Why the Golden State Warriors are still a force in the West
When Kevin Durant tragically tore his Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, it sent shockwaves through the basketball world. In addition to the obvious disappointment of the then reigning two-time finals MVP being unable to participate in the most important basketball event of the year was the possibility of KD likely missing the entirety of the upcoming season from an injury known to end the careers of athletes. It was also believed to be the beginning of the end of the ever so dominant Warriors dynasty which made it to the NBA Finals for each of the past 5 years with 3 championships to show for it.
What happened in the off-season only solidified this belief. Durant unsurprisingly decided not to resign with the Warriors and took his talents to the Big Apple. He signed with the Brooklyn Nets and was joined by superstar point guard Kyrie Irving. This was only the first domino to fall in what will be remembered as a historic offseason with numerous All-NBA caliber players switching teams.
Anthony Davis after a much-publicized trade demand last season finally got his wish and joined LeBron James in the Lakers purple and gold. Reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in an unprecedented move signed with the LA Clippers who also managed to trade for Paul George who is coming off the best season of his career.
Russell Westbrook was also traded to the Houston Rockets and will now join former OKC teammate James Harden in his quest for an NBA championship. These are just a few of the noteworthy moves that happened in an offseason that saw 3 billion dollars worth of contracts handed out in just the first 24 hours of free agency.
With the league more balanced now than it has been in years and most of the premier talent pairing up across different teams, indeed, the Golden State Warriors are not the favorites to win the championship next year or for that matter even make it to the finals. But to say that they may not qualify for the playoffs or that this group will never win another championship is a disservice to the talent they possess.
It is true that over the past three years, Kevin Durant has been the Warriors' best player, but they still have two of the greatest shooters to ever play the game on their roster. It also mustn't be forgotten that it was their current core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green sans Durant that won 73 games in the 2015-16 season to beat Micheal Jordan's Bulls' long-standing record of most wins in a season.
Durant's offensive prowess often compelled the team to play isolation ball and move away from their trademark free-flowing, pass-first style of play. They can now go back to the brand of basketball that saw them emerge as the dominant force in the NBA and made Curry a two-time MVP.
Despite Klay Thompson likely missing a majority of the regular season (ACL tear), the scoring burden can be borne by Curry and newly signed All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell. Steph Curry is a preseason favorite for MVP and will likely remind the world just how lethal he can be. The 23-year-old Russell is coming off his best-ever season and should thrive in the Golden State system, bolstering their offense. Russell's contract will also be an attractive trade asset if the Warriors need to acquire another player somewhere down the road.
Draymond Green after a disappointing regular season was a man transformed in the playoffs. He lost 25 pounds in two months and was a vital cog in the Warriors' playoffs run, putting up multiple triple-doubles.
Despite being a multiple-time champion and former defensive player of the year, not many believe he is worthy of a max contract. Green who is set to become a free agent next summer will be looking to prove his doubters wrong and earn a big paycheck. A motivated Draymond Green will also be the answer to some of the defensive problems created by the loss of key defensive pieces in Igoudala and Durant.
Young center Kevon Looney's performances in the 2019 playoffs proved he will be a valuable player going forward. Despite coming off the bench, he emerged as their best big man with his ability to switch and guard multiple positions. He earned high praise from head coach Steve Kerr who called him a "foundational piece" of the franchise.
One thing the Warriors have going for them that a lot of the other top teams don't is synergy. Their 3 best players Curry, Thompson, and Green were all drafted into the team. They have practically grown up together and experienced the highs of making it to 5 consecutive NBA Finals all under Steve Kerr who has proved himself to be one of the top coaches in the league. The value of chemistry can never be underestimated and it should stand them in good stead while going up against less experienced teams.
With committed ownership, a well-run front office, and the splash brothers signed onto long term contracts, the Warriors will be legitimate title contenders in the coming years.