May 31, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) loses the ball during a shot attempt against San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (4) during the fourth 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
NBA free agency has gone through its biggest wave. Based on the new landscape, which teams present the most serious threats to the San Antonio Spurs?
Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James and Kyrie Irving combo
It pretty much goes without saying that whatever team LeBron James lands on is a direct challenger to the Spurs crown. The Cleveland Cavaliers certainly made sure to arrange a welcome reception for the King. Awaiting him will be rising All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving who will give James another offensive presence to utilize. Then there is intriguing forward Anthony Bennett and now highly talented rookie Andrew Wiggins. The Cavs are heavy on athletes, and with James there to lead them, the championship talk is rampant.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose return and Pau Gasol arrival
They may not have landed their prized jewel in Carmelo Anthony, but the Chicago Bulls are already significantly better than they were at the end of last season. It started when they acquired Doug McDermott in the draft, a stretch four who can help with their shooting. Next came European MVP Nikola Mirotic, who brings good size and an offensive array of his own. However the big pieces slotted into place are the returning Derrick Rose and now veteran forward Pau Gasol. Chicago was looking for a shot in the arm on offense and those four players will provide it. Combined with the Tom Thibodeau defense, the Bulls are ready to win in 2014-2015.
Houston Rockets: Trevor Ariza signing
Before considering their next Finals appearance, the San Antonio Spurs will have to go through a murderous Western Conference that just keeps getting better. A perfect example are the Houston Rockets. They already have a promising core with James Harden and Dwight Howard. Expectations are they will also retain young forward Chandler Parsons. So by adding veteran Trevor Ariza to the mix, the Rockets have deep and talented front court capable of both scoring and rebounding. That is what it takes to win in the NBA playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Anthony Morrow addition
Ask the Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Limited front court production was what may have cost them against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Part of that was not having a healthy Serge Ibalka. With him returning the Thunder were on the lookout to bring some shooting help on the wings, another area that suffered in the playoffs. Their answer was a big one in Anthony Morrow, who shot an impressive 45% from three-point range last season. His ability to space the floor will open things up for Durant and teammate Russell Westbrook.
San Antonio has no reason to fear any team in the NBA, but the past has shown they will need to respect their opponents if they want that long elusive repeat.