The level of competition in the NBA is intense for the most part. It’s true that any given team can beat any other on a given night. That being said, there are two teams in the league which seem to be virtual locks to advance from their respective conferences.

The Golden State Warriors just set the record for most wins in a regular season with 73. Now they’ve added one of the best scorers of all time in Kevin Durant. This team is a safe bet to make it to the Finals.

In the Eastern conference, one can place their bets on whichever team LeBron James chooses to be on at the time. The defending champions Cavaliers are enjoying a confidence and swagger which comes with a championship and having the greatest player in the world on your team. The championship contender from the East seems to be decided already.

However, as we witnessed in 2011 and 2004, there is no such thing as a certain bet in the league. While the two teams mentioned above are head and shoulders above the competition, there are a few challengers which could pose a threat to the Finals rematch. Here’s a look at five teams which could advance from their respective conference and defeat the previous finalists.

#1 San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have been a championship contender since before some players in the league were born. With Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich serving as the cornerstones of the franchise, they’ve maintained a two-decade-long standard of excellence which sees them as the most successful franchise in professional sports in the USA.

Now that Tim Duncan has retired as perhaps the greatest player of all time, the Spurs will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. Currently, their core nucleus Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker is intact. They’ve added LaMarcus Aldridge to their budding young star Kawahi Leonard, and this off-season they went out and added a great winner in Pau Gasol. This makes an already dangerous team even scraier.

Aldridge and Gasol are two of the best shooting big men in the league from mid range. They’ll both benefit from being in a system which has been tailored around a part forward for a very long time.

The Spurs present a strong challenge to win the title this season. They missed out on the Finals only owing to some jumpers not falling their way. With Leonard prowling the perimeter, the Spurs can neutralize some of the firepower of the Warriors.

Look for them to cause problems for the Warriors in they match up in the playoffs.

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