A place for me to talk about San Francisco Bay Area sports.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Three-Match: Thoughts on the Warriors and Dominance

Lots of people are unhappy with the 2017 NBA Finals.  Some because it's the same two teams for the first time in NBA history.  More because the dominance of the two teams make the season a joke for all the other NBA teams.  Some because Kevin Durant (what a coup!) joined the Warriors, making the so-called Three-Match more of a mis-match than a re-match, since he is such a great improvement over Harrison Barnes.

Obviously, as a Warriors fan, I'm happy about things.  Don't have a problem with any of this, clearly.  And for all the complaints about the Warriors, I think some key things are being overlooked.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Most of all, the Warriors built up the core of their team for the most part using the draft and with key low cost free agents.  Curry, Thompson, and Green are from the draft, and Barnes and Ezeli before, plus McAdoo has been good in limited playing time, and, potentially, McCaw has played nicely at times in starts, plus Looney has a Player Efficiency Rating that is not that far from league average and a win share per 48 minutes that is significantly above average, he appears to just need to get healthy so that he can play regularly, and Jones has been a good rebounder in his limited playing time.  Then there are under the radar signings, like JaVale McGee this season, Barbosa and Speights previously, also Livingston has been key to the second team.

Major free agent signings were only Igoudala and, obviously, Durant, for this team (Lee before, but that was so long ago, and he was not that key to the championship, though a good cog in the machine.  It is not like they signed a bunch of free agent superstars (or traded for them) to create their super team.  And Igoudala is not even considered an All-Star player anymore, nor is he a starter, though obviously key to their scheme and their team.

Fortuitous Alignment of the Stars or Outright Genius

Getting Durant was a miracle, so many things had to go right.  It is a quirk of salary cap timing (big contracts jumped the cap significantly), bold strategizing by the Warriors upper brass (brass balls to boot), friendship (Marcus Thompson noted years ago, when Iguodala signed, that Durant was part of the trio of buddies with Curry, when they played together on a national team), and desire (Durant is a big thinker, he's already hooked in with a lot of VC investors in Silicon Valley; it wasn't mentioned much, but I would have to think that Lacob's connections with the VC world was an understated attraction to Durant, on top of him wanting to be on a team with friends, as apparently Green is the guy who is noted lately as his best bud on the team).

On top of that, he had to first lose to the Warriors, then the Warriors lose to the Cavs, in order to at least give some semblance of sanity to the move, motivationally, from Durant's point of view, at least to make it more palatable to outside viewers (and there are still many who have problems with it, from a competitor viewpoint).  Had he gotten to the Finals and lost to LeBron again, maybe he stays to try it again with the Thunder.  Or had the Warriors won, maybe they lose the nerve to try to sign him.  But even if either didn't happen, the heart wants what it wants, sometimes, so he and the Warriors might still have made the move, so I don't see this as absolutely key, unlike the above.  But it certainly helped pave the path to the Warriors, for sure.

Without any of those pieces happening, the signing probably don't happen.  For some, it will look like it is just fate that he is here, due to all these domino pieces.   But, for me, it starts from the fact that our GM and owner had been targeting Durant for a number of years now, and preparing for the day when they could logistically and financially be allowed to approach him with the crazy idea of joining the Warriors.   Lacob has had crazy dreams, starting with thinking that he could outbid Ellison, and he has continued to achieve his crazy dreams.

40 Years of Rocky Horror Show

Second of all, it ignores the history and pain that Warrior fans have gone through since their last World Championship when Rick Barry was their star.  The meme for that period before Joe Lacob somehow outbid (thank goodness!) Larry Ellison (with him as owner, I pictured that we probably would be like Ballmer/Clippers or the Redskin's owner, a tech billionaire who didn't understand the sport, but he has the money) for the privilege of owning the Warriors can be captured by the picture many of us long term fans have burned in our brain from when Al Attles was at the first draft lottery and fell from 1st to 7th (unfortunately, I could not locate a good photo of this on the internet; I thought for sure it would be immortalized somewhere).

For 40 years we have put up with a lot.  And that's just from all the mis-fires in the draft, and skips over the choking (both playing and of coaches), drama (Nellie was great, but he sure brought the drama; Ellis, meet motorcycle), bad trades (too many to recount), etc.  GSW rightfully did double duty during that period, standing also for gun shot wound.

And it was a LOT.  The horrible draft picks, in spite of lucking out when we missed out on Ewing but ended up with Mullin.  The horrible trades.  The horrible play and the horrible players.  The horrible coaches. Worse, the horrible owner, Cohan with his own wing in this condemned memory box of hell.

40 years of crap and worse Warriors fans have had to put up with, so I see this more as payback for having to live through all of the ups and mostly downs of that period.

Other Dynasties

And there were other teams who dominated.  Celtics.  Lakers. Bulls.  Pistons.  Spurs.  Heat.  Nobody complained when they did, and they got key trades that propelled them to greatest or even greater heights.  The Warriors built and traded their way to their greatness.  Had these other teams been able to add a Durant level player, because of a similar ceiling cap quirk, they would have done it and there would not have been a peep about the imbalance.  I see the complaints more as jealousy than anything else.  Just like the jealousy we Warriors fans had for those 40 years watching other teams do well. As Durant said, it's not his fault that other teams were lousy, he would have only been able to help one team, plus, as a free agent, he's free to go where ever he wants.

The 2017 Finals

There is talk about the Warriors sweeping their way to the title.  That is pie in the sky dreaming, but then again, the past three seasons has seen it's share of pie in the sky.  I think they will win in 5 games.

First off, and most of all, Durant should be such a huge improvement over Barnes, even with the improvements that the Cavs have done this season.  This season, they beat up on the Cavs at home but lost a squeaker in Cleveland.  And they did that while Durant and Curry were both still feeling their way towards a collaborative superstar partnership.  Curry found his mojo while Durant was out with his injury, then Durant found his way towards being part of the Warriors puzzle.  So, I see them sweeping the two at home, then splitting the games in Cleveland, before returning home to finish off the series.

Second, the Cavs would not have won last season without some unusual occurrences.  Most of all was Curry coming in at less than 100%.  They were able to focus on grinding him down during that Finals, as well as daring Barnes to come up big (he didn't).  But even with that, Green's suspension took the wind out of the team's sails when they were leading 3-1.  The Cavs still had to beat the Warriors, to their credit, three straight games, but the league gave them a huge assist by taking Green out of the game and putting the Warriors back on their heels, while giving the Cavs more time to grind on Curry.  They never recovered from that totally, though enough to give us a great game 7 seesaw.

I would not be surprised if they sweep, though.  Durant is that much better than Barnes, and the synergy of adding him only started paying dividends after he returned from his injury.  Barring any unusual occurrences affecting this Finals, of course.

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Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

With a 2-0 Finals lead, the Warriors are where they were last season, when they lost the Finals.

I thought I would note that LeBron has already set up the narrative, after the Game 1 loss, when asked what the difference is, and he said "KD", that the great team the Warriors had last season added one of the best players in the NBA to it. And so this Final is different from the prior two because of KD being added.

Still, look at Game 2, first half: when he was on the court, the Cavs were a plus-6, when he was off, the Cavs were minus-9, leading to the 3-point nail-biter at half time. Of course, that was done with him on the floor most of the time, 21:33, and the minus-9 damage was done in the 2:27 he wasn't on the floor.

So, yeah, Kevin Durant adds a lot to the Warriors team, but LeBron is such a transcendent talent that even with KD, the Warriors are still not as good as a LeBron-led team, as shown by that first half. So how is it that many people knock the addition of KD as uncompetitive?

Of course, things unraveled in the second half, but the narrative is that with KD, the Warriors are too strong and uncompetitive. But as was seen in the first half, LeBron, even with much of his supporting players not doing much, was still better than the KD-infused Warriors.

Therefore, the problem has not been KD has been added, the problem has been that the players LeBron needs to support him in order to win - Irving, Smith, Thompson, for main examples - are not playing up to what they have been expected to. If they were performing, then the Cavs would be keeping the games close, as well as have a chance to win.

And that is what happened last season. These players showed up once they were comfortable in Cleveland, for whatever reasons. This was seen this season too, with the Warriors crushing them in Oakland, but losing to them in Cleveland. So I see them winning a game at home, with the Warriors winning in 5 games.

Monday, June 05, 2017 10:16:00 AM

Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

And what are the Warriors supposed to do? Sign a lesser player who is better than Barnes, but less than KD, and get that right mix to beat LeBron but not by that much? That would be asinine.

And why wouldn't KD want to sign with the Warriors? He's like every other free agent last season would have loved to sign with a team that has a great chance to reach the Finals. Was he supposed to pass up that chance just because others thought ill of him for that decision? Much like LeBron's Event when he signed with Miami, taking a good team and making it better. And I think most will agree that LeBron is that much a better player than KD, plus, Miami signed ANOTHER good player in Bosh.

Many superstar players have went searching for a better situation for themselves. It's unique that the Warriors were already so good and KD was so good, but even the Bulls added Rodman for 1995-96 season, creating their 72 win season.

The best players, for a long time now, have seeked out the best team around, in search of a ring, it is not KD's fault that he became a free agent right when the Warriors was already so good AND they had cleared enough to sign him.

Monday, June 05, 2017 10:52:00 AM

Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

If the Warriors were winning each game uncontested, I would better understand the feelings of those who think that KD made this unbeatable machine.

But it was not like that during the regular season. And the Cavs have been able to get it close during both games of the Finals, until somebody on the Warriors took over in the 3rd quarter.

In game 2, the Cavs were still within 4 points mid-way during the 3rd quarter, before the Warriors pulled away in just 3 minutes, when the lead became 14 points.

Even then, a little more than 3 minutes into the 4th, the lead was down to 11 points, with nearly 9 minutes to do, plenty of time for the Cavs to catch up (I've seen the Warriors blow 10+ point leads in the final minutes of games, so I know it's possible).

Then in a two and a half minute flurry, it was over, the Warriors lead was 22 points. And the Cavs had LeBron, Irving, Love, and Thompson out there for all of that, most of their top players, plus Korver and Shumpert during parts.

So it was not like the game wasn't competitive most of the game, it was just the Warriors put it away late and kept that lead to the end, making the final result look lopsided when it was competitive for 39 of the 48 minutes.

Monday, June 05, 2017 2:16:00 PM

Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

And if that is not competitive enough for some people, then welcome to the very recent world of the Warriors fans, particularly during the Cohan era, when we were not competitive enough most years. Nobody was crying for the Warriors lack of competitiveness during that period, we were the sad sacks of the league.

The bottom line is that the Warriors played within the rules that existed for all teams, if people don't like the result, then get the NBA to change the rules to stop this type of move.

I find it funny that all these people act all pure about the NBA. If other teams were in the same position, they would have done it and been OK with it. And all the players complaining now, would have been beating their chests about their right to do that if they were in the Warriors and Durant's shoes.

That said, if you want to find a place to point fingers at, look no further than the Players union, the NBA wanted to increase the salary cap incrementally so that teams would not get so much cash all at once, but the players voted against that, they wanted the players to benefit from being able to get everything that was freed up immediately. Had the NBA had their way, the Warriors would have had to trade away more players in order to get Durant, probably at least Iguodala and perhaps Livingston, depends on the curve of cap growth they envisioned.

So the players union and their players wanted that extra cap available. Well, the Warriors used that extra cap, as well as letting go of a lot of commitments, in order to be able to afford Durant. The players didn't want to wait and this was the consequence.

The NBA didn't envision this exact thing happening, but at least acknowledged that unexpected consequences could happen with the steep cap rise, and thus the cap should grow into the revenues. So if they want to blame anyone, they can look into the mirror.

Monday, June 05, 2017 2:23:00 PM


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