The Rise And Return Of The Golden State Warriors

 By True God




Familiarity in sports and chemistry is something that cannot be ignored. While this era promotes much more player movement and roster changes, the point still stands that building chemistry and familiarity amongst teams can still work. For the NBA, all the love of the draft got seemingly wiped out at the top due to the reliance on the dreaded "Super Team" wave that had shackled the league for the better part of the last 15 years. Since we saw the making of the Boston Big 3 in the 2007-08 season, superstars and All Stars have teamed up vying for the goal of winning a championship.... and making their path a little easier. One team that did benefit from this would be the Golden State Warriors, as they added the incomparable Kevin Durant to their roster in 2016 after going to back to back Finals and nearly winning both. For many, this seemed unfair, even if it made perfect sense for both parties involved. To that point, there may have been some truth, as Durant in the motion based offense of Golden State felt much more like a cheat code than say Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen teaming up. However, what's missing from the whole narrative of Golden State becoming "unfair" to the league is how they got to those back to back Finals before Durant came into the fold. As of this writing, Golden State is up 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks and are one win away from the NBA Finals for the 6th time in 8 seasons. However, there's no Durant anywhere to be found and the core of the Warriors have aged. So how have they managed to make it back to this point again? Smart roster construction, familiarity and the NBA Draft. 







This Golden State story starts back in 2009 at the NBA Draft. Most people felt that Davidson standout guard Stephen Curry would likely go in the top 10 and most experts had him either going to the Minnesota Timberwolves or the New York Knicks. In fact, the Knicks were absolutely going to draft him.... until the Warriors beat them to the punch. When the Warriors selected Curry in the draft, I doubt you could believe anyone thought that this man was going to be a true franchise changer. The knocks on Curry were valid to an extent in the scouting reports. His lack of defensive prowess was glaring, he was a thinner (albeit shorter) point guard, and despite the dangerous abilities he displayed at Davidson, I would assume most people figured his ultimate ceiling to be a Reggie Miller. At best. Once Curry was drafted, the first domino would fall, as his veteran teammate Monta Ellis didn't feel like they would fit that well together on the court. Monta essentially was right at the time. Two guards who aren't entirely good on defense and probably need the ball to create and score the majority of the time doesn't seem ideal back in those days. However, the Monta and Curry issue is really just a small footnote in the story of the dynasty that is the Golden State Warriors. When Monta was traded, there was no telling what to expect in the future. The Warriors got rid of Monta during a time when Curry's name began getting the injury prone label due to his storied ankle issues. However, with one guard out, another guard has to step up, and that's where Klay Thompson comes in. In the 2011 draft, Klay was picked by Golden State and I remember some of the buzz at that time with Klay. He was good, sure, but a centerpiece for a championship team? I don't think anyone saw that in his future. One thing that rarely gets mentioned is the poise Klay showed in his rookie year. While Steph only played 26 games in Klay's rookie season, Klay was available for 66 games that year, starting in 29 of them. That on court experience is a building block of the Warriors chemistry and experience and by his second season, Klay had the keys and the trust of Mark Jackson, the head coach. With Curry fully healed from his injuries, the 2012-2013 season was shaping up to be an interesting one. The Warriors had Stephen Curry healthy, their new starting guard in Klay Thompson, alongside David Lee, Jarrett Jack, and Andrew Bogut, was acquired in the Monta trade to Milwaukee. Veterans like Carl Landry and Richard Jefferson helped to fill out the roster, but the draft would prove to be valuable to the Warriors yet again, this time with Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green proving to be pivotal picks. At age 20, Barnes moved right into a starting role with the Warriors in his rookie season, making the Warriors starting lineup very young and inexperienced together. Klay was in his second season, but his first official year as a starter, Barnes was a rookie starting every game, and Steph was a guy who had missed considerable time on the court his 2nd and 3rd seasons. There was no telling what to expect from this Warriors team, as the year before, in a shortened season, they went 23-43. In the 2012-2013 season, they would go 47-35, earning a playoff berth for the first time in years, on the back of All-Star level play of Stephen Curry, top tier play from David Lee, improvement from Klay Thompson and solid contributions from Bogut. The Warriors would shock the world in the playoffs, defeating the 3rd seeded Denver Nuggets and nearly defeating the San Antonio Spurs in the 2nd round. This season stamped the Warriors as a force to be reckoned with, but they still weren't quite complete as a team. 



The truth remains that while Harrison Barnes was absolutely a viable piece to the Warriors, one would not imagine that the true centerpiece that needed to be unlocked was Draymond Green. Draymond didn't have a much of an impact his rookie year in the regular season, but showed flashes during the playoffs that should have landed him a bigger role in the following 2013-2014 season. While Draymond did have a slightly bigger role that season, there was an addition in the offseason that tipped the scales even more in the Warriors favor. Out goes Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, in comes Andre Iguodala. Iguodala was a key player in his own right, providing great veteran prowess in his stints in Philadelphia and Denver, and with his ability next to Steph, Klay, David Lee, Barnes, and Bogut, surely the Warriors would improve upon what they accomplished the year before right? Yes and no. While the Warriors would go 51-31, improving their record from the year before, they would come up short in a slightly controversial series against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. Despite solid production from Iguodala, Barnes, Klay, Lee, and of course their All Star in Curry, the Warriors still needed a change. Whether that change was a roster change, lineup change, or a coaching change, it was obvious that something had to be done. 


Enter Steve Kerr.




Mark Jackson was a good coach for that Golden State, as he helped build the confidence in his backcourt and that confidence birthed the name, the "Splash Brothers". Two of the best shooters the game has ever seen falling into a team's lap through the draft is the kind of luck most teams would die for. However, if Golden State wanted to take that leap to the next level, they needed to make a few adjustments. Bringing Kerr in as the coach would be the first step. The next step? Unleashing Draymond Green. While the Andre Iguodala experiment started off well enough, it was evident that at this point in his career, he might be better suited as the 6th man instead of a starter. When the Warriors made the chance of making Iguodala the 6th man, Draymond an official starter, and Barnes consistently starting, the Golden State Warriors as we know them were born. The lineup of Curry, Klay, Barnes, Draymond, and Bogut with Iguodala first off the bench would prove to be pivotal, and the Warriors would take one last small gamble for their bench by signing Shaun Livingston. Livingston had always had promise, as he was highly touted in his early days, but injuries derailed a truly promising career. In Golden State, Livingston was given a pivotal bench role and seen in some ways as the anchor alongside Iguodala for the team's second unit. Life in Golden State would never be the same again. 





The Warriors began a dynastic run at this very point, as Steph, Klay, and Draymond all showed considerable poise and improvement in all facets of their game in that 2015 season, with  Curry eventually being crowned MVP. Draymond would rise to be seen as a defensive genius as well and the Warriors would coast to 67 wins and a NBA Championship. While their roles at the time weren't extremely profound, David Lee, Mo Speights and Leandro Barbosa proved to be extremely important for the season, creating the Warriors motto of Strength In Numbers in an instant. The Warriors would go on to make history the following season in 2016, winning a record 73 games in the regular season alongside Curry winning yet another MVP, the first and only unanimous MVP that we've witnessed. The Warriors would make the Finals in 2016 yet again, breaking another record for the most games won in an entire season overall when they hit the 88 win mark in the postseason before unceremoniously losing a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers. While most teams would struggle coming back from blowing such a historical feat, the Warriors joined the wave of the "Super Team" and added Kevin Durant in the offseason, leading many to discredit what the Warriors had done prior to KD's arrival. Many felt the Warriors saw their window closing and in an act of desperation, reached out to Durant to save them. This narrative couldn't be further from the truth, as Durant had been linked to the Warriors for 2 years prior and many have said that his mind was made up before the 2016 season came to an end. Regardless of the reasons why KD joined the Warriors, it proved to be a mutually beneficial marriage that added 3 more Finals trips to the Warriors success and two more championships. The Warriors were a true dynasty with Durant now a part of their squad, but he was not the only reason for the success. The engine of the Warriors team is always going to be Curry and while Durant did not disappoint during his tenure, it is also true that the Warriors could still win with or without him. That isn't to discredit the heavy impact that Durant had on the team, but to show you that the Warriors had been there before he got there and succeeded. When Durant decided to leave Golden State in 2019 and take his talents to Brooklyn, many said this was the end of Golden State and the dynasty as we knew it. Klay Thompson suffered a career altering injury. Draymond Green wasn't what he once was. Stephen Curry was getting older. There were so many things working against the Warriors it seemed that when the 2019-2020 season began, it felt as if you knew the end was here. It had been a solid run. 5 straight Finals, 3 championships, 2 MVP awards. When Durant left, many fans left with him shockingly. The Golden State Dynasty was finished and teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, and Jazz saw their opportunity to overtake them as the Western Conference juggernaut. Then the bubble happened. The Bubble is seen in differing lights depending on who you ask, but regardless of how you feel about the Bubble, a champion was crowned that year regardless. The Golden State Warriors would not be in the running for that title, as they lost a league worst 67 games and ended up having nothing to show for it but 15 wins. Still, despite a poor roster construction and injuries to all of their stars, there was some belief the Warriors could come back and compete if healthy. In the 2020-2021 season, the Warriors were a bit handicapped by the loss of Klay Thompson to yet another severe injury, but they still maintained that they thought they could compete. Following the time that Kevin Durant left, the Warriors made several trades, including a sign and trade for Durant to Brooklyn in exchange for D'Angelo Russell. While the Russell experiment at Golden State was a disaster and part of why they lost so many games, it would allow the Warriors to make a trade to Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins and a pivotal draft pick. If the Warriors were going to ever compete again, they would need strong play from both Wiggins and the eventual draft pick, as well as a healthy Big 3 in Steph, Klay, and Dray. With the 2020-2021 season halfway over, it was evident that while Golden State could still be good in this league that their contending days were going to be tough to relive without better help and without a healthy Klay Thompson. Little did the Warriors know, they had a new option brewing under their noses the entire time. His name was Jordan Poole. The 28th pick in the 2019 draft, Poole seemed unfocused and unable to compete in his rookie year, showing signs of perhaps another wasted draft pick for the Warriors, as they had experienced in recent years with Jacob Evans and Patrick McCaw. However, Poole going to the G League proved to be pivotal for his career and for the Warriors, as it made him a much better player and allowed him to hone his skills. Unfortunately for Golden State, Poole's development arrived just a bit too late, as he was not able to contribute effectively until the end of the year when the Warriors managed to sneak into the Play-In tournament and even then, Poole wasn't quite ready. After the Warriors lost back to back games to miss the playoffs, a lot of questions were asked about their future. Despite a good season and a half for the Warriors, people felt that Wiggins couldn't become a truly viable option on a winning team, Poole needed a few more years before he was a serious threat, Klay wouldn't be the same, Steph might not be the same, they needed to trade their draft picks away for a star, and more. You may notice that I haven't mentioned James Wiseman so far in this post and that is mostly due to inactivity. Yes, the second pick in the 2020 draft could become something special for the Warriors, but he has yet to leave his imprint on the Warriors in any way, shape or form. Still, with the future being bright ahead, one can never be too sure of what is next for James Wiseman and what his ceiling is. Could he become a pivotal piece or could he be a trade asset alongside a pick or two for another piece to help the Warriors? Time will tell. However, the NBA draft HAS benefited the Warriors this season in a way one wouldn't have imagined. 







Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga. As someone who watched Moody in college, I thought he would be a great fit honestly for the Warriors, though I didn't think he would end up getting meaningful minutes. I was on the fence about Kuminga, but I knew he was one of hell of an athlete. The development that Kuminga has shown since being drafted at no. 7 is mind boggling. He has such raw talent, cutting ability, and a high ceiling. Moses Moody has outperformed some of my expectations because he literally has minimal flaws in his game. He's such a high IQ player with defensive ability and I think he's going to be just as much of a piece of the future as Poole, Kuminga, or Wiseman. With such young players and integral new pieces, most people felt the Warriors had no shot at making the Finals or being a serious contender and while I wasn't one of them, you could certainly understand why that was the thought. I mean, when you look at the history of the NBA, how many teams have rebuilt a new core with their aging core? One could argue the Spurs to an extent, but Kawhi left the team and that sort of kills the comparison. Now, there's no guarantee that Poole, Moody, and Kuminga will stick together for the long term, but we should at least have a few years of their core together as the Big 3 ages. Speaking of that, the Big 3 aging was another reason the Warriors had been written off. Klay and Draymond are 32. Steph is 34. There may not be that many great years ahead of the trio, but they are far from done. With the success of the Warriors core, this season was sure to be one that led them to the playoffs, but how far could they make it? There were people suspecting that the Lakers were going to come out of the West (hilariously wrong). Some said the Phoenix Suns or the Utah Jazz would. While all of those teams are good (well not the Lakers), the pedigree that it takes to win a championship doesn't seem to apply to either one. The Suns made the Finals last season, which was a great feat, and they had the best record this season, but it felt like they were due to fall in the 2nd round or Conference Finals. I maintained that the Warriors were the best team in the West all season and when they got out to a start of 18-2, it seemed as if I was correct. While injuries would cause them to slip a little bit and only go 35-27 after that 20 game mark, the Warriors were still obviously a great team. At their healthiest, I believe they would have won 60 games or more. They would finish this season with a 53-29 record, 3rd in the West and no season awards for the Dubs. Steph missed out on a MVP due to a slump he had in the middle of the season, Jordan Poole was robbed of Most Improved Player and Draymond Green missed too many games to be named Defensive Player Of The Year. Along with those things, the Warriors seemed to also not grasp their identity as a team, falling into bad habits, turning the ball over, playing uneven lineups. It seemed as if despite the chemistry and prowess of the veteran core that the Warriors just couldn't figure it out. Most of the issues stemmed from injuries, but injuries are always a killer in sports. With so many pivotal guys out, the season would only have the Big 3 of Steph, Klay, and Draymond playing one game together before the playoffs. Not ideal for a team that needed to click before the playoffs, right?


Usually. 





The Golden State Warriors are a dynasty. Sometimes in a dynasty, things happen that defy logic in basketball. The Spurs run of making the playoffs some 20 years straight and winning 4 titles in 8 seasons is absolutely insane. The Bulls winning 6 titles in 8 seasons with two threepeats is insane. The Lakers winning 5 titles in the 80s still rings to be one of the coldest accomplishments in basketball. You could reference the Lakers run in the 2000s with Shaq and Kobe then Pau and Kobe that resulted in 5 titles. Every decade we see something special. In the 2010s, it felt like the decade was split between the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors. The Heat run however only lasted for 4 years while this Warriors run has continued into the 2020s. That feat is not one to overlook. While most social media banter is full of corny takes, nonsensical arguments, and slander, reality dictates that a dynasty is etched in stone and remembered fondly. The Golden State Warriors are a dynasty that only has been sidetracked by injuries. They are 18-0 in the Western Conference in the playoffs in the Steve Kerr era, with only two Finals losses, both of which came with the team not fully healthy (it is true, just as they've had some luck too). All of the pieces had to come together for the Warriors in order for this season to be a success. As the playoffs started there were many questions and so far the Warriors have answered almost all of them. The only questions that remain currently? Will Gary Payton II, Otto Porter and Andre Iguodala return for the Finals? Will Stephen Curry finally win the Finals MVP he deserved in 2015? Can the Warriors defeat the Celtics or Heat? Those questions remain and rightfully so, but one thing is for certain: The Golden State Warriors are back.... and they might be here to stay for a long time. 

-True

Comments

  1. It was wonderful! I liked the performance of the players this season. for all 100%. I just needed to know the routing number when one of the matches took place. I quickly got it with the help of the routing number directory and managed to watch the match.

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  2. One team that did benefit from this would be the Golden State Warriors, as they added the incomparable Kevin Durant to their roster in 2016 after going to back to back Finals and nearly winning both.

    For many, this seemed unfair, even if it made perfect sense for both parties involved.

    To that point, there may have been some truth, as Durant in the motion based offense of Golden State felt much more like a cheat code than say Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen teaming up.

    However, what's missing from the whole narrative of Golden State becoming "unfair" to the league is how they got to those back to back Finals before Durant came into the fold.

    As of this writing, Golden State is up 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks and are one win away from the NBA Finals for the 6th time in 8 seasons.

    SF Relationship Coaching & Psychotherapy

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