The Golden State Warriors not only won the NBA Championship on Tuesday night, but squandered basketball’s traditional mantra and past playing styles.
Guided by a spiky-haired, cartoonish coach named Steve Kerr. Who invigorated a new wave of basketball into the Bay Area. Kerr installed a devastating offensive system, which rose to having the #1 ranked offensive efficiency all season, involving high-volume shooters aligned all across the floor. His team shattered the public opinion of how jump shooting teams “cant win championships” by establishing a toughness along the interior that was mainly featured by the cause of their endless amount of depth.
Once he found the pieces to build around stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. He soon got that team to trust each other. Even while containing young playmakers such as Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green, he then used his phenominal coaching tactics, which had made him so famous during his 5 championships with the 90’s Bulls. This evidently, is now reflected back almost 16 years later, as 2015 Golden State became the first team since Kerr’s 1991 Chicago Bulls to win a Finals without having any past Finals experience on their roster.
Not only did Steve Kerr rejuvinate, almost transcend a fun, boisterous atmosphere into the Golden State players. Their playoff slogan “Strength in Numbers” lifted the Warriors fan base. Character players, that pushed and fought, were able to buy into the team basketball role that Kerr set up. Assisted by key experience from Andre Iguodala, who went through many life-changing moments during his 11 year career. After starting 756 games in his first 10 seasons as a professional, this year he was forced to take a back-seat role to being a 6th man off the bench. By sacrificing, the once deemed player who was labeled by most as “not physical enough” during the early stages of his career, waited his turn until the very end.
It took just one move into the starting lineup after Game 3, to finally jump start his veteran game onto the biggest stage of his life. Seemingly, he was Golden State’s most unsung hero during the Finals. Issuing an all-around game offensively, he helped dictate the Warriors tempo late in Games 4 and 5. Once LeBron cracked Golden State’s defensive alignment, Steve Kerr made the what seemed to be an outlandish decision, by moving Iguodala on LeBron. As a result, Iggy limited LeBron on dribble penetration and forced others to beat him. This was down-played by setting up a tantalizing double team to off-set LeBron’s historic Finals performances, one that involved him averaging 36 points and almost a near triple-double every night.
Draymond Green slipped into the 2nd round of the 2012 NBA Draft, and since has became the heart and soul of the Warriors “small ball” attack. Mostly a player who had been heavily scrutinized regarding his mishandlings of emotions throughout the course of games, almost wearing his passion of the game on his sleeve. This carried over in hindsight as he was the Warriors best interior rebounder, who blossomed as a multi-faceted small and power forward when he needed to. Leandro Barbosa wasn’t the smoothest bench player a team could have, but was the best versatile position player Steve Kerr could use at the small forward.
Evidently, at times Golden State’s resounding offense became overshadowed by its suffocating team defense. The outside media tended to forget that Golden State was also #1 in defensive efficiency, this was by the cause of a massive amount to active hands and tremendous rotation from off the ball. Even by giving up size, Golden State learned to play amidst their flaws and create havoc for teams defensively their own way.
When comparing this Warriors team to past champions, it its appropriate to mention that they might have contained one aspect to their game that prior champs such as the 2007 Spurs, 2004 Pistons, and 2008 Celtics lacked. The ability to innovate through turmoil and miscues is essential in the NBA. Part of this innovative outlook can be pointed back towards head coach Steve Kerr. While, even though he is well-past 12 years removed from playing his last seconds on the court as a player. He has seen playing styles when he was a bashful shooting guard in the league, that can now translate as a coach on the sideline, coaching one of the NBA’s most funnest teams to watch.
Even if Golden State didn’t have an imposing center down low, they had in return two “once in a generation” type shooters who could beat you in a multitude of ways. Stephen Curry not only won his first ever league MVP, but broke the record for most three-pointers made in a season, playoffs, and NBA Finals all in the same year.
The Warriors faced an onslaught of opponents in a stacked Western Conference, and beat everyone of them in a different way each time. First, by out-running a New Orleans Pelicans team that is seemingly “on the rise”, guided by a freakish athlete in Anthony Davis, who was placed on the “All-NBA” team this year. Some thought that the Memphis Grizzlies would slow down the Warriors furious pace, even with Zach Randolph and Jeff Green attacking them from everywhere on offense, still the Warriors expendable depth pushed them through. Next, they took on the Houston Rockets, a team that carried just as much offensive fire power as they did. But it took a performance for the ages involving Stephen Curry and a “lock down” job defensively by the under-sized Draymond Green to limit the boundless amount of talent center Dwight Howard, even with the offensive prowess from James Harden.
Sure, they were fortunate enough to avoid any catastrophic injury upon their roster all season, injuries that seemed to be an every day occurance in the NBA this year. Who knows what the outcome would be if Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, digging even deeper, if Anderson Varejao played in this series. While all of this is surrounded by many pure “what ifs”, the credit needs to be handed out to Golden State, who took on every team they were up against and buried them by double-digits every night. They were the NBA’s best all season and a franchise high 83 wins overall is the 3rd most by any team in basketball history. That category alone, puts them behind just the 1997 and 1998 Bulls.
Given the fact that the NBA is a copy cat league, many teams will try to replicate their style. But that is a feat that is easier said than done, especially with the roster space and cap room available in today’s NBA. While Cleveland is already slotted as 9/4 favorites to win next year’s 2016 NBA Title, given the probabilities that everyone on their roster comes back healthy. There is always a chance for repeat contenders.
No doubt should both conferences improve next year, but with a healthy Oklahoma City Thunder squad, and the addition of Lance Stephenson into the Clippers organization. For the Warriors to survive the Western Conference a second time will be an excruciating mountain to climb. But Golden State is a team built for more titles down the road, and with the two most exciting players in the NBA today. Doubting these Warriors will almost seem comical.