30 Teams in 30 Days: Warriors look to regain title with help of Durant
Since the Cavaliers won their first NBA title back on June 19, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the long summer offseason. NBA.com’s Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise — from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2015-16 to the team with the best regular-season record — during the month of September as we look at 30 Teams in 30 Days. | Complete schedule
Today’s team: Golden State Warriors
2015-16 record: 73-9
Who’s gone: G Leandro Barbosa, F Harrison Barnes, C Festus Ezeli, G/F Brandon Rush, F/C Marreese Speights
Who’s new: C Damian Jones, SG Patrick McCaw (via Draft); F Kevin Durant, C Zaza Pachulia, F David West (via free agency);
The Lowdown: The Warriors followed up a championship season with a record 73 wins before blowing a 3-1 lead in the Finals and failing to repeat as champs.
This wasn’t merely a case of the rich getting richer. This was the rich getting filthy, dirty, nauseatingly richer. This was a case of a billionaire peeling off a dollar bill and buying the winning lottery ticket.
Should you envy them, congratulate them, respect them or fear them? Maybe all apply with regard to the Warriors, the most dominant team in the NBA over the last two seasons, a team with a core in its prime, adding a superstar like Durant who is also in his prime. Suddenly, they have the appearance of Tiger Woods in the mid-2000s. It’s them against everyone else. Do you like their chances of winning the title this season, or the field?
Hard to argue against the Warriors with Durant. Taking each of them separately, they probably would’ve won a second straight title had Draymond Green not gotten himself suspended for a game in the Finals. In any event, no team in the NBA has even approached the Warriors for greatness since January of 2015, when they separated themselves from the pack. Durant is one of the top five players in basketball who recovered nicely from an assortment of injuries and resumed his nightly torching of defenses.
You put them together, and it promises to be a sight to behold.
The reason Durant is a good fit because he, like the Warriors, is an unselfish player who happens to be great. He spent the last half-dozen years playing next to shoot-first point guard Russell Westbrook; being on a team with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shouldn’t be any problem. There’s enough shots for everyone, especially considering Green is mostly a facilitator who works in the control tower, looking for teammates. The Warriors could have four players on the All-Star team next season.
After he announced his decision to sign with the Warriors, Durant received the predictable backlash from a segment of the public and also within the league, but he shouldn’t have any second thoughts. It was a sound decision on a few levels. He’s joining a team with a core that is signed (with the exception of Curry, who’ll be given the max next summer) and secure. He has a good coach in Steve Kerr, a smart GM in Bob Myers and a do-what-it-takes owner in Joe Lacob.
He also made a rival contender instantly weaker by leaving Oklahoma City; now the Warriors only need to “worry” about the Spurs and maybe the Clippers in the West.
Finally, Durant didn’t owe OKC anything. He gave the city and team several years of his prime. Sometimes change is good for the soul and serves as an energizer.
It’s also silly to cast the Warriors as some sort of villain. Why, because they were smart enough to keep their salary cap in good enough shape to sign a superstar? And to mold itself into a destination franchise? That deserves applause, not scorn.
Also, where are the “bad guys” on the team or in the organization? The franchise is comprised of genuinely good people, and while you can certainly raise an issue or two about Green, he’s the exception and not the norm. Most of any furor is rooted in jealousy or the realistic concern that the Warriors are about to rip through a dynasty, provided good health of course.
What really annoyed other teams is how the Warriors signed Pachulia after getting Durant. To clear space for Durant, they traded Bogut and couldn’t retain Barnes, which obviously cost them a pair of rotation mainstays. But then Pachulia signed up for duty at the cut-rate price of $2.9 million for one season. That’s below market rate for Pachulia, a beefy tough guy with soft hands who had a solid season with the Mavericks. But he saw a chance to start on a potentially historic team. Same for West, who hopped aboard, hoping for a ring.
Lacob must deal with salary issues in the near future, starting with Curry (who’ll command roughly $30 million-plus a season), then Andre Iguodala (free agent next summer) and then Thompson in a few years. But that’s down the road.
Right now, the Warriors head into training camp in a stretch limo, and the ride could be comfortable all the way through June.
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Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him onTwitter.
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