The Golden State Warriors apparently felt disrespected.
Their 67-win season and 2015 NBA championship were picked apart.
How would the Western Conference playoffs have gone if opposing guards hadn’t been injured?
Might the Cleveland Cavaliers have prevailed in the NBA Finals if Kyrie Irving had not been injured in Game 1?
Those are questions we can never answer, but the Warriors are on their way to backing up last season’s title in dominant fashion.
At this point, it would be a monumental upset if the Warriors aren’t celebrating a second consecutive NBA title in June, having run through the postseason on the heels of breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 regular-season wins.
With the NBA All-Star break upon us, the Warriors’ superiority has been the highlight of the season, and you can expect them to clean up at the end of season when awards are handed out. The predictions:
Last February, there was legitimate debate as to whether Stephen Curry deserved league MVP honors over the Houston Rockets’ James Harden.
Anyone arguing for someone other than Curry this season is only doing so for amusement.
Curry was last season’s MVP, and this season that honor should be unanimous. This isn’t about rewarding Curry for being the best player on the league’s best team. He’s the NBA’s best player this season, a better version of the player who won the MVP award last season.
By virtue of a five-name ballot, there are other contenders, but no one can lay claim to MVP this season.
Other contenders: LeBron James, Cleveland; Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio; Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City.
Rookie of the Year
Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns might not receive the attention that Kristaps Porzingis receives in New York’s bright lights, but Towns is playing better than any other rookie this season.
Towns has shown the versatility and skills many expected when Minnesota made him the first overall pick in last year’s NBA draft. He’s averaging 17.1 points (tied for first among rookies) while shooting 54.4 percent and leads all rookies at 10.1 rebounds per game.
A year after shooting guard Andrew Wiggins won the Rookie of the Year award, Minnesota has another solid piece.
Other contenders: Porzingis, New York; Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia; Devin Booker, Phoenix; Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver.
Defensive Player of the Year
There’s no telling on a given night whom Draymond Green might defend or where he’ll be on the floor.
Green holds Golden State’s defense together with his versatility. And after not being named the Defensive Player of the Year last season, Green is on his way to earning the honor.
The Warriors hold opponents to 43.0 percent shooting and 31.4 percent from three-point range. Both figures lead the league.
Green helps make it possible.
Other contenders: Leonard, San Antonio; Hassan Whiteside, Miami; DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers.
Coach of the Year
The Utah Jazz has every reason to make excuses this season. It lost starting point guard Dante Exum (torn ACL) before the season.
Center Rudy Gobert missed time with a knee injury. So did forward Derrick Favors.
Yet, Utah isn’t living on excuses. The Jazz plays tough defense, and coach Quin Snyder ensures his team doesn’t fall apart because of youth or injuries.
The Jazz continues to improve under Snyder. And at this rate, the playoff hopes that many canceled for Utah when Exum went down remain on course.
Other contenders: Terry Stotts, Portland; Rick Carlisle, Dallas; Dwane Casey, Toronto.
Sixth Man of the Year
One reason Oklahoma City is considered a threat to the Warriors is its depth. That includes center Enes Kanter, who is averaging 11.9 points and 7.7 rebounds in just 20.8 minutes per game.
The Thunder’s best chance for postseason success is for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to dominate. If they can get a double double from Kanter consistently, they can make the Warriors or Spurs sweat.
Other contenders: Cory Joseph, Toronto; Evan Turner, Boston; Andre Iguodala, Golden State.
Most Improved Player
It could be a matter of simply playing more.
But we always knew C.J. McCollum could shoot. This season, he’s showing he’s among the NBA’s elite shooters.
McCollum is averaging 20.7 points in his third season after averaging 6.8 points last season.
He’s stepped up and compensated with his shooting for Portland losing Wesley Matthews in free agency. McCollum gives Damian Lillard a capable backcourt mate who can go for big scoring numbers any night.
Many nights, the Denver Nuggets are overachievers, playing tough even when undermanned. That takes players maximizing their skills, and small forward Will Barton is doing that this season.
Other contenders: Barton, Denver; Green, Golden State.
Western Conference finals: Warriors over Spurs.
Eastern Conference finals: Cavaliers over Celtics.
Finals: Warriors over Cavaliers.
Guards: Curry, Westbrook.
Forwards: James, Durant.
Center: DeMarcus Cousins.