NBA Future Power Rankings: 1. Golden State Warriors:
Golden State Warriors: Since hiring Steve Kerr two seasons ago, the Warriors have gone 140-24 in the regular season, reached the finals twice, and won the 2014-15 NBA Championship. Like any team coming off a season in which they had the best record in NBA history (73-9), the dubs clearly needed an upgrade. Call it luck or great timing, but all of the pieces fell into place for Kevin Durant to join the Warriors. Durant’s Thunder choked in the Western Conference Finals by losing a 3-1 lead to GSW. This series was the final domino in Durant deciding to leave OKC. There are likely many reasons that no one other than Durant can know for his departure from the Thunder, but it is hard to imagine Durant joining Golden State had OKC won that series. Losing in the NBA Finals is always a tough pill to swallow, especially in a seven game series, but it may have landed the Warriors Durant. This is merely speculation, but had the Warriors won back-to-back championships, Durant may have felt that they clearly didn’t need him. Now Durant could think of himself as the final piece of a dynasty and an important factor in dethroning King James. The Warriors also got lucky with the unusual spike in the cap. Without the $24 million rise in the cap, a team of Golden State’s caliber would never had the cap room to sign a superstar like Durant to a max contract. Whenever you bring together a collection of players as talented as the Warriors roster there will always be chemistry and ego questions, but the Warriors situation is very different from past “super team” formations. Whether you look at the 2008 Celtics, the 2010 Heat, or the 2014 Cavs, this year’s Warriors squad is in a much better situation, which is a scary thought considering all of these teams won at least one title. The year prior to forming their “super teams”, the Celtics, Heat, and Cavs were coming off terrible seasons and had just one star (Pierce, Wade, and Irving, respectively). On the other hand, the Warriors already have three stars and a championship team and culture in place and know how to play together. Adding Durant alongside Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson makes GSW the first team to ever have four players that received All-NBA selections the previous season. At 27 years old Durant is entering his prime and is already a top-5 player and former MVP. As any casual fan should know, Durant is a massive upgrade from the departed Harrison Barnes. The only concern some had for GSW if they acquired Durant was how much of their depth that had been so important to their success would they need to sacrifice. Warriors General Manager Bob Myers did an incredible job of forming the roster around his 4 All-Stars this offseason. After the Warriors Big 3, the two most important players from last years finals run were Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. The fact that the Warriors didn’t need to sacrifice either of these two for Durant means that Myers is more than earning his paycheck. Not including the Barnes for Durant swap, the only two losses on the perimeter were Brandon Rush and Leandro Barbosa. The Warriors re-signed Ian Clark who looked really good last season and should be ready to take over most of Barbosa’s minutes. In addition the Warriors acquired the 38th pick in this years draft Patrick McCaw. Considering they paid the Bucks $2.4 Million for his draft rights they must be high on him, so don’t be surprised if McCaw sees some regular season action. Most of the Warriors changes were up front. Out are Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, and Marreese Speights. Replacing Bogut as the likely starting center is Zaza Pachulia, who was signed to a 1-year $2.9 million contract. Pachulia clearly forfeited an opportunity at more money to play a major role for a title favorite. To get a player like Pachulia, who is arguably as good as Bogut, at this price could be the biggest coup of the offseason. Pachulia will be a noticeable downgrade from Bogut defensively, but he can still hold his own. Pachulia will be a great presence on the glass where he averaged 9.4 RPG (14th in the NBA) last season. Offensively he is an upgrade over Bogut. Pachulia shares Bogut’s great court vision from the center position, but he is a vastly superior foul shooter and also the better post scorer. West should play a similar role to the one Speights has in previous seasons. At this point of his career West isn’t as good a scorer as Speights, but he is the better all around and overall player. To take over Ezeli’s minutes, the Warriors will hope at least one of the three of James Michael Mcadoo (re-signed for veterans minimum), Kevin Looney (30th pick in 2015, played just 9 minutes last season due to injury), and Damian Jones (30th pick in 2016) are up to the task. The Warriors success this season will be huge in convincing the Warriors core to sacrifice money to stay together. Thompson and Green are already signed to long-term contracts, but many important players including Durant, Curry, and Iguodala will hit the market next offseason. These impending free agents cause a little uncertainty for GSW’s future, but they shouldn’t be too concerned. If they have a great year they are likely to stay in tact, and it is hard to come up with many realistic scenarios where the Warriors aren’t a powerhouse. With Durant 27, Curry 28, and Thompson and Green 26, the Warriors have an incredible core in place for basketballs next great dynasty.