3 Takeaways from WCF Game 7
As some of you may know, I wasn’t too happy with the outcome of this game. I came into the series thinking that the Rockets were going to lose in 5, so they exceeded expectations; but there are some serious problems in the NBA that reared its head in this game. Because its my job to be objective as possible, I’ll save the rant till the end; so, if you’d think you’d be bothered by that, don’t read it.
1. The Rockets don’t have depth at key positions
So, this one is pretty obvious. Everyone in the regular season praised the Rockets for their depth, but this was a lazy observation put out by some sports commentators and analysts. Yes, the Rockets do have a lot of depth on the wing. At the beginning of the season, if Trevor Ariza or Ryan Anderson couldn’t play, PJ Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Gerald Green can fill his shoes for a few minutes. But, what about the other positions? What happens if Capela needs a break? Or Eric Gordon, James Harden, and Chris Paul? Who replaces them? The answer is nobody does.
If Capela sits, Nene was a suitable backup center last year, but this year he seemed to have lost a lot of his ability on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If Harden had issues or was tired last year, he was replaced by Eric Gordon or Lou Williams as the primary ball handler. This year, the Rockets added Chris Paul (which gave them another great playmaker to run the offense) but gave up their guard depth to do it. The move made them better when Chris Paul was playing; but when he couldn’t, they were a worse team than the year before. Once Chris Paul went down, Harden and Gordon had to play more minutes and had more of an offensive responsibility; which caused them to tire out faster. And this brings us to the next takeaway:
2. Short rotations fatigue players faster
This is another obvious one for people who have ever played basketball. When you play for a long time, you start to realize that your shots aren’t going in as often as they were; especially if you were playing intense defense at the other end. This is because of a factor that many analysts and commentators seem to forget about: fatigue. If you haven’t played basketball, to illustrate how fatigue impacts your play, check out these stats:
So, as you can pretty obviously see above, fatigue drastically effected the Rockets. You can argue that this was because the Warriors just stepped up their defense and their offense in the 2nd half of these games, but, this phenomenon was also prevalent in the regular season.
The thing responsible for this huge difference in play between the 1st and 2nd halves of games by the Houston Rockets is Mike D’Antoni’s short rotations. To better illustrate this point, the Rockets had 6 different players play more than 30 minutes per game during the playoffs; while the Warriors, Bucks, and Timberwolves (who have a coach notorious for playing his starters way too long) only had 4 players each that averaged more than 30 minutes per game. Adding to the number of minutes played, the Rockets had to chase around the Warriors’ 4 all-stars all over the perimeter, through or around screens. Its no wonder why the Rockets’ players looked so tired going into the 2nd half.
3. Rant: Kevin Durant has practically made the Warriors unfair
The NBA is first and foremost a form of entertainment; and, like most other forms of entertainment, is at its best when all its viewers feel as though they have an equal stake in it. The best way to achieve this is through making sure there is parity in the league, so that every team every year believes that they have a shot at winning a championship. The league came very close to reaching this goal in the 2014-2015 NBA season, when the Western Conference seemed wide open and the Eastern Conference had an injury ridden Cavaliers team in the playoffs. That all changed the summer of 2016, when Kevin Durant decided to join the best team in the NBA; thus, forming the most talented team ever assembled.
Now, before you get at me about how LeBron James and the Big 3 in Boston did the same thing, or that the league has had teams with dominant stretches in the past; I’ll explain how this is different. Yes, the league has always had dynasties in the NBA. That isn’t the problem I have with this. The problem I have with this current Warriors team, specifically Kevin Durant, is that (unlike the 90s Bulls, 80s, Lakers and Celtics, or the 60s Celtics) Kevin Durant came to them in FA.
Before acquiring Kevin Durant, I had a lot of respect for how the Warriors created this current dynasty. I thought the talent evaluation and acquisition by Jerry West was superb and I didn’t have that much of a problem with them becoming the next NBA dynasty. I believed at this point, through hard work they fairly earned their place in NBA history. Then they added the most unstoppable scorer in NBA history through a one-year loophole in the rules (explained here by Rachel Nichols). This team went from having 3 undisputed future HOF players to having 4. This move absolutely ruined any chance of parity in at least the following 5 years. There leaves very little reason for fans to care about their teams when they know that Golden State is going to win regardless of what they do every season.
This move is incomparable to LeBron forming the super team in Miami (which I also disagreed with), because Wade and Bosh’s former teams weren’t going to win an NBA championship the season before without LeBron. The Heat were the 5th seed and the Raptors didn’t even make the playoffs. This move was incomparable to the Big 3 in Boston because Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen were all in their 30s. Their primes were almost over, and they still had many teams who could have challenged them. They weren’t by far the best team in the NBA.
One of my fellow writers, Jay Christian, posted on Twitter, “The Warriors didn't ruin the NBA. I want the team I root for to keep working to take them down. They are forcing the league to step its game up. As one current Warrior famously said, let's get back to competing”, and I’d have to disagree. Yes, Kevin Durant’s move did force the league to step up its game, but at what cost? The move forces the rest of the NBA to beat him by forming their own super teams. All this does is take away talent from too many teams that have suffered through so much to acquire them and congregates that talent into too few teams; further punishing the have-nots.
At the end of the day, the NBA is for the fans; and Kevin Durant’s move punished the fans of teams not named the Golden State Warriors. If the 2017-2018 Rockets and the 2016-2017 Cavaliers couldn’t beat them, then who can? If nobody can, then why even watch the NBA?
(All Stats Courtesy of NBA.com)
(Video Courtesy of ESPN)