Are the Warriors the Cause of This Chaotic Offseason?
The NBA offseason has been unusually hectic in the summer of 2017. NBA stars like Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Chris Paul were traded, premier free agents like Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap switched teams, and the biggest bombshell may still be Kyrie Irving requesting a trade.
With so much upheaval, it’s easy to point to the Golden State Warriors as the reason for this chaotic offseason. After adding Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016, the Warriors went on to have the best record in the NBA and finish with the highest winning percentage in playoff history on their way to an NBA title. They then proceeded to follow one spectacular offseason with another by bringing back core pieces like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Javale Mcgee while also adding more shooting with Nick Young and Omri Casspi.
This display of dominance has caused NBA teams and players to reexamine what it takes to win a title when the competition has two MVPs in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and two other all-stars in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. The solution that most teams are trying is to get as many star players as possible on the same team. After Chris Paul joined James Harden and the Rockets in Houston, General Manager Daryl Morey said the NBA is in a “weapons race” where the goal is to stockpile as much star talent as possible.
It is hard to dispute the Warriors role in this mode of thinking. Even the Cleveland Cavaliers, who cruised through the first three rounds of the playoffs lost in five games to this team. It is worth asking if LeBron would consider leaving next season or if Kyrie would have asked for a trade if they had won the title or were at least able to compete with the Warriors in the Finals. The threat they present to the title chances of every other NBA team has set in motion an unprecedented chain of events throughout the league.
A huge factor to look at is the role of player agency in the NBA. Kevin Durant’s decision to join a 73-9 team was met with criticism from fans, sports analysts, and NBA Hall of Famers but it empowered players to take a more active role in their future. Chris Paul decided he wanted to play for the Rockets and the Clippers were forced to trade him or potentially move him for nothing. Paul George informed the Pacers he would not return once he became a free agent and as a result, he ended up traded and paired with Russell Westbrook. Even now, Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks remain deadlocked because Anthony refuses to waive his no trade clause unless he is dealt to a team he feels can compete for a championship. All these moves were influenced by the players themselves in an attempt to get to what they saw as a better position elsewhere.
Teams believe they need multiple star players to compete for a championship and star players want to be on teams that give them the best chance to win. This has facilitated many of the moves in the 2017 offseason, where we have seen multiple stars change teams. Incumbent stars have also played a role in wooing other players to their team. Harden helped recruit Chris Paul to the Rockets, Isaiah Thomas lobbied for Hayward to join the Celtics, and Damian Lillard and CJ Mccollum have publicly tried to get Carmelo to consider coming to the Trail Blazers. Both management and players have a mutual understanding of the effect a star player can have on a franchise.
Many teams this offseason made transactions with the sole intention of dethroning the Warriors this season while others have their eyes on the future. For the teams that are unable to make any moves that can potentially put them on the same level as the Warriors, the waiting game seems to be the only option.