In the past three years, the Golden State Warriors have been the talk of the NBA. In 2014, the Warriors won their first title since 1975. They beat a cripple Cleveland Cavaliers where LeBron James shined and almost won the Finals MVP in a losing effort. The next season, they break the regular season record, previously held by Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ 95–96 team. They set a record for most three point shots made in a season. The Warriors were the first to ever make 1,000 in a season. They were a juggernaut. And then they fell to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals in what was one of the greatest series of all time.
Golden State Warriors Success Has Changed the NBA
Then the Warriors shook up the NBA. They signed the second best player, Kevin Durant. As if Steph Curry and Klay Thomson’s aerial assault wasn’t enough, they add who many people consider to be the most pure shooter in the game. It was not a matter of if the Warriors would win the Finals again, just a matter of making it through the season without any major hiccups. There were none, and Kevin Durant got his first ring, while the rest of the Warriors got revenge on the Cavs from spoiling their spot in history as the greatest record holder with a title. But adding Kevin Durant did something much more than win them a championship. Adding a 4th all-star to their team changed the way the NBA operates.
We have seen it many times before. Wilt Chamberlain’s free throw plane. Jordan getting rid of the forearm defense. Hack-a-Shaq. Boston Celtics super team. Every one of these changed how the NBA managed teams and business. The Warriors did something these guys never have, although. Instead of the NBA changing rules, the Warriors were just perfection at basketball against the current slate of teams. They forced teams to adapt instead of getting the league to change rules.
If you look at the previous off season, the moves made by teams have been unprecedented. The Houston Rockets adding Chris Paul, the Oklahoma City Thunder adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, the Celtics adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and the Cavs adding Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade show a mindset shift for the league.
These teams know that competition has been kicked up a notch so they’re doing everything they can to create their own powerhouse. Every team went from wanting their own “Big 3.” They want a Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Tim Duncan. Or a LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. Now a big 3 is not good enough because the Warriors have a Power 4.
Is the Warriors dominance Good for the NBA?
While this makes the top teams really exciting, it also can have some possible negative effects for teams left looking outside. My concern with this is that the NBA will become incredibly top heavy. The best teams will be so far and ahead of the middle of the pack teams like the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, and New Orleans Pelicans, that the regular season almost won’t matter. It will boil down to who wins out of the Thunder and Rockets in the conference semi-finals to play the Warriors while the East is looking at the Cavs and Celtics again.
So, while the Pelicans are trying all they can to get one more player to play with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, ultimately it will be next to impossible to have the Pelicans truly compete in the Western Conference. Sure, the top teams will be loaded, exciting to watch, and put up crazy numbers. The later parts of the playoffs will be more like an all-star game. But I think it will hurt the teams that don’t have the benefit of signing 4 max contract players. There are simply not enough hall of fame superstars to go around in a 30 team league. What would the point be to go to the games if everyone knows the Minnesota Timberwolves don’t have a shot at beating the Oklahoma City Thunder when it matters?