The Golden State Warriors rode the perfect storm into winning the 2014-15 season NBA Finals. Just don’t look for them to repeat. As a matter, the Warriors won’t make it out the Western Conference next season. Contrary to popular belief, small ball is only a temporary fixation. It was a great feat by the Warriors, who rode the curtails of league MVP Steph Curry all the way to winning the championship.
But anybody with common sense and knows a little bit about basketball already knew that the Warriors were on a trajectory to become an elite team. The last three years in playoff appearances against the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and now this season, has proved as much.
However, let’s take a look at the roll the Warriors went through to win the title. First, as great and magnificent of a player that Curry is, the Warriors point guard did not play face-to-face matchups against three of the four teams’ starting point guards the Warriors went up against during this postseason. How often does that happen?
Man, that’s like riding the perfect wave or taking a clear path to the championship. Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving had that first great game against Curry and was lost the rest of the way. This is crucial. Curry didn’t have to go toe-to-toe the whole series with a healthy Mike Conley, the Memphis Grizzlies guard done in by broken face. Facing the Rockets, Curry escaped playing against Houston’s Patrick Beverly. That will probably never happen again.
And it will hit the team hard, much the same way it rocked the Oklahoma City Thunder, which had a much more talented roster with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden on the same team. OKC didn’t win a title with that bunch because of the weak link at the head coaching position by Scott Brooks. The Thunder did make it to the NBA Finals where they were swept by LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Unlike his current Cleveland team, LeBron had backup in Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Because of the salary cap, OKC is a shell of the team it once was. The Warriors will soon face that reality. Just simple math tells you that the Warriors will not be able to keep Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala with Steph Curry. These guys are going to want to be paid. Let’s not forget, the Warriors are going to have to pay Curry the MVP money he is going to ask for.
Beginning next season, Klay Thompson will be making more money than Curry. That’s not going to fly too long, “Splash Brothers” or not. Even with NBA payrolls going up to a projected 80 million plus marker next season, it’s going to be about making more money for individual stars.
But the biggest challenge to the Warriors is the stacked Western Conference. After a year off, a rested Durant and OKC will be back. The Los Angeles Clippers be in the hunt. The Rockets are back after a strong season. Memphis and Portland will be there as well. Don’t look for the Warriors to run off 67 wins again.
The Western Conference is too deep and too strong for that to happen. Teams will be much more prepared with perimeter defensive specialists to counter the small ball attack of the Warriors. The Clippers illustrated this by going out and trading for Lance Stephenson, an energetic, defensive-minded guard.
And no matter what pundits say about the Warriors’ offensive capabilities, you will always need a rim protector in this game. OKC in Durant and Serge Ibaka, the Clippers in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and Houston in Dwight Howard and Harden have enough speed and athleticism to combat what the Warriors do out on the perimeter.
The Warriors still don’t have an answer for Griffin. As their seven-game playoff series victory showcased last season, the Clippers have enough offensive weapons to give the Warriors fits. The Warriors are the deserving NBA champions this season. But sustaining success into multiple runs of titles is a different kind of reality.
Like today’s instantaneous society, the Warriors are built to win now. They were not put together to last. Then again, the Warriors may prove this writer to be wrong. What Golden State must prove, however, like the running quarterback succeeding at the NFL level, is that the future of small ball and winning titles is now the norm rather than an abbreviation.