Congratulations, Warriors fans! Who could have possibly guessed that adding one of the 3 best players in the league to a 73 win team would be a winning formula? Oh, everyone would have guessed that? Gotcha. They just made a very good Cavaliers team look silly and were on another level from any other team this year. Here’s where I’m happy for the Warriors success — they did an excellent job drafting players. Steph, Dray and Klay were all excellent draft picks and gave them the cap space to make a completely unfair signing in Durant. It’s not their fault that the rules allowed this signing, it just feels that way. They were already an unbelievably amazing team, and should by all means be playing for a three-peat without Durant. The fact that they added him makes it entirely possible they will dominate with no close challenger for the next 5+ years.
Now, unless you happen to be a Warriors fan, where do you find hope? I’m not sure if I can answer that, but, damnit, I’m going to waste a lot of words trying to come up with something. Outside of a major Dubs injury, who has a realistic chance next year?
The same shitty teams that didn’t compete last year still won’t compete next year. Here’s the pile of shit teams, I’ve already wasted enough time talking about them here. This includes the Suns, Lakers, Kings, Mavericks, Pelicans, Nuggets, Nets, Magic, Knicks, Hornets, Pistons, Bulls, and Pacers. The T-Wolves and 76ers have a lot of young talent, but aren’t ready to be taken seriously for at least another year or two.
Then, you have the middling teams. They aren’t that great, but you can depend on them to make the playoffs and they conceivably could pick up some free agents or draft picks that jump them a level. It’s very, very unlikely any of these teams have any business licking the Warriors shoes next year, let alone beating them. This includes the Blazers, Grizzlies, Thunder, Jazz, Hawks, Clippers, Heat, Bucks, Raptors, and Wizards.
So who does that leave? Very few. The Cavs, Celtics, Spurs, and Rockets. Essentially, the same few teams that had any shot at contention this year. I’ll break it down one by one.
The Cavs left everything on the table in the finals this year. They have absolutely no cap space to sign free agents, traded their 2018 1st rounder in a desperation bid for Kyle Korver (atrocious in retrospect), and have splurged on diminishing assets such as JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert. This team has clearly reached its apex, and even that was not enough. The Cavs have only one option — In my best Stephen A. Smith voice, “THEY. MUST. TRUUAAAADE. KEVIN.LOVE.” The value they get for Love will determine their ability to compete over the next few years. If they can somehow find a way to pull in a player like Paul George or Jimmy Butler, they have a shot. More likely, they’ll trade Love for Carmelo Anthony and get beat by the Warriors again next year.
The 17 time Boston Celtics are once again in prime position to compete with the best of them. Almost as unfair as the Durant signing is the fact the Celtics swindled the Nets of the number one overall pick this year. That trade was unconscionable at the time and has not aged well at all. Assuming Markelle Fultz is the superstar everyone expects him to be, and the Celtics are able to land Gordon Hayward in free agency as many expect, this team is going to be for real. That team would be a real threat to Cleveland in the East, though still probably lacks the firepower to overcome the Warriors. That’s not even taking into account that the Celtics own the hapless Nets number one pick for next year, as well. Who knows where that might end up. It will certainly make great trade bait for that last missing piece. It’s going to take a few more moves and some quick maturation from Fultz, but the Celtics have as much ammo as anyone to challenge this Warriors squad over the next three years.
Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs got fucking screwed this year. Up by 26 in what looked to be a huge game one upset of the Warriors, and Zaza “even Warriors fans don’t like me” Pachulia ruined what could have been the best series in the playoffs. How this team won 61 games this year is truly baffling. Kawhi Leonard is a basketball God, but this team really outdid itself. The Pau Gasol/LaMarcus Aldridge combo is not exactly primetime basketball, and the rest of the team has been in retirement talks for the last three years. The Spurs badly need at least one more star to have any real shot against these Warriors. We’ll see where these Chris Paul rumors go, because they don’t have many young prospects to dangle in trade talks. Still, if there’s one thing I’ve painfully learned in life, it’s to never bet against Bill Belichick or Greg Popovich under ANY circumstance. Don’t. Just, don’t.
Enter the Houston Rockets, feat. the choke artist duo extraordinaire James Harden and Mike D’Antoni. Both of these fine gentlemen seem to shine during the regular season and disappear in the moment. D’Antoni wasn’t content ruining one superstar, left-handed guards’ career, so he took his talents to Houston and applied all the lessons he never learned from his Steve Nash days. “Run, Shoot, No D, Repeat.” This team is built on analytics, which I’m sure will continue. So much so that I’m pretty sure they have their players’ assholes routinely checked for data on fart consistency and potency. That said, this team put up a real stinker against the Spurs this postseason. They are constructed very similarly to the Warriors in that they launch threes at historic rates. The difference here is that they are a one-man show with too many role players. They need to flip some of those assets into stars if they want to play in the big leagues next year. I’m looking for them to be extremely aggressive this offseason and go after some big names. My dream scenario for them — Blake Griffin at Center flanked by the same devastating shooting. Even Kia Motors could get behind that team.
Each of these teams will need incredible luck to overcome this Warriors team. They glided through this season and postseason like a high school team playing against 8th graders. Lebron played some amazing basketball, but absolutely labored just to keep the games sort of respectable. The Warriors themselves will likely be their own worst enemy. Will egos start to take over, now that another championship is under their belt? Can they resist the temptation to get bored in the regular season when the basketball comes so easily? Will injury befall them at the wrong time, as it did to Kawhi and the Spurs this year? Will Draymond get caught sending dick picks to Wanda Durant? You never know for sure, but I sure as shit wouldn’t bet against them next year. Or the next. Or the next…