2015/2016 Record: 73-9 (Lost the NBA Finals)
|Kevin Durant||FA – 2yrs / $54.2 mil|
|Zaza Pachulia||FA – 1yr / $2.9 mil|
|David West||FA – 1yr / $980K|
|JaVale McGee||FA – 1yr / $980K (non-guaranteed)|
|Elliot Williams||FA – 1yr / $980K (non-guaranteed)|
|Damian Jones||DR – Pick #30|
|Patrick McCaw||DR – Pick #38|
|Harrison Barnes||FA – Mavericks|
|Andrew Bogut||TR – Mavericks|
|Festus Ezeli||FA – Trailblazers|
|Leandro Barbosa||FA – Suns|
|Marreese Speights||FA – Clippers|
|Brandon Rush||FA – Timberwolves|
Off Season Analysis:
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Warriors were just about on par with the Clippers as the laughing stock of the league. A perennial lottery loser, Golden State had a brief moment of relevance back in 2006/07 when Baron Davis was at his peak, Stephen Jackson was sane and Jason Richardson had knees. Outside of that, the franchise had been best known for Run TMC in the early 90’s, ugly jerseys, and resoundingly booing owner Joe Lacob when fan-favourite Monta Ellis got dealt during the 2012 season. How times change.
That’s a hell of a quote. It’s one that Warriors GM Bob Myers has stored in his phone and refers to religiously. As Myers even mentioned, “they are a model franchise. We are all trying to emulate them”…and they’ve done an amazing job of doing so. Curry/Thompson/Green are a new-age NBA version of Parker/Ginobili/Duncan, in that they were all drafted by the franchise and look likely to spend their entire careers together in similar successful fashion.
While building any team, there has to be an element of luck involved. The Warriors timed their run to the top of the NBA to perfection; the perfect storm of a rising salary cap, signing Thompson and Green to max deals before the cap spike, Curry’s bad ankle cheap deal and the fact that they absolutely NAILED all three of those picks culminated in forming one of the most dominant teams in league history.
The Dubs were incredible throughout 2015/16. For the entire regular season, you would have to be a fool to bet against them winning the 2016 championship given how thoroughly they dominated the league. They even bested the unconquerable 1995-96 Chicago Bulls regular season record of 72-10, making them the most successful regular season team of all time. However, cracks began to show throughout their playoff run that this team was perhaps not as immortal as they once appeared.
They struggled to contain Westbrook and Durant in the Western Conference Finals, and were a Klay Thompson barrage from being sent packing in embarrassing fashion. Even still, they made it through to the NBA Finals where they were almost a certainty to go back-to-back and start their own NBA dynasty (not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4…).
Only, they choked. Up 3-1 in the NBA Finals, they couldn’t stop a transcendent Lebron James performance even on their home floor. Meanwhile, their MVP Curry often looked like the 2nd best guard on the floor – culminating in Kyrie Irving’s dagger in Game 7. The Dubs were shattered, embarrassed…and owner Joe Lacob left Oracle Arena vowing to be “very aggressive” in the 2016 offseason.
He wasn’t kidding.
Kevin Durant’s decision to take his talents to Oakland is one of the biggest Free Agent shocks this side of King James. While it was certainly a controversial choice – in that KD would bolt to a fierce playoff rival, particularly one they were so close to beating, the Warriors pitch centered on their star players willingness to sacrifice for one another (something he probably didn’t see a lot of in Russell Westbrook). KD himself said that his Free Agency decision would come down to a “basketball decision”. While an argument could be made for OKC or San Antonio, purely from a basketball perspective, it’s hard to argue against the reigning Western Conference Champs.
Durant is obviously an out and out superstar. He will certainly help the Warriors in isolation and late clock situations, while being the type of unselfish player that has made their offense so unstoppable the past few seasons. Defensively, the positionless lineup that has driven the Warriors to such success just got the 2nd biggest alien to grace an NBA floor (Giannis probably has dibs for 1st) to wreak havoc on that end – an area where he should be able to give additional focus now that he won’t need to expend as much energy on the offensive side of the floor.
However, signing big name players does come at a cost. And that cost was a few key contributors from their title run, and significant amounts of their depth. Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut moved to Dallas. Speights to the Clippers. Ezeli to the Blazers. Barbosa the Suns. That’s about half of the Warriors 2015 championship winning rotation that was sent packing to accommodate Durant, and it will be interesting to see how they manage their depth issues around trade deadline/buyout time, and if significant injuries hit, to further bulk their backup positions. The other unknown is how this move effects team chemistry – this group achieved the ultimate success without Durant, and were a minute and a half away from being back-to-back champs. How all these new faces mold together to form a cohesive team remains to be seen.
The Warriors also look to be pretty weak at interior defense on paper. Zaza is a solid Center and is a cheapo version of Andrew Bogut without the shot blocking. However, it will be interesting to see if the Dubs decision to retain Igoudala over Bogut comes back to bite them when they’re facing off against Aldridge and Gasol in the Western Conference Finals. Likewise, West is a cheaper, less-moley version of Speights and will fill a veteran presence off the bench – but he is 36 years old. With only the veteran minimum available to sign additional talent, they have to be hoping for some ring-chasers come February – as the only tradeable assets they have (Igoudala and Livingston) would only further compromise their lean depth and potential chemistry issues. More than likely, the Curry/Thompson/Igoudala/Durant/Green “death lineup” (I hate that term) obliterates all opposition, but I am curious to see how they matchup with a team that has dual All-Star calibre bigs.
In many ways, this 2016/17 Warriors team reminds me of the 2010/11 Miami Heat. Very top heavy in talent and it may take them a little time in the early going to gel, with little in the way of depth to sustain injuries along the way. The Warriors ultimately learned a lesson that regular season success means nothing if you don’t win the big one, and this team is built for a very deep playoff run. They don’t have anything left to prove in the regular season, and should waltz into a top 2 seed (Spurs the only other threat for #1) that will place them as the likely favorite to win it all in 2017.
One thing is for sure – the Warriors are no longer the joke of the NBA, and with the cap spiking again next offseason, don’t expect their reign over the NBA to end any time soon.
2016/17 Prediction: SE 68-14, DN 65-17, LD 66-16, XHR 64-18.
League Pass Meter: 10/10
The Dubs were must watch basketball without Durant. With KD in tow, they are absolutely mandatory viewing.
*Salary Guarantees 25 Oct 2016
Salary Cap Situation:
2016/17 Cap: $100,183,870
2017/18 Cap: $67,520,258
Max Room: $64,699,235
Min Room: $34,479,742
2019 2nd (Dallas)
2017 1st (Utah)
2017 2nd (Utah)
2018 2nd (Denver)
2019 2nd (Dallas)
How does KD fit with the rest of the death lineup?
Will the Dubs lack of depth hurt them when it counts?
How do the Warriors combat a lack of quality size?
Can JaVale McGee offer ANYTHING of substance to this team?
Will the Warriors regret keeping Igoudala over Bogut?