By: Ravneet Singh
Everyone knows the Golden State Warriors are playing great basketball. It’s as common sense as the sky is blue and roses are red. The hardcore NBA fan would tell you that they are having a historically good regular season, and that’s true. They are going to finish with at least 63 wins with four games left in the season. They rank first in defensive efficiency and second in offensive efficiency per ESPN.com. Most experts would have them winning it all. But what people aren’t talking about is for how long can we see the Warriors achieve this much success from seasons to come.
Now that is tough to predict. We have seen plenty of teams think they are just starting to place their mark in the league as a contender. Yet, before you know it, the team became a curious story of why they didn’t win more. Just ask the Kings and Pacers in the early 2000’s or the Magic of the late 2000’s.
Those teams never won, but at one point in time were consider the best or second best team in the league. I won’t go as far as saying the Warriors will end up being like those teams. This Warriors team is most likely better than any of them. But it is important to note that being a contender in this league does not last forever (unless you are the Spurs).
Golden State has a number of variables that makes this season so precious. One of the causes for the Kings’ demise was the injury of Chris Webber. I won’t mention injuries as one of the major reasons for why this season means so much for the Warriors, but it is important to understand one injury can impact a franchise for many years to come. Here are the key reasons why this year is Golden State’s best chance at holding up that Larry O’Brian trophy:
Other Teams Dealing with Injuries
Look – I get it. If you examine past champions in this league, we see that the winning team likely had some luck in their favor. Look at the Spurs last year. They faced an OKC squad that missed Ibaka for the first two games last year. The Thunder have given the Spurs plenty of trouble in the past and if Ibaka was 100% during that series who knows what would have happened. This is pretty common for teams who have gone all the way.
All that being said, it does seem like the Warriors’ competition in the Western Conference is weaker than previously advertised. Their first round opponent, the Thunder or Pelicans, have been dealing with injuries all season long.
Their second round opponent could be Portland, who has lost Wesley Mathews for the season and Dorell Wright for at least a month. Granted, the Spurs, Mavericks, Clippers, and Grizzlies all look relatively healthy, but really only the Spurs of all the teams in the west look healthy and are playing good basketball. The Warriors have won all the regular season matchups against those teams except for the Spurs.
The most impactful player who has gotten injured this year in the league has been Kevin Durant. He easily makes the Thunder a contender. Ibaka and Durant would make the team even scarier than Freddy Krueger looking over you while you sleep. The Warriors’ path to a ring becomes a lot easier when you don’t have to deal with a contender in Round 1.
Uncertain Future of Upcoming Free Agents
There’s a lot of speculation here, so bear with me. About ten games into the season if you had asked me if Draymond Green would be a Warrior after this year, I would have said no. The Warriors will be at $78 million. The luxury tax limit this year is $76.8. It increases every year, but if Green gets an offer for $10 million a year then the Warriors may let him walk. Here’s the Warrior’s payroll, per HoopsHype.com.
Now if you ask me if Draymond will be a Warrior, I would have to say yes. As the season has progressed, Green has become more and more valuable. He is so vital to them defensively and on offense he carries his own. Teams cannot defend him and Steph in the pick and roll, and he is also in contention for Defensive Player of the Year.
Because of his success this year, a lot of experts are saying he will get the max. That’s not hard to believe. Teams know that the Warriors will have to go over. They might as well give Green the max to try to pry a pretty good player from them. Worst case scenario the Warriors keep him and have to go deep into the tax for one year.
If Green gets the max, or at least $10 million per year, the Warriors will have most of their money tied up for the next two years. This raises the possibility of losing Harrison Barnes. Although Barnes may not be the player they had hoped when they drafted him, he’s still improving and has shown that he can start in this league. There is a slight chance that a team overpays for Barnes’ potential, and the Warriors won’t match.
It’s very possible that both Green and Barnes sign with Golden State for the long haul. It would mean that the Warriors go well past the luxury tax limit unless the cap goes a lot higher, which could happen thanks to the new television deal. If they lose Barnes, it would hurt a little. If they lose Green, it would hurt a lot. If they don’t lose either, then their bench will likely take a turn for the worst. We have seen the Miami Heat win with a fairly weak bench, but there’s no doubt that a topnotch bench helps your chances for a title.
Age of Key Players
The Warriors’ starters for the most part are fairly young. That’s a very good sign for future success. Andrew Bogut is the one key starter for them who is older than the rest. He’s having a great year, ranking number one in overall defensive real plus-minus according to ESPN.com. Nevertheless, Andrew Bogut is thirty years old. Now, that may not seem that old, but Bogut just doesn’t look like he has more than three more solid years left in him and that’s being generous. He’s had numerous injuries, and it’s a surprise to many that he has remained as healthy as he has this year. In fact, this year seems like the exception.
As you can see Bogut has a tough time staying healthy. He’s only played over 77 games twice in his career and that was within his first three years. He’s played over 60 games over the last two years, so maybe he’s starting to regain his healthy. If I was a betting man, however, I would not put money on him staying this healthy for long.
The other two aging key players for the Warriors are David Lee and Andre Iguodala. Granted, these players come off the bench and are no longer starters like they were a year ago. But they are part of what makes this team so dangerous. When a team has two legit starters coming off the bench, that team is going to do pretty darn good.
Lee will turn 32 soon and Igoudala just turned 31. Both are in pretty good shape and haven’t had to deal with the same injury concerns as Bogut has. Players just start to decline after their prime and both players are past their prime. They will likely continue to slow down and it’s hard to see the Warriors resigning them after their contracts expire.
There are lot of variables to consider. Golden State has had the perfect storm of success this year. Everything seems to be going their way. They are no doubt the favorites, and really the Spurs are going to be their biggest concern. Eventually, though, the storm settles, and things go back to normal. Winning just doesn’t last as long as we think (again, the Spurs are the exception).
Everything I mentioned could be just a false alarm. But a little word of advice: take advantage of this year’s situations and don’t become the next great team never to win a championship.