There has been a major shakeup in the NBA as the established order is finally starting to feel the heat. As we enter the mayhem of the festive period, there is no telling what is around the corner for the one of the biggest sporting competitions in the world.
Most fans would have jumped on the short odds given to the Golden State Warriors at the start of this season. Since 2014, the side has been a dominant force in the NBA having won three of the last four championships.
However, the wheels may have finally come off after a heavy defeat to San Antonio Spurs earlier this week made it four straight losses. This leaves the side third in the Western Conference, with their season record standing at a rather average 12-6.
The Warrior’s slump is a far cry from the start of the campaign, where they raced to a 10-1 start, laying down all the foundations for another championship pursuit.
Head coach Steve Kerr told Bleacher Report that his side’s form has made him realise how recent years have been a dream for his team and that the league is now becoming far more competitive.
He said: We haven’t been in the real NBA the last few years. We’ve been in this dream. And so now we’re faced real adversity and we got to get out of it ourselves.”
A huge factor is the imperious Steph Curry’s absence whose point scoring ability has propelled the Warriors significantly during their recent dominance. This hasn’t been helped with the off-field antics being played out by Draymond Green who has suffered recent disciplinary suspensions.
There is certainly cause for concern within the Warriors camp for the first time under the stewardship of Steve Kerr who is overseeing his worst run of results since taking charge in 2014.
People are now starting to re-assess who they think will come out on top in the NBA Finals next June since the overwhelming favourite is now starting to crumble in such remarkable fashion.
The Warriors are still odds on with most bookmakers which means taking a look at alternatives could be worth a browse as their prices will hold strong value heading into the hectic Xmas period.
At the forefront are the Toronto Raptors who have managed to excel in the Eastern Conference. They have been widely touted as the most likely to topple the Warriors and are well worth a flutter, priced at 17/2 across leading sportsbooks.
The side managed to string together five straight victories at the start of the campaign and have gone on to score over 100 points in every single contest they have played in so far.
Nick Nurse has made a seamless transition from assistant to head coach after impressing critics and fans with his early foray as the leading man at the Raptors. With a roster that boasts former NBA champions Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, there is every reason to believe that they can clinch their maiden world title this season.
Another team to keep tabs on is the Boston Celtics, who are chasing their first NBA title since 2008. They have made steady progress since Brad Stevens took charge in 2013 and people are starting to believe that their 10-year title drought could be ending very soon.
The Celtics are currently 9-8 in the Eastern Conference having used their resilience to come out on top in many close encounters. Their most recent showdown was a comfortable 123-116 victory over the Raptors, with Kyrie Irving taking centre stage after scoring an impressive 43 points.
The most significant piece of NBA news during the summer was undoubtedly LeBron James’s sensational switch from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the LA Lakers. James has reached the NBA finals every year since 2011 and people are intrigued to see if he can defy the odds and carry on the run with a side currently priced at 22/1.
The Lakers currently sit in 7th position within the Western Conference after winning their three most recent games. Although progress has been steady, their 113-97 win over Miami Heat has provided a glimpse of what the LeBron era could achieve in the long run.
The final mention goes to the Houston Rockets who have been playoff regulars in recent years. This season has been largely mixed for the Texan based side but there have been indications in certain games that they could go all the way this season.
With a powerful scoring set up in the form of Chris Paul and ever-present James Harden, the Rockets have managed to hit 130+ points in dominant displays over the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies.
The festive period is almost here which means games are going to be coming thick and fast in the NBA. It’s interesting to look back at the league from last December to really gauge whether the Warrior’s slump is a blip or real cause for alarm.
They were imperious during this period last year having won 13 games from 15. This included an incredible five straight wins on the road in the first week of December.
Replicating the same form this year is less likely but not entirely impossible for the reigning NBA champions. The biggest hurdles they will need to overcome are road trips to the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors.
The rest of the month will be largely spent at the Oracle Arena as they welcome the likes of the LA Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks.
Anything but a clean sweep is needed to reassure fans that their form is temporary and that they are capable of bringing home title number seven.