The 2015/16 NBA season is upon us and the Golden State Warriors will be hoping to repeat after ending their long wait for a championship last year.
Stephen Curry picked up the MVP award with plays like that seen below, but with the off-season moves and renewed motivation of their rivals, he and his teammates will have to be on top of their game in order to defend their crown.
Our NBA Season Preview starts with the defending champions, who have faced criticism and doubters this off-season. The Los Angeles Clippers have perhaps been the most vocal, but the suggestion is that the Warriors were fortunate on their path to winning the championship last season.
While their roster remained injury-free for the most part, injuries to key players on opposing sides helped them through the playoffs. However, statistically this is a team that went 67-15 in the regular season, breezed through the Western Conference playoffs and were the best team to win a championship since Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
Golden State were ultimately the best team in the league last season, but this time round they face new threats that will not be easy to dismiss.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will be hoping to go a step further after falling in the NBA Finals, and they remain the best bet to emerge from the Eastern Conference.
Rival teams such as the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards will undoubtedly have something to say about that, and the Miami Heat are certainly worth consideration given their impressive starting five.
The Bulls in particular look like they will benefit after being freed from the limitations of Tom Thibodeau’s system offensively, but whether or not they can make that breakthrough against LeBron in the post-season remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, it is the stacked Western Conference which is hosting my pick for the new champions, and they are the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs brought in LaMarcus Aldridge this summer as well as David West who took an $11m pay-cut to join the team. Combined with the Big Three of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, this could well be a memorable last ride for the veteran trio together.
Meanwhile, the Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets will all be threats, but the Spurs have the quality, experience and deep bench to claim their sixth championship.
Anything can happen in the West given the competition, but the Spurs seem best equipped to take the Larry O’Brien trophy away from Oakland as the quality and depth on their roster promises to deliver plenty of memorable moments this season.