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Denver or Memphis? Who would be the tougher first-round matchup for Golden State?
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Steve Aschburner: Memphis. Losing five out of six in March wouldn’t seem to be the best preparation to make an early-round playoff statement. But the Grizzlies are salty enough and experienced enough to pounce on Golden State in the first round, if the Warriors haven’t adjusted completely by then to Kevin Durant’s return. Denver is the brighter, younger club but lacks the been-there-before calm the Grizzlies would have. Memphis’ contrast in style from Golden State’s and a crankiness to at least make one round of noise would cast it as the more dangerous foe.
Fran Blinebury: Memphis simply due to the Grizzlies' ability to play physical on the inside with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and beat the Warriors up. Remember the comeback at Oracle this season? And remember, it was a 4-2 series in the 2015 Western Conference semifinals even with the injured Mike Conley missing most of it.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Memphis. The Nuggets can’t defend and like to play fast. Play the Golden State style without being able to stop the opponent? The Nuggets might be the Warriors’ preference against anyone, not just in a Denver-or-Memphis choice.
Shaun Powell: The Nuggets are hotter right now so let's go with Denver, a younger and more mysterious team than the Grit 'N Grind guys. Nikola Jokic and a more confident Jamal Murray are juicing up this intriguing and hungry Denver team. Memphis does bring the defense (but they are 30th in Defensive Rating since the All-Star break) it did play Golden State tougher than any team (except Cleveland) two postseasons ago. That said, the Grizzlies have serious scoring issues to deal with that weren't helped by Chandler Parsons being done for the year. Of course, all this assumes Kevin Durant will be good to go.
John Schuhmann: Offense has been the Warriors' bigger issue of late and the Grizzlies, with a top-10 defense, have a better chance of slowing them down than the team that ranks 29th defensively. But if Kevin Durant is healthy and Stephen Curry is over his shooting slump, you need to have more firepower than Memphis does to put a scare in the Warriors. The Nuggets have had the league's best offense since Nikola Jokic was made the full-time starter at center and beat the Warriors with 24 3-pointers right before the All-Star break. Also, running the offense through Jokic makes the Warriors' switchability on defense less of a weapon. Of course, I wouldn't expect any first round opponent to win more than a game against the Warriors.
Sekou Smith: As rugged as the Grizzlies can be, I think the Nuggets could cause more problems for the Warriors or whoever they might see were they to make the playoffs. They have an unpredictable bunch, when you consider their collective lack of playoff experience. But with young and hungry talents like Nikola Jokic, Will Barton, Gary Harris and the like, the Nuggets would be playing with house money against a Warriors team under extreme pressure to handle their business quickly in a first-round series. Styles make fights in the playoffs and the Nuggets would bring a completely unpredictable style to this fight.
Ian Thomsen: All of Golden State’s answers depend on the healthy return of Kevin Durant. Whether or not he’s back to his old prominent self, the Warriors should hope to avoid Memphis in the first round. The Grizzlies are built for the slower, more physical style of the postseason. They have star power, pride and they’ve been together forever. Altogether they’re going to be a much tougher out than their current record suggests.
Lang Whitaker: Denver. Memphis has been in the weeds of late, and with 7 of their next 8 on the road and Chandler Parsons out for the season with knee issues, things aren’t getting any easier for them. And while I don’t think Denver could beat Golden State in a series, the Nuggets’ newfound versatility playing through Nikola Jokic might provide a marginally tougher matchup for the Warriors.