The Golden State Warriors have been an absolute force in the league over the last four years, winning two of the last three league titles. There has been very little resistance in the Western Conference playoffs for them during this time. However, this year, they will possibly face a Houston Rockets team that could do more than give them a run for their money. With a deep bench and an arsenal of both bigs and guards, this 2018 playoffs could be the biggest test the Golden State Warriors have seen.

The yin and the yang

In just a few short weeks, James Harden will likely be named the league's Most Valuable Player (MVP).

Pelicans head coach, Alvin Gentry, claimed that he believed Harden is the clear-cut MVP and "it's not even close," according to the Houston Chronicle. Harden is a top 5 player in the league and has been in the MVP conversation for years, but what pushed him and his team over the hump to be a serious contender for a league title? It's not the fact he is leading the league in points, or the overall drastically improved team defense (although that does help). It's the leadership, and how Chris Paul and James Harden balance each other out, that will potentially lead this team to a victory over Golden State in the Western Conference Finals.

In spite of the comments made by former Rockets coach Kevin McHale in 2017 claiming, "[Harden] is not a leader," Harden has shown that he, in fact, is a leader.

Harden proved himself to be the type of leader that every team needs. When all-star point guard Chris Paul Joined the Rockets this summer, there was speculation that there would be a power struggle within the team. However, it turned out to be quite the contrary. Harden and Paul are both leaders, but it's how they lead this team that makes it work.

Chris Paul is a louder, more assertive "alpha male" -- both on and off the court. If he notices that someone isn't doing their job, he will confront them. Harden approaches it on the opposite side of the spectrum, by leading with his actions more than his words, as well as keeping his teammates loose and having fun. The yin-yang that these two bring in terms of leadership is something that most NBA teams in the 2017-2018 season are lacking.

All players respond to different types of leadership; only having one alpha-male leader can lead to resentment from teammates while beta-male leadership can lead to a lack of attention to detail and mental lapses. A happy medium is a perfect goal to aim for, and it is what the Houston Rockets have successfully achieved. Touting the best record in the NBA and the leading MVP candidate, the proof is in the pudding.

How will Warriors respond to a level playing field?

When the Warriors acquired Kevin Durant in the 2016 offseason, it created a talent differential so large that some went so far as to call it cheating. The Warriors have four current all-stars, a solid bench, and a multitude of bigs. How is any other team supposed to stop that?

However, unlike the Rockets, Golden State has a leadership problem on their hands; they have no true alphas on the team.

When it is crunch time in a game and they end up losing, there is a large amount of finger pointing on their bench. This chink in their armor has been covered up by their immense level of overall team talent. In addition, Sports Illustrated claims three of their four all-stars are currently out with significant injuries. This recent injury bug they caught nearing the playoffs could be the chink that turns out to be deadly. A mix of injured players and lacking true leadership could be exactly what the red-hot Rockets meet in the Conference finals. Only time will tell, but we could have a very long and interesting series on our hands.