A foregone conclusion
The Golden State Warriors were a historic team even before they acquired Kevin Durant.
In 2015-16 the team had broken the regular season all-time record in wins, had set all kinds of individual and team statistical records, and came within a minute and a half of winning a second straight championship, if not for a breathtaking block and a ballsy step-back three.
Then they signed one of the three best players in the league and have been seemingly unstoppable ever since, winning back-to-back championships. There’s nothing out there that leads me to believe they won’t win a third consecutive this year.
Their main opponent, LeBron James, has left his kingdom in the East to build a new one in Los Angeles. As a result, it will be unlikely he challenges the Warriors again this season for a title. His absence allows for Toronto or Boston to challenge Golden State for supremacy, two much better matchups than James’ Cavaliers (or Lakers for that matter), but much less experienced.
In the West, the Warriors competition has also declined. The Houston Rockets acquired Carmelo Anthony, whose ball-hogging, ball pounding, and isolation mid-range game flows counter to everything Daryl Morey built the Rockets to be. The Oklahoma City Thunder may be better precisely because it no longer has Anthony but still lacks the defensive chops to contain the Warriors adequately. The Los Angeles Lakers clearly improved but not enough to even think about seriously challenging the Warriors. The only other team that looks as if it could challenge Golden State is the Utah Jazz, who have been subject to injuries for the last three seasons.
That’s to say that without even looking at what Golden State did this summer, it would have been easy to crown them champions at season’s opening. And yet, somehow amazingly, this team got better this offseason, thereby snuffing out any argument to the contrary.
Let’s get right to the elephant in the room. The Warriors could trot out a lineup of five All-Stars come March. They can do this because they signed DeMarcus Cousins to a one year minimum deal, adding him to their core of two-time MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and one-time MVP and two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant (it should be noted that Andre Iguodala was an All-Star at one time, so a five All-Star lineup would not actually be anything new).
Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner
Cousins will not affect much for the Warriors this year. His signing was a low-risk, high-reward gambit that is as much a win-win for him as it is for the Warriors. Cousins tore his achilles last season and will not be able to come back until 2019, likely February, but possibly January. If he comes back and plays at a high level, all the better for the Warriors and for him, since he will presumably sign a max deal elsewhere in the offseason. If he doesn’t, no big deal — Golden State can rest him on their path to another championship, Cousins will win his first ring, and will still sign a max deal in the offseason.
It is possible that Cousins, were he to come back healthy in February, could distort head coach Steve Kerr’s free-flowing offense. As a primarily back to the basket bruiser, Cousins’ game starkly contrasts with the pick-and-roll oriented, ball moving, three-point bonanza the Warriors usually display. Additionally, Cousins’ defense has never been close to elite and at his size, he can’t very well switch onto smaller players like most of Golden State’s other bigs can.
Yet, these are minor concerns. In the grand scheme, Cousins is an enormous upgrade from David West, who retired this offseason. The Warriors did not have a problem integrating him into their system nor Zaza Pachulia, who is also no longer on the team.
Other players who left Oakland include JaVale McGee and Nick Young.
Jonas Jerebko also signed with the Warriors this offseason. He will provide shooting (like they need more of it) and size at the three and four positions off the bench. Paired with Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, freshly signed Quinn Cook, and re-signed Kevon Looney, the Warriors’ bench may be stronger now than it was a year ago.
This team will be champions again. Even if it sustained a major injury, it will still have three other All-Stars to parade them to at least the Conference Finals without much trouble. It would take multiple serious injuries to key players to derail this squad.
Steve Kerr may be Coach of the Year again. His biggest contenders this year will be Utah’s Quin Snyder, Boston’s Brad Stevens, and possibly Philadelphia’s Brett Brown. With huge expectations heaped upon Stevens’ Celtics and Utah’s penchant for injury could open a lane for Kerr to sneakily win again. It doesn’t seem likely, and if he’s to miss extended time again this season with back troubles, that would pretty much put the kibosh on that. But if Golden State is the unstoppable force we think them to be, there’s no reason why he couldn’t win it again this season.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Curry and Durant are +1200 and +1000 respectively according to OddsShark to win MVP. Draymond Green will be looking to win another Defensive Player of the Year award. It’s not out of the question even to think that Iguodala could be a dark horse candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.
This team is so good at every level it is hard even to find any weakness. Which is why it seems so clear that they will win their third championship in as many years, cementing themselves as one of the two or three best teams in the history of the game. The only thing left for them to do is try to break their own regular season win record (which they won’t) or to try to sweep the playoffs (… not ruling it out). They’re just that good.
Edited by Brian Kang.
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