Are the Houston Rockets or Denver Nuggets a bigger threat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference this season?
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): At this point, the Denver Nuggets pose a bigger threat to the Warriors.
It takes a bit of luck to make a title run, and it appears the Rockets might have run out of luck a little too soon last season. The Nuggets, on the other hand, are just getting started and have the youth and talent to give the Warriors fits.
24-year-old Gary Harris, 23-year-old Nikola Jokic and 21-year-old Jamal Murray have led the youth movement while 13-year veteran Paul Millsap has served as a calming force during Denver's hot start. The Nuggets have done all of this without starting forward Will Barton, who has only appeared in two games, while free agent acquisition Isaiah Thomas and lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. have yet to suit up while rehabilitating injuries.
The prospect of Thomas, who is two years removed from legitimate MVP candidacy, and Porter, who was viewed by many as a top-five talent in a loaded draft, should be a scary thought for the rest of the Western Conference, Golden State included.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): It's the Denver Nuggets.
While I came into the year thinking that Houston had missed its chance at taking out Golden State, this answer actually has more to do with Denver's potential than it does Houston's start to the season. Ultimately, the Rockets will be fine. Chris Paul will start playing better, Daryl Morey will find a solution on the perimeter and an offence that set records a season ago will not continue to rank among the league's very worst.
No matter how much they miss Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute and no matter how much the Carmelo Anthony experiment sputters, this team is too good to be the version we've seen so far.
And yet, I don't think they get back to scaring the Warriors.
I'm skeptical that any team truly can, but Denver might be as good of a bet as any. We know they can score, that's never been the issue. If they continue to defend at a rate that ranks among the top five in the league, they'll be in the conversation. Although you'd like to see more consistency as a scorer from Nikola Jokic to truly contend with the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, Jamal Murray has shown enough to carry Denver for long stretches when it needs buckets against a hot star.
This team is for real.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): It's still the Houston Rockets. They lost a lot in the offseason and they haven't got off to the best start, but in a seven-game series with a trip to the Finals most likely on the line, I'm still taking my chance on them.
James Harden and Chris Paul proved last season that they can play well and at a high level together. Clint Capela is probably the perfect big man to threaten both Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins on either end of the floor. I'll also go out and assume that P.J. Tucker will get back to being the lockdown defender he was in the postseason last year.
While they've lost a bit, the core that gave the Warriors their toughest series since Kevin Durant arrived in Golden State is still the team that they should fear come playoff time.
Denver's time will come.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I think it's the Houston Rockets as well.
This team was built with the Warriors in mind and while they haven't gotten off to a great start this season, they'll figure it out by the playoffs. James Harden and Chris Paul are starting to hit their stride again and, as Micah mentioned above, Morey will probably find a solution on the perimeter, whether it's via trade or picking up someone on the buyout market.
I also worry about how the Nuggets would match up with the Warriors defensively in a seven-game series. Golden State would probably target Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic relentlessly, forcing them to guard Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant in isolation on switches. That scheme is how the Rockets slowed the Warriors down in the Western Conference Finals last season, but the Nuggets don't have as many versatile defenders.