Title Contender Scale: 10
2018 Conference Ranking: 1st
2018 NBA Ranking: 1st
2016-17 season summary: After losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals, the Golden State Warriors went out and brought superstar Kevin Durant in. The Warriors cruised through the regular season, with a few highs and lows along the way. They lost their first game of the season. Curry broke the single game three-point record against the Pelicans. They clinched a playoff berth in February. Then, as the season was winding down, Kevin Durant got hurt. This wasn’t terrible though, because it led to Curry getting hot right before the playoffs started. Durant was healthy for the playoffs, taking a few games off against the Portland Trail Blazers (who they swept) and the Utah Jazz (who they also swept). Then came the conference finals, against the San Antonio Spurs. In the first game of the series, it looked as if the Warriors’ 8 game win streak was going to come to an end, as they were down 23 points at home in the third quarter. Then, on a controversial play, Kawhi Leonard landed on the foot of center Zaza Pachulia after taking a jump shot, which caused him to re-injure his ankle. Leonard sat out the rest of the game and the Warriors came back and won. Leonard didn’t play again after that game, and the Warriors lengthened their win streak to 12 games. Now, they just had to win four more to win another title. Of course, they were going against a Cavs team who had also cruised through their conference playoffs, losing just one game to the Celtics. But the Cavs ended up being no match for the Warriors. They only won once, and were outplayed by a significant margin in the rest of their games. Kevin Durant had a phenomenal series, winning finals MVP.
Offseason Overview: Due to star players Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant both needing new contracts, the Warriors didn’t really make any huge signings. But that’s ok, because they didn’t need to. Due to past trades, the Warriors didn’t have any draft picks for this year. However, this didn’t stop them from drafting someone. At the start of the second round, the Warriors sent $3.5 million to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the 38th pick, which they used on Oregon forward Jordan Bell. Then, the Warriors locked up Curry on a 5 year, $201 million deal. They also re-signed key bench players Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and David West. It was huge that they got Iguodala back because at the beginning of free agency, it was very possible that he could leave for another team. After that, the Warriors were able to get veterans Nick Young and Omri Casspi on one year deals. They then re-signed Zaza Pachulia, and got Kevin Durant for a huge discount (2 years, $53 million). Update: The Warriors have re-signed JaVale McGee.
Additions: Nick Young, Omri Casspi, Jordan Bell
Losses: Ian Clark, Matt Barnes, James Michael McAdoo
Favorite offseason move: Re-signing Andre Iguodala. He is a lot more important to the Warriors than many realize.
Least favorite offseason move: None
Starting Five: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia
You won’t find a better starting five across the league. Four all-stars, two of which are top 5 NBA talents, a defensive player of the year, an all time great shooter, and a more than serviceable veteran big man.
Key Reserves: Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Nick Young
Three extremely capable players off the bench. Iguodala and Livingston play excellent defense, and Young can score in bunches.
Most Important Player: Stephen Curry
Does this even need to be explained? Curry is a two time MVP, the unquestioned team leader, and is the best shooter of our generation. We’ve seen what can happen when he’s not on his A game (which he usually is).
Who Needs to Improve from Last Year: Nobody
The Warriors just won a title and added more talent. If they just keep playing their game, they’ll be fine. If I had to pick somebody, I guess I’d choose Patrick McCaw. If he can grow into the defensive player he’s shown flashes of, he’d make a fine 7th man.
X-Factor: Klay Thompson
When Klay Thompson goes off, he goes off. I’m talking 20 point quarter, shooting 65% goes off. But, being the third option to two of the greatest players of the 21st century, has caused Klay to be inconsistent at times. If he could somehow become a more consistent scorer than he already is, it’d be even harder to defend the Golden State Warriors.
The Upcoming Season
Projection: 65+ win season, could eclipse 70 wins if everyone stays healthy and Kerr doesn’t rest the starters as much
Biggest question: Will the improved talent in the West lead to a possible upset in the Western Conference finals? Or is the Warriors’ superteam still too good for anyone to stand a chance?
Future outlook: The Warriors will have their core around for at least the next two years, unless KD leaves for some reason (he has a player option after this season). Figuring out a way to sign or extend Durant, Thompson, and Green while staying out of cap trouble will be hard, but I’m sure it can be done. They’ll be a contender for at least the next 4 years, will keep signing solid veterans for the minimum, and continue acquiring young players like Kevin Looney and Patrick McCaw who they can develop. Don’t expect them to stop winning anytime soon. That being said, in 4 years this core will be old, especially the bench (I’m looking at you, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala).
Best case scenario: The Rockets, Timberwolves, and Thunder all struggle with chemistry issues and don’t do as well as people expect, the Cavs don’t get equal value back in a Kyrie trade, and no one gets hurt for the Warriors. They win 70 games and get through the Western Conference Finals with relative ease before beating the Cavs in 4.
Worst case scenario: Chris Paul and James Harden combine for 40 points and 20 assists a night, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns grow into above-average defenders, the Cavs get both Carmelo Anthony and Eric Bledsoe, and one of Curry or KD gets hurt. They still win 60+ games but get knocked out in the Western Conference Finals and are forced to watch LeBron win another ring, this time without Kyrie.
Possible moves that the team could or should make: At this point, nothing.
Final Verdict: You’ll be hard pressed to find a better team than the Golden State Warriors. They have 4 All-Stars, just won a title, and are improving their chemistry every day. I’d be very surprised if they aren’t the team representing the Western Conference in the finals come June 2018, but I’ll be hoping it’s somebody else.