All eight of the Western Conference playoff spots are locked in, as the NBA's 2018-'19 regular season nears its finale, and it's time to predict what the Dubs will be up against.
The Warriors are currently sitting in the top seed, only a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets, with six games remaining.
As a matter of fact, only three and a half games separate the Dubs and the fourth-place Rockets. Realistically, Golden State could plausibly drop as low as the four seed, and with the bottom four teams being separated by only two and a half games, Curry and co. could very well meet any of those teams in a first-round matchup. Let's take a closer look at those four potential opponents and how they fared against the Dubs this season.
5. Utah Jazz (46-30)
Sitting in the fifth position is the defensive-minded, grind-it-out-style Jazz, who are always a tough matchup for the Warriors. The teams split a pair of games in Utah, while the Dubs took the lone game in Oakland, giving them the 2-1 series win over the Jazz. Center Rudy Gobert will cause problems for Steve Kerr's squad as he will show why his nickname is the "Stifle Tower." Protecting the rim, rebounding, and providing an effective inside scorer, Gobert is one of the league's best at the center position.
Volume scorer and savvy outside shooter, Donovan Mitchell, will probably draw coverage from Klay Thompson, who frequently takes on the assignment of guarding the opposing team's best offensive player. The Australian forward, Joe Ingles, provides a capable ball-handler and passer, while it is also well within his skillset to step out beyond the arc and nail a couple three-pointers. Gobert's fellow big man, power forward Derrick Favors provides another viable scoring option in the paint, while also providing a big body for rebounds and blocks. Their point guard, Ricky Rubio, is a strong on-the-ball defender and an excellent ball-handler and passer. The Jazz will be a tough first-round challenge, should the Warriors be faced with opening the playoffs against Utah.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (47-31)
The Clippers have undergone quite a change since their "Lob City" days with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick, and Deandre Jordan. Each of these players has moved on to his own new team. The Clippers are now led by Danilo Gallinari (SF), Patrick Beverley (PG), Ivica Zubac (C), Lou Williams (SG), and Montrezl Harrell (PF). Now, Gallinari may be the closest to a "household name" currently residing on the Clippers, but make no mistake, the other four are solid NBA contributors. Gallinari is the starting lineup's scorer, while Williams averages over 20 points per game off the bench. Zubac and Harrell are two tough bigs, who can score almost at-will in the paint and rebound with the best in the league. Patrick Beverley is a lock-down defender at the guard position. He will undoubtedly bother Curry and attempt to slow him down throughout the entirety of the possible meeting of these two teams. With one game remaining between the two, Golden State holds the edge in the season series 2-1.
7. San Antonio Spurs (44-33)
Gregg Popovich seems as though he could make the playoffs with a handful of current college players. The future Hall of Fame coach just keeps on winning. After losing their franchise player and heir-apparent to the aged-out big three (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili), Kawhi Leonard, it seemed possible that Popovich misht not have enough fire power to make it to another postseason. Well, he made it. With help from Demar DeRozan and Jakob Poetl, who came over from Toronto in the Kawhi trade, point guard Patty Mills, center LaMarcus Aldridge, forward Rudy Gay, and a tremendous supporting case, the Spurs sought after and found their stride late in the season.
Against the Dubs this season, Popovich and the Spurs took the season series 2-1. Always a tough out for any team, let alone a team that has notoriously suffered at the hands of coach "Pop," the Spurs have played so well down the stretch that they are another team that nobody wants to see come playoff time. The Warriors will have to take care of the ball, rebound, and hit shots–basically their gameplan for every game–if they want to handle the team from San Antonio. Efficiency is the name of the game against a Gregg Popovich-coached team.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (44-33)
Alas, the current no. 8 seeded Thunder. Nobody believes this team deserves to be slotted as low as eighth, but here they are. Oklahoma City boasts two of the league's best all-around players in Russell Westbrook (PG) and Paul George (SF). Both of these guys can play excellent defense and absolutely burn you at the other end of the court. Russ can get to the rim any time he wants, and George can light it up from behind the arc. If these two are firing on all cylinders in any single game, they can carry their team past a more talented squad... like the Warriors.
However, they will need help from their stud center Steven Adams, snatching rebounds and dominating the paint, if they hope to have a shot over a potential seven-game series. Backup point guard Dennis Schroder provides a scoring punch and worthy outside-shooting threat off the bench, while small forward Jerami Grant pairs modest scoring with stout defensive metrics to provide coach Billy Donovan with a quality two-way weapon. If the Warriors end up facing this team, taking care of the ball and minding the offensive and defensive glass will be of tantamount importance. The season series between these two perennial Western Conference playoff-dwellers went to the defending champs 2-1. While a matchup between stellar shooting (GS) and pure overwhelming athleticism (OKC) is exciting enough, the added drama of Kevin Durant vs his old teammates and coach is sure to provide fireworks.
Whomever the Dubs meet in the first round of this year's postseason will bring their giant-killing game. It's the nature of the beast for this all-world Warriors team. Every team gets up to take on the best. However, Bay Area fans can have confidence in the fact that this team has answered that call three out of the past four years, including each of the last two. Golden State boasts a starting lineup of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and DeMarcus Cousins... enough said.