By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Congratulations to MVP Steph Curry, Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, and the rest of the Golden State Warriors on winning the 2015 NBA Championship with a 4-2 series victory over LeBron James and some other guys wearing the same jersey as LeBron. Following a historic regular season that saw them have the best defense and the second-best offense in the league, the Warriors have proven that the fast-paced, small-ball version of basketball they employed to great effect can indeed win you the ultimate prize under the right circumstances. I’m sure we’ll see a fair amount of stylistic copycatting set in throughout the NBA, until the next trend comes around the bend.
Like nearly every eventual champion, Golden State also had a fair amount of luck along the way. The Warriors didn’t face a single team in the playoffs with a healthy point guard, as Jrue Holiday’s minutes were limited coming back from a leg injury, Mike Conley had his face broken and then had to play with a Bane mask, Houston had been without Patrick Beverley for quite some time, and Kyrie Irving went down in Game 1 of the Finals. That’s not to disparage what they accomplished, as they were the best team throughout the season and certainly worthy champions. However, it goes to show you that even with the right team in place, you still need some things to break right to accomplish the ultimate goal.
So is what the Warriors accomplished replicable for the Sixers or other teams around the league? People like to say the Warriors built through the draft because Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes were all lottery picks, and Draymond Green was a diamond-in-the-rough find in the second round. Still, it wasn’t some quick overnight turnaround, as there were plenty of failed lottery picks along the way in the forms of Ike Diogu, Patrick O’Bryant, Anthony Randolph, and Ekpe Udoh.
Really, their entire fortunes turned around because some skinny kid from a small mid-major who half the scouts weren’t sure could handle the physical nature of the NBA turned into the greatest shooter of all-time. Then, Steph Curry also overcame what were serious injury red flags with his ankles to become a consistently reliable performer over the last couple seasons. In that sense, it’s not too unlike what the Sixers did in drafting Joel Embiid, assuming a fair amount of injury risk because the potential upside was too great to ignore.
When it comes down to it, the Warriors did like the Sixers and the majority of the teams in the league are currently doing, rolling the dice again and again in the lottery until they found the superstar to take them to that next level. Only then, should you start making savvy free agent acquisitions like Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to put your team over the top. Sam Hinkie realizes that without that star in place, everything else is just window dressing, and he’s doing everything in his power to find one of them for Philadelphia. Golden State found their centerpiece in Steph Curry. The rest of the league should be so lucky.