In all likelihood, the Golden State Warriors will win the 2017 NBA championship.
Las Vegas certainly thinks so. According to OddsShark.com, the Warriors are heavy betting favorites (-200 against the field!) to exact their revenge against the Cleveland Cavaliers and hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy come June.
Yet if any team knows nothing is certain, it's these Warriors. They've felt the sting of having a ring in hand, only to watch the title slip through their fingers and into the waiting arms of LeBron James.
Golden State is dominant, to be sure, but its reign is far from inevitable. Here are five reasons the Warriors might not win the championship that feels like it's already theirs. (And just so you know we're not playing favorites, check out the flip side with our five reasons the Cavaliers won't win it all.)
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The Warriors haven't been tested in the clutch
And there's a chance they never will be — not this season, anyhow.
More likely, though, Golden State will need to win several games that come down to the final few possessions if they want to win the 2017 NBA championship. Yet this team has dominated the competition to such an extent that we don't know how they'll respond in the biggest moments.
Who dominates the ball: Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant? How much do the Warriors rely on their complicated offense? How much do they rely on isolation? Do they finally turn to the pick and roll? If one of their two lead superstars has a big game, will the other mope? Can both be involved during hero-ball, and if so, what does that mean for Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?
These are all questions the Warriors can answer, but they haven't needed to do so yet. There's a chance they won't like the answers once they finally take the test.
Derick E. HingleDerick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Draymond Green is always one play away from exploding
After all, if it weren't for Green's volcanic temper, the Warriors would be two-time defending champions.
That's not really up for debate; Green's Game 5 suspension cost Golden State a championship. And while the Warriors are better equipped to deal with the loss of one of their core players this year, thanks to the presence of KD, Green might be the single player the Warriors can't live without.*
*Speaking of which: a major injury to Durant, Green or Curry is another reason the Warriors might come up short of a championship, but we're not going to put that evil on anyone, so let's move on.
Golden State's defense looks awfully average when Green sits, and his quick thinking as a play maker keeps Golden State's offense humming. Losing him, even for a game, could prove catastrophic should his temper flare at the most inopportune time.
Of course, Green doesn't need to get suspended to have a negative impact for Golden State. His emotional responses to his teammates' miscues can be enough to send the Warriors into a spiral when things aren't going their way.
Golden State typically has Steve Kerr to balance Green out in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, that might not be the case this postseason.
Kelley L CoxKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
They probably won't have Steve Kerr for the rest of the postseason
Green told reporters on Monday the Warriors are approaching the rest of the playoffs as if they won't have Kerr, who's suffering from a spinal fluid leak as a result of back surgery in the summer of 2015. Assistant Mike Brown takes Kerr's place.
LeBron James' former coach has plenty of experience and a fine resume, but he's not the architect of this Warriors squad. When Golden State goes toe-to-toe with LeBron, it needs its head coach. His absence could be the deciding factor in a third series between these two modern juggernauts.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, we won't know just how much they'll miss Kerr for quite some time. It's hard to imagine Golden State will be challenged in any significant way prior to the Finals.
Then again ...
The Warriors might not make it to the Finals at all
Golden State's ascension feels like a foregone conclusion, and that's probably right.
The Utah Jazz clearly don't stand a chance against the Warriors, for one, and the San Antonio Spurs wouldn't fare much better — to say nothing of San Antonio's apparent struggles with the Houston Rockets.
Those Rockets, though, could make things interesting against the Warriors. They've established their strategy: get out in transition and chuck all of the 3-pointers.
Defense will be the issue, as there's little chance Houston can slow Golden State. And again, we're not saying the Warriors are at all vulnerable.
But if Houston's 3s are falling, and if Golden State goes cold, and if Steve Kerr's absence looms large a series sooner than we thought, and if Draymond messes with the Warriors' heads, you just never know.
Thomas SheaThomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James still exists
The team with the best player tends to win the series in the NBA playoffs — and as talented as the Warriors are, they won't have the best player in the NBA Finals.
That would be LeBron James, of course, and he's a one-man equalizer. He turned in a historic performance to lift the Cavaliers to their first championship in 2016. Why would you count out the possibility he one-ups himself with another all-time series?
The Cavs will need LeBron at his very best to defeat the Warriors, sure. They might need him to be better than any player has ever been in the NBA.
And the King is fully capable of rising to that level. If he does, we'll be in for one of the greatest battles in professional sports history.