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NBA Free Agency: Decoding the 5 Steps To How The Warriors Ended Up With a Line-up of 5 All-Stars

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans
Stephen Curry and DeMarcus Cousins in a game this past season
Neeraj Grover

The Warriors & the NBA Disparity

The Golden State Warriors have managed to create a roster that is so competent that even if all the teams in the Eastern Conference combined their rosters together, it probably wouldn't be enough to beat them.

Some would say the Warriors are cheating and the players are too soft for choosing the easiest path to an NBA championship but what they forget is that the biggest reason for this roster has been possible due to the decision made by the NBPA years ago of not letting the salary cap to smooth out after the NBA signed a nine-year, $24 billion broadcasting deal with ESPN & Turner Sports. This consequences of this deal still linger today.

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In the past two NBA playoffs, the Warriors went 32-6, winning two NBA championships. The only team that could give them a scare was Houston Rockets, who lost key-starter Trevor Ariza this off-season and is having trouble negotiating with center Clint Capela. The Warriors, in turn, added another great piece to their already star-studded lineup by signing DeMarcus Cousins, All-Star on a measly 1-year mini mid-level $5.3 million deal. With this signing, the Warriors can now field a starting line-up of all reigning All-Stars in their prime years.

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The NBA has been ruled by dynasties since its dawn but this kind of talent gap has never been seen before. We will talk about how good this Warriors team was but what we'll forget is how this group of roster was put together. Let's take a look at how that happened:

Step 1: Great Off-Seasons After Drafting Stephen Curry

Golden State Warriors Draft Pick Press Conference
Golden State Warriors 2012 Draft Pick Press Conference

The Warriors drafted Stephen Curry 7th in the 2009 NBA Draft but it wasn’t till the 2012-2013 NBA season that the Warriors roster were competent enough to make the playoffs.

During that time they signed David Lee in the 2010 offseason who turned into an All-Star for them and drafted Klay Thompson with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

In the 2012 NBA Draft they selected Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green with the 7th and 35th pick respectively. Team leader Monta Ellis was traded for Andrew Bogut during the 2011-12 season, a key signing to their 2015 NBA Championship haul.

After making the second round in 2013 playoffs, Warriors signed NBA veteran Andre Iguodala. Although they still would bow out in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs.

In the 2014 NBA Offseason, Warriors made their most underestimated change when they fired coach Mark Jackson and hired first-time head coach Steve Kerr, who changed their style of play and led the Warriors to a regular season record of 67-15, best in the league and the most wins in franchise history.

The Warriors would also go on to win the 2015 NBA Championship.

Step 2: The NBA Broadcasting Deal

The 2016 ESPYS - Red Carpet
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA President Chris Paul

More than three years ago, NBA signed a nine-year, $24 billion broadcasting deal with ESPN & Turner Sports. As with such a big deal, the salary cap (maximum money a team can assign to its roster) had to increase.

The league proposed a “smoothing” of the salary cap to the NBPA, which would’ve made the cap rise by smaller figures each summer rather than one giant leap from 2015 to 2016.

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) disagreed, rejecting the “smoothing” proposal and increasing the cap from $70 million for 15-16 to $94 million for 16-17.

Step 3: 2016 NBA Off-Season & Signing Kevin Durant

Golden State Warriors Introduce Kevin Durant
Golden State Warriors Introduce Kevin Durant

In the 2015-16 season, Champions Golden State Warriors fielded a starting lineup of Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Draymond & Bogut with 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala coming off the bench. They won 73 games in 15-16 season. 73 out of 82. More than Jordan’s winningest season with the Bulls. Most in the NBA history.

Playoffs time, In the Western Conference finals they were down 1-3 to the Oklahoma City Thunder who had Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook. They came back and won the series. Though in the finals, they were on the other side of a similar result. Up 3-1 on Lebron led Cleveland Cavaliers, Warriors choked and lost the finals 3-4 causing one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

What happened next changed the NBA forever. Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors who added Durant by giving up only ageing Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes. That aforementioned salary cap spike after the 15-16 Finals made it possible for the Warriors to retain pretty much all of their all-star core and add the second best player in the league.

Imagine if Shaq had joined the 72 win Bulls in 1996 - only if the Bulls had 3 All-NBA players instead of 2 that year - and they were in their mid 20s instead of their early 30s… and if Shaq had just been thoroughly embarrassed by choking a 3-1 lead to the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.

KD become probably the most hated player in the NBA ever but the Warriors would go on to became unstoppable.

Step 4: DeMarcus Cousins Achilles Injury

Houston Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans
DeMarcus Cousins gets injured against the Houston Rockets

In February 2017, New Orleans Pelicans in a desperate attempt to surround Anthony Davis with all-stars traded for Cousins, though the Pelicans would still miss out on the NBA playoffs.

The next offseason the Pelicans signed Rajon Rondo and resigned Jrue Holiday who had a resurgence year. The team were looking well forward to the make the NBA Playoffs and then the injury happened, Cousins was diagnosed with a torn left Achilles on January 31st, 2018 that would keep him out for the season.

That’s where things changed, Cousins an unrestricted free agent in 2018 was expecting a max multi-million deal from the Pelicans, who were also expecting to keep their core together.

After Cousins injury, the Pelicans started playing much better than basketball than before, finishing 6th in the West and sweeping 3rd Seed Blazers in the Playoffs, although eventually losing out to eventual champions, you guessed it, Warriors in the second round. Pelicans garnered positive reviews for their play in the moonlight of the season and they weren’t really keen on maxing Cousins anymore given their rise of play and all his injury concerns.

Step 5: 2018 Off-Season

The Salary Cap spike that happened in 2016 offseason also led to many teams giving out really bad multi-million dollars to below average players named Deng, Noah, Mozgov and Parsons. The Cap eventually dried out and only a handful of teams could offer Cousins the max in 2018, who was coming off a major injury and was expected to be out for nearly half of upcoming season and thence wasn’t getting much interest from the teams.

To get back on track and get a max deal next offseason, Cousins decided to sign a 1-year - mini-mid level $5.3 million deal with none other than the Golden State Warriors creating a disparity in the NBA that was never seen before.

Summarising

Don’t blame the Warriors for ruining the NBA, they did everything the right way. It wouldn’t have happened if the NBPA had let the NBA salary cap to smooth out in 2016 off-season.

And did Kevin Durant did the right thing? Joining a team he was up 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, maybe he didn't. but isn’t a player allowed to choose what’s best for him?

Cousins didn’t get any offers, knew he was out for half of the season and decided to wait till next off-season in hope for a max. He decided to wait it out on the Warriors though, which sucks for us viewers, but seems like a good choice for him

Golden State won't last forever, every dynasty fails at some point, the Warriors will break too. Maybe because of the luxury tax, maybe out of boredom but when that is going to happen, is what we have to see.

Edited by Yash Matange

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