The Golden State Warriors are in smack dab in the thick of an ultra-competitive Western Conference. Considering they were in the lottery just one offseason ago, the Warriors’ improvements have not gone unnoticed around the league. Opposing teams have found out that though the Warriors are not the one of the biggest, fastest or most experienced teams in the league, they play a spirited brand of basketball that perfectly sets up a rivalry.
Warrior fans play a big part in the birth of rivalries as well. During last season’s playoffs, the rest of the country discovered that the Bay Area is one of the most passionate and rabid fan-bases in basketball. Oracle Arena is a stadium that will cheer and boo as loud as any other arena in the country. If the playoffs was any indication, the Warrior fan-base is also ready to create some new rivalries, as well as rekindle old ones.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder is the cream of the crop in the West. Had the Thunder not lost Russell Westbrook from the outset of the playoffs, they would likely have advanced to the NBA Finals instead of the San Antonio Spurs. If the Warriors want to contend for a championship, competing with and beating the Thunder stands as the benchmark.
The Thunder took the last year’s season series with the Warriors 3-1. Kevin Durant proved to be too much for the Warriors to handle by averaging 28.5 points on .567 percent shooting, but with the acquisition of Andre Iguodala, the Warriors may have better luck in stopping the world’s best scorer next season.
Durant and Westbrook have been protagonists in the Thunders’ rags-to-riches story. Now that they’re sitting firmly on top of the West, there is no way they will concede their number one seed to any team without a fight. The Warriors look like they are on a similar, if not quicker, rise to the top. Taking out the Thunder during the season and in the playoffs will be the Warriors’ biggest validation that they belong in the league’s elite.