Toronto Raptors

October 16, 2018 6:00 am

Rick Zamperin: Golden State Warriors have serious challengers to fend off

Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket as Brooklyn Nets' Treveon Graham during first half NBA pre-season basketball action in Montreal, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.


Hallelujah for hoops fans.

The NBA season tips off Tuesday night, highlighted by the latest championship banner raising ceremony at Oracle Arena, the home of the Golden State Warriors.

And in about seven months from now, the Warriors will likely be celebrating another title.

Golden State, led by superstars Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, have won two straight Larry O’Brien Trophies and have been crowned champions in three of their last four seasons.

Every other team — whether they like it or not — enters this season as the underdog.

But there are some serious challengers on the hardwood.

READ MORE: Green nabs 22 points, Lowry ejected as Raptors beat Nets 118-91 in pre-season game in Montreal

Reigning MVP James Harden and the Houston Rockets — who had a 3-2 lead on Golden State in last year’s Western Conference Final — are the most likely team to take down Golden State.

We should not rule out LeBron James and the new-look L.A. Lakers. King James carried Cleveland to another NBA Finals appearance last year and I wouldn’t put it past him to do it again.

In the East, the Raptors, Celtics and 76ers are thanking their lucky stars that LeBron is now in the west.

This is Toronto’s best shot at making it to the franchise’s first NBA Finals.

However, I think the biggest hurdle facing the dinos is not whether newly acquired Kawhi Leonard will mesh with his new teammates, but rather new head coach Nick Nurse’s ability to get the Raptors playing like a championship team.

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