In 2003, Roc-A-Fella Records was at the apex of the rap game. Jay Z was firmly entrenched as the King of New York, being “King of New York” was still a thing; and Hov was the general of the hottest label, group, click, crew or whatever you want to call it. He was tutoring Kanye West, managing State Property and recruiting The Diplomats (whether he meant to or not). But there came a time where he pulled his stable of artists aside and said something to the effect of, “If you have any new projects in the holster, go ahead and get it out now. Because 50 Cent is coming, and once he hits, we’re all gonna have to sit out.” If you remember anything about rap in ’03, you can confirm how prophetic Hov really was. The 50 Cent tsunami laid waste to nearly everything in its path.
This is where we are with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.
Brace yourselves—there will be blowouts. MASSIVE blowouts; both in point differential and quantity. If a lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green was commonly referred to as “The Small-Ball Lineup of Death”, surely a lineup of Curry, Klay, Iggy, Green and Kevin Durant is…The Armageddon Lineup? The Small-Ball Lineup of Satin? Or maybe, The Lineup of Genocide? It’s got to be something of epic proportions because the chasm between Harrison Barnes and Kevin Durant is quite substantial.
It’s been referenced several times on this site how Warriors general manager Bob Myers absolutely ROBBED Cavaliers GM David Griffin of Executive of the Year honors two seasons ago (and you could make the case RC Buford’s win over Griffin last season was a stick up—seriously, David Griffin should absolutely have one of those awards), but this year, it seems like Myers ought to be the leader in the clubhouse at the outset. The Warriors managed to acquire Durant, while keeping their core starters (Curry/Thompson/Draymond) together and also hanging onto their two best bench players (Iguodala and Shaun Livingston). This team hardly seems fair for 2K, let alone an actual NBA team.
But alas, the open looks that used to go to Barnes will now go to Durant. The Warriors just got longer and more athletic, and now have a player fully capable of carrying the load mentally and statistically should one of their other big guns suffer an injury. They now have another battle-tested player who’s played at the highest levels of the sport, domestically and internationally. We’ve seen super teams assemble over an offseason before, but the Warriors were a record-setting team just a few months ago that added one of the 30 greatest players in history. They reloaded while on top like they’re the Alabama of professional basketball. It’s mind-boggling.
Naturally, everybody is now picking them to win the 2017 NBA Championship. That prediction wouldn’t even require an extra second of examination if this actually were 2K. Unfortunately for The Bay, this ain’t X-Box. Star power is important, but basketball is a beautiful blend of the talented and the intangible. The writing was on the wall for a Warriors collapse when they led the NBA Finals 3-1 last season; once again there are ominous signs that are staring us all in the face.
Of all the options available to him, joining the Warriors was the biggest bitch move Kevin Durant could’ve made. Granted, it wasn’t the dumbest move either, and he probably doesn’t care what we think anyway, but it’s the truth. Miss me with, “Actually, joining the Warriors was the hardest thing KD could’ve done”. Really?? Harder than him joining the Brooklyn Nets? Durant could be a Net if he wanted, but think of the ridicule he would’ve faced for that choice, plus the disastrous basketball situation Brooklyn is. Point being, he could’ve gone practically anywhere, but he deliberately linked up with a team where he could get more open shoots, play in more blowouts, play less minutes, have more star teammates to shoulder the burden and have a better shot at winning a championship, which he wasn’t good enough to win in Oklahoma City. The most disappointing part of this saga was KD had the power to KO the 73-win giant himself, earning himself a Finals rematch with King James. But his garbage Game 6 performance at home (29 pts on 10-31 shooting, 7 reb, 3 ast, 3 TOs) opened the door for a Warriors comeback.
If Durant does his job and the Thunder beat Golden State, regardless of the outcome of the Finals, does join up with Dubs? Maybe. Right now though, he’s looking like Ted Cruz endorsing Donald Trump after Trump kicked his ass for the Republican Nomination.
Even worse, KD has spent a decent amount of time bashing the Thunder on his way out the door (either intentionally or unintentionally). At its best, this was a series of negligent decisions. At worst, signs of extreme immaturity— immaturity that can only fester on this team. It was the Warriors who became the overconfident bunch last season, with their leader saying he hoped the Cavs locker room still smelled like champagne (Steph tried to clean this up later, but we know what it was). It was Klay Thompson AND his daddy that went on record throwing shade at the greatest player in the game. It was Draymond Green who couldn’t resist the urge of throwing various appendages at the man region of every opposing player, resulting in a deserved suspension. It was Steve Kerr who openly said he wasn’t concerned even after the Cavs ran his team off the floor three times to force Game 7. It was Steph who kept reaching in while already in foul trouble and subsequently throwing his mouth guard into the crowd upon being disqualified. It was Ayesha Curry who briefly morphed into Sharon Stone in Casino via Twitter once she realized her man was no longer Teflon. And it was the Warriors team who made excuses for their historic collapse by blaming it on Curry’s knee injury over the summer, despite there being no mention of Curry’s knee after Golden State victories.
That entire cast of characters is back for the 2017 campaign, only now expectations are burning out of control like a California wildfire. Why is everyone convinced this team won’t unravel at the first sign of real adversity, just like they did in the Finals? Klay Thompson has already said he won’t scale back his FGAs to accommodate Durant. Steph has been a shoot-first point guard his entire life. Draymond, the one Warrior who showed up for Game 7, will want his shots despite coming off of a hellacious offseason.
Following his Game 5 suspension, he was powerless to stop the collapse in Games 6 & 7. His favorite coach, Luke Walton, left to coach the Lakers. He then went back to his old college campus and threw hands with a player on the Michigan State Spartan’s football team. Then he snapchatted a dick pic to the world. Then he sucked so badly in the Olympics, Coach K buried him on the bench. Now his shots are about to be sliced in half, and he’ll be forced to play more minutes at center. Could this all catch up with him? Well, some believe Draymond is already a loose cannon.
Golden State says all the right things to the media about Durant, but what happens if things go just a little bit south? They can still be great but not come close to winning 73 games this year, thus making the Durant decision appear like an over-correction, and ultimately a failed experiment. By making room for KD, the Warriors leaky defense worsened, as they only improved stuff they were already good at (e.g., shooting).
Here, how about I give you a break from reading, and tell you about why the Warriors won’t win the NBA championship this year? Here’s a clip from our video podcast with Anthony Hueston and CL Palmer posted July 10, six days after Durant committed to Golden State.
As the leader and two-time MVP, it’s Curry who should make it his business on and off the court to ensure his new teammate is comfortable at all times. But is Steph that guy? Don’t laugh, but after getting exposed in the Finals (yeah he’s great, but he definitely got exposed), I honestly found myself wondering what type of player is Steph Curry really?
Sounds like a hot take, right? Put it this way, he’s still a top five player in the league and the best shooter ever. But let’s compare a three-year per game stretch of two point guards for a moment:
Player A) 27.8 points, 5.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, 234 games
Player B) 25.9 points, 5.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 0.2 blocks, 237 games
Which one is Curry? Can you guess the other player?
Player B is Curry’s last three seasons. Player A is Gilbert Areans from 2005-2007. Nobody is saying Mr. Hibachi is better than Chef Curry, but there are at least similarities to the run Steph has been on and what Gil did a decade before. But it would’ve been insane to call Arenas better than Isaiah Thomas like ESPN said about Steph last year, right? If for no other reason than the body of work just isn’t there.
That spotlight is only getting brighter by The Bay. The trolls need to be fed and they’re out for blood on this team. It’s hard to see how the Warriors will live up the astronomical hype, at least in year one.
Anthony’s West Playoff Picks: Golden State, LA Clippers, San Antonio, Portland, Houston, Utah, Oklahoma City and Minnesota
Kenneth’s West Playoff Picks: Golden State, LA Clippers, San Antonio, Portland, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Minnesota
Justin’s West Playoff Picks: Golden State, San Antonio, LA Clippers, Oklahoma City, Portland, Houston, Dallas and Minnesota
It’s exceedingly difficult for teams with this much status, money, power, ego, and averaging this many points, to win a championship in year one. You can’t heat up team chemistry in the microwave. We’ve been over this before, only now it’s magnified because Golden State specializes in doing the glamorous parts of basketball, rather than the parts that will win titles (defense, rebounding, setting illegal screens etc.). Myers was praised effusively for NOT trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love two and a half years ago. Blowing up a significant portion of a 73-9 team that near won back-to-back titles for Durant may do more harm than good.
With the caveat of good fortune (for a change) and perhaps one more move for a wing player that can help offset the likes of Durant and Kawhi (Rudy Gay maybe?), the Clippers are the pick to come out the West. The Spurs, Clippers and Thunder will make it their life’s mission to take out the Warriors, and each team has the interior muscle to do it. One of them gets the job done, and the Clips sneak into their first NBA Finals to face a Cavs team in their third straight. It seems relevant to point out the same two teams have never met in three consecutive NBA Finals. That isn’t to say it’ll never happen, but 70 years of NBA evidence says that a Cavs/Warriors rubber match in 2017 is highly unlikely.
In 2010 Bill Simmons wrote, “My friend Hirschy is adamant that we haven’t seen LeBron’s greatest highlight yet, but when we do, it’s going to be life-altering and might get its own two-hour ESPYs show.”
Simmons speculated that it would be a dunk. Turns out it was this…
Maybe James goes for MVP, maybe Defensive Player of the Year. But rest assured LeBron has gone back-to-back before and he’s not afraid to do it again. So as long as Khloe Kardashian doesn’t steer the entire franchise into a ditch, the Cavaliers should again be an Eastern formality. That leaves a Warriors team, who maybe isn’t as golden as everyone thinks, on the outside looking in.
And to think, they laughed when people started calling Cleveland, OH “Title Town”.
Anthony’s Finals Pick: Cavaliers defeat Warriors
Kenneth’s Finals Pick: Cavaliers defeat Spurs