May 31, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (4) attempts a shot against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the third quarter in game six of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
One left unaccomplished for the San Antonio Spurs dynasty is a lack of a repeat NBA title run. Which teams are their biggest threats to that goal?
Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City Thunder
The real threats to the repeat for San Antonio start in the Western Conference. Those are the teams they’ll have to wade through to even reach the Finals again. At present the primary contender remains the Oklahoma City Thunder. With reigning MVP Kevin Durant, All-Star Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka they have a core that is firmly in its prime. If they stay healthy, they can avenge their Western Conference Finals defeat.
Chris Paul and Los Angeles Clippers
Doc Rivers was hired by the Los Angeles Clippers to get them over the hump. Claiming the third seed and winning 57 games was certainly progress but one can say the Donald Sterling controversy hampered them in the playoffs. With Rivers’ system now set their lineup of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan may be ready for a run.
James Harden and Houston Rockets
Optimism was very high for the Houston Rockets thanks in large part to their acquiring Dwight Howard via NBA free agency. Together with Chandler Parsons and James Harden the team had a starting lineup featuring a nice blend of size, speed, offense and defense. To beat the San Antonio Spurs though they need more playoff experience.
LeBron James and Miami Heat
The Eastern Conference is somewhat murkier given the onset of free agency this year. LeBron James has the option to leave the Miami Heat if he so desires. That would certainly make them less of a threat to the Spurs. However, if he chooses to stay they will remain a favorite in the East.
Paul George and Indiana Pacers
NBA fans and execs are still trying to figure out what happened to the Indiana Pacers. On paper they have one of the best rosters in the league with Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West and Lance Stephenson. Yet in spite of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals they did not play up to the promise people saw in them at the beginning of the season. That said they are still young and gaining experience, and therefore prominent contenders.
Derrick Rose and Chicago Bulls
Champions always need to look out for the teams that mirror their style of game. In regards to the San Antonio Spurs, few do that better than the Chicago Bulls. Under Tom Thibodeau they feature a defensive-oriented system predicated on sharing the basketball, just like Gregg Popovich has championed. Unfortunately injuries have hampered them the past couple years, specifically regarding Derrick Rose. At the same time, with Rose recovering, more salary cap space available and two first round draft picks, the Bulls are poised to improve heading into 2014-2015.