Three of the four Golden State Warriors All-Stars will be back by the end of the weekend, and that’s a good sign considering Stephen Curry may miss the first round of the playoffs with a MCL Grade 2 sprain in his left knee.
The Warriors have enough talent to survive a playoff series without the two-time Most Valuable Player, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Heck, there’s some teams they’d want to avoid.
Let’s take a look at the opponents the Warriors could face in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, ranked from easiest to the most challenging.
Los Angeles Clippers (No issues)
If Avery Bradley wasn’t out for the year with an adductor and rectus abdominis muscles injury, the Clippers would be much higher on this list. Right now, they’re 1.5 games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the eighth-seed in the Western Conference, and with seven to play, their playoff chances are slim.
The Clippers are a lot better without Blake Griffin, but they would be no match for the Warriors, even without Stephen Curry. As a matter of fact, if they were to miraculously climb to the seventh-seed, Steve Kerr and company would be pleased.
Minnesota Timberwolves (Barely break a sweat)
With Jimmy Butler nearing a return from a meniscus tear in his right knee, the T-Wolves have plenty of talent to make the Warriors sweat. Still, their overall inexperience and inconsistent play of young phenom Andrew Wiggins would doom them. The T-Wolves would be light work for the Warriors.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who was selected to his first All-Star Game this season and just dropped 56 points on the lowly Atlanta Hawks, would be a handful, but this team is running on fumes as head coach Tom Thibodeau has run his team into the ground.
New Orleans Pelicans (Light Work)
The Pelicans are a fun team to watch, led by MVP candidate Anthony Davis, but they don’t play enough defense to outlast the defending champs in a best-of-seven series. Head coach Alvin Gentry has done an outstanding job of keeping them afloat in the loaded Western Conference, but they’re second-to-last in opponent points per game. The Warriors would cook the Pels in five games. Next.
Utah Jazz (No walk in the Park)
This is where it gets — gulp — a little dicey. Traveling to the Wasatch Mountains, as Greg Papa likes to always point out, is a difficult task. The altitude in Salt Lake City is no joke and oh, they have a pretty damn good basketball team that’s won 23 of their last 28 games.
Utah is one of the best teams in the NBA defensively, led by the Stifle Tower, Rudy Gobert, who is a favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. They also have dynamic rookie Donovan Mitchell, who would muck the game up against the Warriors, literally making them grind out every possession. Without Curry, the Warriors should be able to handle the Jazz, but it’d be a grueling series, one the Warriors would happily like to avoid.
San Antonio Spurs (Stressful)
Oh, those pesky Spurs, who have basically played without their franchise player Kawhi Leonard, who has only played in nine games due to a quadriceps injury. Seriously, who wouldn’t be a bit nervous about playing the Spurs in the first round?
Nobody that roots for the Warriors wants to deal with mastermind Gregg Popovich and his very seasoned bunch. No need to filter out the numbers, nor do I need to bore you about the pace at which they play. If Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are locked in, the Warriors should have enough to get by the Spurs. But if they can avoid them all together, that’d be fine too.
Oklahoma City Thunder (Buckle-Up! This can get rocky)
Nobody inside or outside of the organization will openly admit this, but without Curry this is a matchup nobody wants. Nobody.
Russell Westbrook despises the Warriors and would love nothing better than to send his former teammate, Kevin Durant, home in mid-April. Paul George plays the passing lanes so well, not to mention he never allows Klay Thompson to breathe. Steven Adams’ size causes the Warriors all kinds of issues. Can the Warriors survive without Curry against the Thunder? I think so, but this is the one opponent that has the talent to send the Warriors home.
I’m telling you, the Thunder matchup so well with the Warriors. If you’re a fan of the NBA, you’d love to see this series. If you’re a Warriors fan, you may need some Prozac to get through this battle. It just wouldn’t be easy.
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from 12-3 on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner, and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.