Despite being an extremely impressive championship team, people are writing off the Warriors. On October 20th, NBA.com released its 13th annual GM Survey, revealing that fewer than 18% of General Managers chose the Golden State Warriors to repeat as champions. In the latest championship odds, the Warriors are listed below the Cavs and the Spurs.
The Warriors, however, put together a remarkable season in 2014-15 and retained every key player. Their 83 total wins (regular season + postseason) has only previously been accomplished by Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Golden State is still young with room for improvement, as Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes are all starters at or below 25 years of age. So why are Steph Curry and the Warriors being disregarded?
A primary reason is because while Golden State had a quiet offseason, other teams bulked up their lineups. The always dangerous Spurs made a splash in free agency by signing LaMarcus Aldridge and David West. Cleveland stocked up by re-signing LeBron James, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, and Tristan Thompson (finally), as well as adding Mo Williams. The Rockets traded for Ty Lawson, who will join James Harden to possibly dethrone Curry and Thompson as the NBA’s best backcourt. These teams will win tons of games, but they also have weaknesses.
The Cavs took the Warriors to six games in the 2015 Finals, which was impressive given their shallow roster. But will Cleveland be able to stay healthy? They will already be starting the season without Irving and Shumpert, and now LeBron has been missing practice time with a back injury.
The Spurs are the NBA’s oldest team and lack athleticism, so it will be hard for them to keep up with the fast pace that other teams in the west such as Golden State and Houston will play. Tim Duncan, although still effective, will be 40 by this season’s playoffs, and Tony Parker will be closing in on 34. For a team like Golden State who thrives in transition, this provides a beneficial matchup.
The Rockets have a strong lineup, but will the addition of Ty Lawson be enough for them to take down the Warriors? Golden State closed out Houston in five games last year, as Houston never really had a shot at taking down the eventual champs. Lawson has also struggled with personal problems ever since his arrival in the NBA, as he has been arrested twice in the past year alone.
Golden State’s 2014-15 campaign was no joke. Their plus-minus of 10.1 points per game ranks eighth all-time, and they won 11 more regular season games than any other Western Conference team. They ranked first in the NBA in defensive efficiency, assists, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, and pace, and ranked second in offensive efficiency. Numbers say this team is not a one-hit wonder.
NBA.com’s GM survey also put doubt on Steph Curry’s 2016 MVP chances, as only 7.1% of GMs chose Curry take home the award. LeBron, Anthony Davis, James Harden, and Kevin Durant were chosen more frequently than him, which is intriguing since he just won the 2015 MVP about five months ago. But Golden State does not need Curry to out-produce these players, they just need him to lead the team on a nightly basis. Steph is known as a gym rat, so he should return in great form this year.
The Warriors have not shown signs that they will regress from their noteworthy season last year. They displayed how they can handle adversity, as the two times they went down 2-1 in a series, they busted out three straight wins. Another year of continuity and experience will catalyze improvement, and although competition will undoubtedly be tougher this year, Golden State should be able to hold their own.
Repeating, however, is a rare feat that has only been accomplished by players along the likes of LeBron, Kobe, and MJ in recent years. The Warriors are equipped for this challenge, as they have a superstar to rely on in Curry, as well as an exceptional team around him; four out of five starters received votes for one of the All-NBA teams, and the only one who didn’t (Harrison Barnes) is a 22-year-old with great potential. Golden State also has a formidable bench which includes 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. Because of their versatility on both offense and defense, the Warriors are able to exploit the weaknesses of other teams. This is vital in the playoffs, as game plans must be flexible to take advantage of each matchup.
The most important thing that could get in the way of a Warriors’ repeat is a loss of hunger. Interim head coach Luke Walton has stated that his squad has shown excellent focus so far, and that “there was no reason to bring up the championship hangover”, a common occurrence in tilte teams.
“Our guys came in ready to go, so we never talked about it.”
Walton and Steve Kerr both know what it takes to repeat, as they have both done it before as players.
From Kyrie Irving saying the Cavs would have beaten the Warriors if healthy, to Doc Rivers saying the Warriors got lucky, to James Harden saying he deserved the MVP over Curry, Golden State has had to defend themselves on several occasions. This season, look for Steph and the Warriors to use this doubt as motivation in order to silence their haters and to pick up right where they left off.
photo via llananba