Can the Warriors really be bad for the NBA?
Now that the sweep has been averted, the discussion has died down somewhat on if the Warriors are breaking the NBA. However, assuming that they do win the finals, that will likely be the main topic of conversation throughout the offseason, as it is easy to despair about the future parity of the league when one team has such an absurd collection of talent in comparison to the other 29 teams. This thought is further exacerbated by rumors spilling out of front offices about teams (looking at you Boston) who would rather try to “wait out” the Warriors than competing now.
In the East, teams are complaining about the inability to get past LeBron James and his dominant superteams. LeBron’s reign over attending the NBA Finals as the representative from the Eastern Conference has hit seven consecutive seasons and there are no signs of that streak slowing down.
So then we all collectively wonder, other than the TV ratings folk, as those numbers are up, if these superteams are ruining the NBA. The Warriors, in particular, seem egregious, as due to a multitude of factors they were suddenly able to sign one the best players in the world without giving up much. That player, Kevin Durant, also fit perfectly into their current scheme. Now the Warriors’ stars are in their prime and seemingly ready to hold onto the championship trophy for eternity.
However, all that seems to forget recent history, especially in regards to the Miami Heat. It was not so long ago that the Heat were forced to the brink in the playoffs by the Pacers, a series made even more difficult by an injury to Chris Bosh. Without Bosh, the Heat were struggling to maintain their offensive and defensive identity, as he was the lynchpin of their rotation.
This could have happened to the Warriors this year, as there was a lot of uncertainty around Durant’s injury in the regular season.
A few years later, the Heat were destroyed by the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, in part because their team simply could not fit role players around the Big Three Stars are there just wasn’t enough money. Many NBA teams currently feel this squeeze, as if you have a max contract or two on your roster, it is incredibly easy to wind up in the luxury tax.
The reason why the Warriors were able to sign Durant is due to the cap bump. This was an unprecedented moment and the Warriors were able to capitalize on it. Now every team is shaking in their boots that this might be life in perpetuity. But coming into this offseason, the Warriors only have five players under contract (assuming Durant opts out).
If Durant and Curry sign Max or near max deals, the Warriors are right at the salary cap threshold. They will likely lose Shaun Livingston or Andre Iguodala this summer as some team can offer them much more than the Warriors can now that they have to commit max contracts to both Durant and Curry. While that gives them a seemingly unstoppable core of Durant, Thompson, Green, and Curry, they still have to fit in role players around those guys. There are only so many David Wests of the world that are seeking minimum contracts for a chance at the title. Eventually, they will be capped out and struggling to fill out the rotation.
The recent NBA has seen many “certain” dynasties that crumbled much sooner than expected. The Heat were supposed to win not one, not two, not three... championships. The Clippers core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan seemed too good to be true. The Thunder had a seemingly impossible riches of young players.
The Warriors could very well be different and destroy the league’s parity, or rather theoretical parity, for a few years. We have a funny way of smoothing recent history to make it seem like the path to the finals is a cakewalk for these teams. But the NBA is never truly that easy, nor is it that simple to keep an All-Star team together with valuable role players. It’s the unknown unknowns that happen.