Dominance is not evil. Dynasties are not something to be scourged from the Earth. Modern society appears to feel the need to embrace tall poppy syndrome and tear down something good. This is seemingly the public fate of the Golden State Warriors, whom by good management, plus a bit of luck and fortune, have landed themselves the mother load of all rosters.
The rich got richer this summer when Kevin Durant betrayed the only franchise he had ever known, leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for their greatest competitive rival in the Western Conference in the Golden State Warriors. Zaza Pachulia and David West followed suit, taking pay cuts to join the pursuit of history in the Bay Area.
A team that won 73 games last year added the biggest free agent since LeBron James went to South Beach and back home again. The summer of 2016 was ruled by Durant’s arrival in the Bay and the over-saturation of jokes about choking away 3-1 leads, but within weeks the real action will return. The public has got a taste of what’s to come with preseason action, and the Warriors certainly gave a hint of what they can do with an impressive dismantling of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.
Through three quarters, the Warriors led 102-51 before allowing their fierce rivals breathing room in a 24-18 fourth quarter. It was pure and utter dominance. The part people despising it don’t want to admit? It was beautiful:
The offensive and defensive flexibility on display was something else, with their versatility impossible to match. Durant and Green make up arguably the most dynamic and versatile frontcourt combination seen in modern basketball, while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson form not only the best backcourt in the league, but the best shooting duo in NBA history.
Golden State now possess arguably the three best shooters in the league at the same time. It is not only incredibly exciting for those who watch them play, but equally terrifying for the rest of the league.
The Warriors led the league in offensive rating last season, and with the addition of Durant they could have the greatest offensive lineup of all time. Every game they play is must-watch viewing, even in preseason. That is not a negative, as it will bring new fans out in droves, and the NBA is already benefiting from the popularity of Curry.
This is horrible news for the rest of the league, of course. The defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers are not even the favorites in Las Vegas to repeat after last season’s title heroics, but this only fuels what is a budding modern rivalry between themselves and the Warriors.
Complaints have come from fans and analysts that there is an aura of inevitability about this season, and that is a fair concern. But last season is an example of why nothing is inevitable. The Warriors looked invincible after winning 73 games last year, but they nearly lost in the Western Conference Finals and then wound up on the wrong side of history in the NBA Finals. Nothing is set in stone.
DeMarcus Cousins showed in the Sacramento Kings’ preseason loss to the Warriors on Thursday that the Warriors’ weakness in rim protection can be exposed. While the Dubs are an offensive juggernaut that will be very tough to keep up with, they are not invincible. Pachulia is still adjusting to his role at both ends, and Andrew Bogut is certainly not an easy man to replace. The Australian was a tone-setter at both ends for Golden State, and his hard-hitting screens will be missed by his former teammates.
So, anything can happen. The Warriors might have set the pace, but they have not ruined the season, and the talent in the league has certainly not been diluted by their recruitment. There is a false belief that the league has become top heavy in the presence of the “super team” era, but these have always existed. Old Celtics, Lakers and Bulls teams were all somewhat super; that’s what good recruitment and good drafting can create for franchises, and this is what the Warriors have done.
They found a way to fit Durant in without gutting their roster, which was the concern of some of his suitors during free agency this summer. The jump in the salary cap thanks to the record television deal means that roster building can become more creative if players are willing to go under their market value. In the future, when the Warriors’ current stars finish up their contracts, they will have to make the same decisions.
The rest of the league also is fostering several exciting young cores that will become potential powerhouses with some lucky breaks. D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram lead the new-look Los Angeles Lakers in the light of Kobe Bryant’s retirement. Ben Simmons (once he gets healthy) and Joel Embiid form a scary franchise leading duo in Philadelphia, where “The Process” might finally pay off after years of heartache and pain. Karl-Anthony Towns leads an exciting young roster, and perhaps the most exciting of all, in Minnesota.
Every team besides perhaps Brooklyn (for the moment) has an exciting future with at least one player key to their future. The Warriors (and Cavaliers) are dominating right now, but the future is always an unknown. It’s the NBA after all, where anything can happen on any given night.
The Warriors may not be a team everybody loves, and that’s fine, but they’ll certainly be a team everyone remembers. Those fighting it need to embrace greatness and beautiful basketball, because it won’t last forever.