At the risk of understating it, the Golden State Warriors look like they’re in pretty good shape this season. And nine-time champ Pat Riley, who knows a few things about winning big over multiple years, thinks that’ll be the case for the foreseeable future.
“They are in the beginning of something that can be dynastic,” Riley told reporters. “They’re in the beginning stages of it, and that’s the scary part, versus somebody that catches lightning in a bottle one time.”
This is an easy thing to say about a team that is mostly young, still obviously improving and spending lots of money and brain power on staying healthy. Actually, you don’t even have to think through it to that degree; the Dubs won a title last year and appear to be the clear favorite again.
Way to go out on a limb there, Riles.
The trick about building a dynasty is bridging eras, jumping from one set of players in their primes to another. Or, at the very least, transitioning from one group of key supporting pieces to the next, all in hopes of getting the absolute maximum out of whatever core star (or stars) are driving the thing.
Riley didn’t go into it, but the real reason the Warriors are poised on the edge of a dynasty (aside from the young core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) is that they’ve got the exact kind of flexibility necessary to squeeze everything out of this group and then reload when there’s no juice left.
Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut are vitally important to the Warriors this season, and they’ll continue to play major roles until their contracts expire after next year. Both are already into their post-peak 30s, and the timing of those expirations could hardly be better as it’ll leave the Warriors in a position to either re-sign them at rates that reflect their age-based declines or let them go.
Golden State has replacements on hand in Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, neither of whom got rookie extensions this past summer. That’s key, as it preserves the Warriors’ flexibility by keeping cap holds low. And no matter what offers those two command, the Dubs will retain matching rights.
There’s a timing issue here, as the Warriors will have to make calls on Ezeli and Barnes before Bogut and Iguodala’s contracts run out. But if the two younger players perform well enough to justify hefty new deals, the older dudes are eminently tradable if the luxury tax becomes a concern.
The beauty, though, is that the Warriors’ financial flexibility will allow them to make a risk-free pursuit of Kevin Durant, per Danny LeRoux of SportingNews.com:
Golden State benefits from the remarkable 2016 cap spike (from $70 million for this season to an estimated $89 million next) because it allows them to pursue Durant without sacrificing any players or assets beforehand. If he chooses to go elsewhere, they can shake it off and retain their current team. The Warriors have their core under contract for next season, which makes it much easier to lay out how they could make it happen.
If KD wants in, the Dubs can max him out. They’ll have to find ways to move Bogut and Iguodala, but they should be able to retain either Barnes or Ezeli if they’re willing to go into the tax. And if Durant isn’t interested, the Warriors can bring everyone back and settle for being the best team in the league again…until they take another shot at improving the following offseason.
Basically, they can get better however they want, whenever they want.
A lot of this is a numbers game, and LeRoux lays it all out in detail. But there’s a less tangible component that gives the Warriors an additional advantage: They’re indisputably attractive to free agents now. Players around the league see how Curry opens things up for them to succeed, and there’s a deeply unselfish culture at work in Golden State that should attract exactly the right kind of players for continued title runs.
We’ve seen LeBron James draw in veterans who want to play on minimum deals for a chance at a ring. And David West gave up millions to do that with the San Antonio Spurs just last summer.
Now, the Warriors wield that power.
Dominating the league, burdened with precisely zero bad contracts, toting maximum flexibility and uncommonly attractive to outside talent, the Warriors really are in a position to stay this good—this great—for quite a while.