By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
With the Oracle Award crowd decked out in their signature gold Monday night, the Golden State Warriors proved to be the gold standard of the NBA once again, defeating Cleveland 129-120 to win the NBA Finals in five games. While the Warriors’ Game 4 defeat might have put slowed down the “best team ever” discussion, there’s no denying that this 3-year run, consisting of two titles with a 73-win season and Game 7 defeat in the Finals sandwiched in-between, is one of the most impressive feats for a franchise in the history of the league.
In my mind, Golden State’s dominance cemented how ridiculous the notion of keeping together a 40-win team with little upside is in the modern NBA landscape. Cleveland has the greatest player of this generation in LeBron James, who averaged a triple-double in the Finals while shooting 56.4% from the field and 38.7% from three, and it still wasn’t enough to do more than avoid a sweep.
Then, you have the fact that the gulf between Golden State and Cleveland is about as wide as the one between the Cavaliers and the rest of the Eastern Conference. If ownership’s goal is to win a title, and not just collect some extra revenue from a first-round playoff series, then you need to do everything possible to acquire true landscape-altering stars in order to compete with these titans. Given that the easiest way to do so is through the draft, tanking looks wiser now more than ever.
It also takes shrewd management to put your team in a position to win the title. It’s easy to say that Golden State has four of the top-20 players in the league. Of course they should win. But how did they get four of the top-20 players in the first place? They did the following:
– Hit on a couple lottery picks in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
– Found a gem in the second round of the draft in Draymond Green.
– Had the foresight to sign Curry to a below-market extension when his value was at its nadir in the midst of his ankle injuries.
– Dumped the bloated contracts on their books by attaching draft pick sweeteners to acquire uber-valuable utility man Andre Iguodala.
– Kept their books clean afterwards so that when a one-time cap spike afforded them enough room to sign Kevin Durant, they were in a position to pounce.
Those things represent a combination of good thinking and luck, and as with anything in life, you need both to succeed. I don’t know how true Joe Lacob’s boost is that they’re “light-years ahead” of the competition, but they’re at least farther down the road. One of the sportsbooks I use already has Golden State as a -250 favorite to win the title again next year. Other franchises should act accordingly, with a “go big or go back into the lottery” mentality, because these Warriors aren’t going anywhere.