The Golden State Warriors may have won the championship last year, but a new survey by ESPN sees them losing to the LA Clippers in the Western Conference this year. That comes as a bit of a surprise after the Warriors put on a dazzling show in last season's NBA Playoffs and capped it off with a gritty 4-2 win over the Boston Celtics in the Finals. However, with the Clippers welcoming back former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to a roster that already has All-Star wingman Paul George and recently-acquired guard John Wall, the Clippers may just have what it takes to take down the champs.
Clippers favored in West
ESPN asked a panel composed of 15 NBA coaches, scouts, and executives various questions regarding the upcoming NBA season. This included which team would be coming out of the Western Conference this year. The Clippers received five votes out of the 15, while the Dubs and the Phoenix Suns got three votes each. The Denver Nuggets only received a single vote.
How did this come to be? For one, the Clips are expected to have Leonard back in action after missing all of last season to recover from a torn ACL. While it is almost certain that Leonard will miss a bunch of games due to "load management," his presence on the court is expected to make a massive difference for the team. The last time Leonard played, he averaged 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.1 steals for the Clippers in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
"I don't know if (Leonard will) necessarily be MVP because he won't play enough, and I don't think he cares about that," said an executive from an Eastern Conference team. "But when it comes to playoff MVP, he has an excellent chance of that."
The team that Leonard will be returning to will also sport a new face in five-time All-Star John Wall, who joined the Clippers in July after reaching a buyout with the Houston Rockets. The Clippers also added more firepower and defensive grit last season when they acquired Normal Powell and Robert Covington in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Doubt the Dubs at your own peril
The Warriors, though, are certainly no strangers to being doubted. For every achievement they attain or historic record they knock down, there are always naysayers with something to say about it. In fact, in August 2021, ESPN talking heads Domonique Foxworth and Kendrick Perkins predicted that Steph Curry and the Warriors would no longer win any more titles with their current roster.
Of course, the Warriors proved them wrong by winning the title that same year. Curry noted that moment and called those very people out during their celebration in the locker room, repeatedly screaming, "What are they gonna say now?"
The Dubs will be looking to do the same thing this year and prove that they are still the team to beat in the West. With a core of Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and returning center James Wiseman, the Warriors have more than enough firepower to make another run at the title.