability of the Nuggets to acquire Millsap to less than a maximum deal and retaining a team option in year three is a credit to the team’s front office. In the past the Nuggets have signaled their interest and attempted to acquire big name post players such as Blake Griffin but came up short. The offense, led by Head Coach Mike Malone, will hum with Millsap at the power forward spot.

— James Blancarte

WHO WE LIKE

1. Mike Malone

Mike Malone’s desire for balanced offense with free-flowing ball movement caught fire with the discovery of Jokic’s full skillset. Credit Malone for his part in the free agent pitch that helped to secure the services of Millsap. Jokic playing as a full time starter only began in December. How successful the offense can be with a full season of Jokic and the addition of Millsap is now directly tied to Malone’s ability to make maximize the pairing. He’s the right man for the job and should find plenty of interesting ways to utilize each player’s significant talent.

 2. Juan Hernangomez

Hernangomez has received a lot of attention recently. He and his brother Willy Hernangomez of the New York Knicks are playing together in the Eurobasket. While the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, receive more attention, look for the Henangomez brothers to continue to garner increasing amounts of attention from the international audience. On his native Spanish team, Juan Hernangomez is thriving at the small forward spot, using a combination of cuts, ball movement and spot up shooting to make an impact. After not much playing time to start his rookie year, Hernangomez played well for a rookie in the second half of last season. Look for him to have a chance as an impact player off the bench for the Nuggets behind Wilson Chandler.

 3. Gary Harris

Gary Harris has been on an upward trend in his first three years in the league. In addition to Jokic and Millsap, Harris is arguably in position to be the third-most important player on the team. With a full season featuring Jokic as the team’s star player and the addition of Millsap, expect Harris to continue his improvement and creep closer to being a 16-18 point a game player. With more experience and talented teammates in the frontcourt, Harris should have plenty of opportunities to knock down open jumpers on a nightly basis.

4. Kenneth Faried

Kenneth Faried has had an up and down tenure in Denver. While experiencing stints of success and notoriety over the years, he has also chaffed at the prospect of remaining with the Nuggets and even asked for a trade last season. Look for Faried to be the first featured big off the bench as the Nuggets will certainly look to dangle him in trades during the season. Faried may not be the player the Nuggets hoped he would develop into a few years ago, but he has value and, if featured in a positive role, could land Denver something of value in a trade.

— James Blancarte

SALARY CAP 101

The Nuggets used most of their cap space to sign Paul Millsap. While they’re currently about $2.8 million under the league’s $99.1 million cap, that number could grow to $8.6 million if restricted free agent Mason Plumlee leaves for another team. Denver cannot withdraw their $4.6 million qualifying offer to Plumlee without his approval.

The Nuggets have until the end of October to take options on Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles, Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley for the 2018-19 season. Gary Harris is extension eligible before the start of the season. Next summer, Denver could reach at least $36 million in cap space, provided Wilson Chandler ($12.8 million) and Darrell Arthur ($7.5 million) opt out of their contracts.

— Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

The offense. As mentioned above, Malone has the team in position to improve and potentially explode on the offensive end. The team’s purest playmaker is Jokic. With Millsap now in the fold, the ball should move freely and efficiently. How well the team can stagger the minutes of Jokic and Millsap will help determine how successful the offense is. The second unit should be aided by one of the starting big men staying on the floor to help keep the ball movement going as the back-ups simply cannot mimic either player’s considerable skill set. If the Nuggets are really aggressive, they may try to use Millsap as a backup center to give more room to other more traditional power forwards in the rotation like Trey Lyles or Darrel Arthur. There are plenty of options here for Malone – expect him to make the most of it.

— James Blancarte

WEAKNESSES

As good as the offense was last year, the defense held the team back just as much. Expect the defense to continue to struggle but for the team to trend upwards a few spots overall. This year’s team, like last year’s, is built around a lot of younger players, which means there will be plenty of mistakes on defense throughout the season. The addition of Millsap as an experienced veteran who plays smart defense is a plus, but he cannot turn things around on defense by himself.

The Nuggets have some capable wing defenders in Chandler and Harris, but players like Murray, Mudiay and Nelson often struggle on defense. This roster simply isn’t built to be a top defensive squad, which means the offense is going to have to be extremely efficient.

— James Blancarte

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can the team improve enough to make the playoffs?

Yes. With only a few weeks left until the start of training camp, the Nuggets are running out of time to make a move and free up the logjam at power forward and bring better balance to their roster. Even if the team elects to not make a move or at least waits until the trade deadline, the team is already in a great position. Millsap and Jokic will lead a balanced attack based on ball movement and generate open looks for their teammates. The team’s offense should rank in the top five, assuming the team stays healthy for the most part. If the defense can come close to league average, that should be good enough for the team to make the playoffs.

— James Blancarte

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New Orleans Pelicans and Cliff Alexander Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto

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The New Orleans Pelicans and free agent forward Cliff Alexander have agreed to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Alexander will give New Orleans 20 players heading into training camp.

Alexander spent last season playing 40 combined games with the Erie Bayhawks and Long Island Nets in the G-League, where he averaged 15.8 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game. Alexander also shot 52 percent from the field and blocked one shot per game.

The 21-year-old forward was a McDonald’s All-American and won MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic in 2014 before attending Kansas University. Alexander played 28 games as a Jayhawk and averaged 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 17.6 minutes per game before declaring for the draft.

After going undrafted, Alexander played in eight games for Portland during the 2015-16 season and received a 10-day contract from the Brooklyn Nets in April.

For more information on the salary cap and roster situation for the New Orleans Pelicans, click here.

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Atlanta Hawks and John Jenkins Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto

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The Atlanta Hawks and free agent guard John Jenkins have agreed to a training camp deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Jenkins will give Atlanta 20 players heading into training camp.

Jenkins drew interest from several other teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks.

The 26-year-old guard began his career in Atlanta after the Hawks selected him 23rd overall out of Vanderbilt in the 2012 draft. For his career, Jenkins has averaged 5.1 points in 12.8 minutes per game while shooting 45 percent from the field overall and 36 percent from beyond the arc.

For more information on Atlanta’s salary cap and roster situation, click here.

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NBA

Golden State Warriors 2017-18 Season Preview

The Golden State Warriors remain the cream of the NBA crop, even after several franchises went all in this offseason. Can anyone really beat the Warriors in a seven-game series? We look at the Warriors in this final NBA season preview.

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After losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015-16 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors were highly favored to win the 2016-17 championship with the offseason addition of Kevin Durant. In the Warriors’ third straight Finals match up with Cavaliers, Golden State, with plenty of help from Durant, over-matched Cleveland in last season’s NBA Finals. This year, with Durant taking a pay cut, the team did a masterful job of bringing back just about all of the key players from last year’s championship run. Now the team is primed to wreak havoc on the league once again.

FIVE GUYS THINK…

It’s almost comical at this point how the best team in basketball keeps getting better.

After adding Kevin Durant last summer, and then completely decimating the entire NBA, including LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, all the Golden State Warriors did was go out and add two players in Omri Casspi and Nick Young who almost perfectly fit their brand of “you’re not out-shooting us” basketball.

The powers of the NBA all shuffled around their rosters this season in hopes of trying to assemble some type of “anti-Warriors” remedy, and when it’s all said and done, those moves will be all for naught. Expect Golden State to ride their legendary roster to another NBA title.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Dennis Chambers

What do you need me to say about the Warriors that you don’t already know? Two of the best five players in the league are on the roster, as well as arguably the top defensive player in the league and a cast of reserves that fit perfectly with the superstars running the show. Even JaVale McGee is shooting three pointers now. The Warriors are unstoppable and in some ways even better than the team that won a championship a few months ago. It’s going to be a long season for every other team in the league. They’re all playing for second place.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Joel Brigham

The road to the NBA Finals obviously goes through Oakland, especially after the club managed to re-sign JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Nick Young will give the team some additional firepower, but they probably don’t even need it.

So long as these guys stay healthy, they’ll probably find their way to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, and with the Clippers having lost Chris Paul, the Warriors should have a relatively easy time winning the Pacific Division for the fourth straight year.

I’m usually longer-winded than that, but I’m not sure much else needs to be said about the Warriors.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Moke Hamilton

At this point, what’s really left to say? The Warriors had arguably the best basketball team ever assembled last season, and that was while dealing with minor role concerns and dealing with Kevin Durant’s midseason injury. Then they went out and improved this offseason, adding the likes of Omri Casspi and Nick Young as perfect end-of-roster pieces. Combine that with what most would expect will be even better fit and chemistry across the roster this season, and the Warriors stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league even with several squads making big power moves to try and bridge the gap. Anything but a third title in four years will fail to do justice to the incredible, historical talent on this roster.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Ben Dowsett

The best team in the NBA went out and retained key players and signed Omri Casspi and Nick Young to round out the roster. As has been the case for several years now, the Warriors enter the upcoming season with the most overall talent, improved chemistry, good health and every ingredient necessary to win an NBA championship. Several other contenders pulled off some impressive moves to try and bridge the gap between themselves and the Warriors, but Golden State still holds the advantage against every other team in the league. So long as the Warriors are playing up to their potential, or anywhere near it, the other contenders are out of luck. Unless the Warriors face some serious injuries this upcoming season or some internal discord, we should expect them to win their third championship in four seasons.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Jesse Blancarte

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant

Don’t knock me for not clearly choosing a single player here. The individual excellence of both Stephen Curry and Durant cannot be stated enough. While Curry’s statistics did take a bit of a step back from the year prior, he still led the way for the Warriors last season. Last year, Curry led the team in points per game (by a slim margin), three-pointers made, assists and usage percentage. Keep in mind, Durant was excellent but Curry still commanded the offense for the most part. However, Durant was right on Curry’s heels and in the playoffs actually slightly surpassed Curry in points per game. In addition, Durant remains as tough to cover one-on-one as anyone in the league. Regardless, both players are unbelievable individual talents and would easily be the top offensive player on just about any other team.

Top Defensive Player: Draymond Green

For the foreseeable future, Draymond Green has this category on lockdown for the Warriors. Green uses a combination of length, strength, timing and sneaky athleticism to smother his opponents. Green’s versatility allows him to guard a range of positions in the post and switch to guard guards and forwards on the wing effectively as well. His versatility is the lynchpin of the Warrior’s vaunted death line up that uses Green at center and brings Iguodala off the bench to close games. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year race came down to Green and Utah center Rudy Gobert. In the end, Green’s versatility as well as his ability to guard the rim effectively made him the top choice in voters’ minds. Expect Green to be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year this upcoming season as well.

Top Playmaker: Stephen Curry

When the Warriors added Durant to the roster, many wondered, even for a team as unselfish as the Warriors, how would Stephen Curry and Durant manage to share the ball? That question was answered when Curry took a step back and allowed Durant’s individual offensive brilliance to shine. Curry’s points per game dropped (30.1 to 25.3) as did his usage percentage (32.0 to 29.2). Curry’s individual excellence continued regardless as he remained the Warriors’ top distributor (followed closely by Draymond Green). In addition, Curry garners so much attention that his simple presence on the court creates more room for teammates to operate. Curry’s ability to pull up from virtually anywhere on the court and willingness to make the extra pass to teammates makes him a nightmare to cover and the Warriors’ top playmaker.

Top Clutch Player: Kevin Durant/Stephen Curry

Once again, you could give this award to either of the Warrior’s two best offensive players. Curry dominates most of the advanced statistics when breaking down clutch play, defined as the last minutes of a game within 5 point or less, per nba.com. However, based on Durant’s size, length and ability to get off a shot in isolation, he makes for an excellent clutch player in just about any situation. Either is an extraordinary option and their play in crunch time continues to be critical to their championship fortunes.

The Unheralded Player: Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is a phenomenal talent who does a number of things well. He’s an unbelievable three-point shooter and defends elite point guards to alleviate the pressure on Curry. For a team with two elite offensive players, having Thompson as your third option on offense is just unfair to the rest of the league. Thompson lights up the league with his ability to hit outside shots without needing to dominate the ball. Don’t just count on Thompson to score as he takes pride in his defense and his ability to lockdown on defense.

Best New Addition: Omri Casspi

Overall, the Warriors have had an unbelievable stretch of luck when it comes to injuries, which will hopefully rub off on Omri Casspi this season. With his length, versatility and the ability to stretch the floor, he can slide into either forward spot. His addition strengthens the team’s ability to survive the grind of the regular season and lessen the minutes of the starters. Casspi fills a lot of needs for several teams that are looking to challenge the Warriors, so simply keeping him away from those teams is an added benefit to his signing.

– James Blancarte

WHO WE LIKE

1. Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr continues to be the perfect coach for this team. He helps to keep the players focused on their individual roles within the larger team structure and has so far prevented major dissension and discord. Kerr took the team that Mark Jackson previously coached and helped to transform the team into champions. Credit is deserved for his part in successfully orchestrating the move of former All-Star Iguodala to a bench role and meshing Durant’s individual brilliance with the Warriors’ pre-existing, pass-happy offense. Kerr has missed significant time due to his botched spinal surgery, but if he can manage his health, count on Kerr to keep the Warriors a well-oiled machine.

2. Nick Young

Nick Young is a player that has had an up-and-down career. Credit Young for carving out a relatively successful career as a journeyman three-point shooting wing. Keeping Young focused and unlocking his full range of talents has been difficult for many organizations. The Warriors are up next and will give the 11th year pro an opportunity to do what he does best — knocking down three-pointers. As a career 37.6 percentage three-point shooter, Young will have a chance to get more open looks from distance than he has previously in his career. Like JaVale McGee, Young will also have a chance to transform his reputation if he proves to be a disciplined, effective contributor to a championship team.

3. Jordan Bell

What’s the perfect piece for a rebuilding team in need of young talent to build around? Jordan Bell, selected with the 38th pick in this year’s draft), is just that sort of player. The Warriors acquired the pick from the Chicago Bulls for cash consideration. The Bulls loss is the Warriors gain as hopes are high for the young talent from the University of Oregon. The Warriors will take their time with the 6-foot-9 forward and hope that he will build on and develop his defensive talents and one day be a reliable contributor for Golden State.

4. Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston is many years removed from the knee injury that nearly ended his professional career. While Livingston has played for nine teams in his career, he continues to be loyal to the Warriors, the team with which he has experienced the most success post-injury. Livingston continues to do whatever the team requires as he slides into either guard slot when needed and provides reliable production from the bench. Opposing backup point guards often get caught being posted up by the lengthy 6-foot-7 guard. Count Livingston as another essential cog who will do whatever it takes to help the Warriors win at all costs.

– James Blancarte

SALARY CAP 101

The Warriors are a major spender at $135.4 million in guaranteed salary, resulting in at least $32 million in luxury taxes. Golden State used its Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to sign Nick Young at $5.2 million for a season. Having re-signed on one-year deals, Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee can block any trades.

Before November, the Warriors need to decide on 2018-19 team options for Kevon Looney and Damian Jones. Next summer, Kevin Durant can opt out again but now the team has his Early Bird Rights and the ability to give him a raise in the $35 million range. The Warriors seem willing to pay for a winner but for how long as luxury taxes grow progressively as the team gradually becomes a repeat offender?

– Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

This team continues to have everything you could want in a modern NBA team. An electric point guard who is nearly unstoppable, a 3-and-D wing with a killer three-point shot, an unstoppable one-on-one player who can score from anywhere, a dominant and flexible defensive forward who can play center and a defensive wing who is a great glue guy. That’s just the five players that are normally used to close out games. The rest of the roster has a number of key contributors ready to do whatever the team needs. Oh, and they also have a great coach to keep everyone on the same page. With all the pieces a team could want, expect the Warriors to again push a possible record-breaking pace in the regular season on their way to the playoffs and likely the Finals.

– James Blancarte

WEAKNESSES

The easiest answer here is none. Eventually the injury bug might hit the Warriors but for now they have everything they could want to continue their excellent play. Perhaps some players may lose a sense of urgency in the regular season after breaking records and dominating the last few seasons, though that seems unlikely. On paper, this team is not afflicted by any major weaknesses.

– James Blancarte

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can anyone stop the Warriors?

Other teams continue to make moves to get better. On September 23, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded agreed to terms on a deal to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. With that move, count the Thunder, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and the Cavaliers as the biggest potential obstacles in the Warriors’ path to repeat. One of these teams may beat them, but the Warriors are the heavy favorites and the team most likely to win the championship next year.

– James Blancarte

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