Written by: Josh Gutbrod
After an impressive road win for Golden State Monday night many fans and analysts alike took to Twitter and other social media to voice frustrations about the reigning champs. The majority of the complaints followed a common theme: Kevin Durant ruined the NBA when he joined the Golden State Warriors.
The “superteam” won 73 games before adding the league’s second-best player. The move formed what is quite possibly the best team in NBA history to date and the Warriors appear well on their way to a second straight title with KD in the mix. Last year’s NBA Finals matchup was a relative joke as the revamped Warriors blew away the Cleveland Cavaliers that came back from 3-1 down to beat them the year before.
The Warriors have only lost three playoff games in Durant’s two seasons in the Bay Area. To put that in perspective, the Cavaliers have lost five playoff games during the past two seasons in the Eastern Conference alone (on top of the four in the defeat to the Warriors). The Houston Rockets, widely regarded as Golden State’s top threat this season, have lost 8 playoff games in the same time frame.
In short, it is true that adding Kevin Durant to a 73 win Warriors team created a monster the likes of which the NBA has not seen for quite some time. What is not true, of course, is that Kevin Durant or the Golden State Warriors ruined the NBA. In fact, the Warriors may be exactly what the NBA needed.
In an era full of tanking for top talent and horrendously functioning front offices (Hey, Orlando) the Warriors represent what happens when you do things the right way. The Warriors never tanked, yet still landed Steph Curry (Round 1, Pick 7, 2009), Klay Thompson (Round 1, Pick 11, 2011), and Draymond Green (Round 2, Pick 35, 2012) through the Draft. What’s more impressive is that those selections were made by two separate general managers. Former general manager Larry Riley selected Curry and Thompson while present general manager Bob Myers selected Green. Myers also selected Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli. Both Barnes and Ezeli were key pieces in the pre-Durant title run in 2015.
The Warriors have also gotten quality production from young players such as Ian Clark (undrafted free agent in 2013 , now with New Orleans), Patrick McCaw (Round 2, Pick 38, 2016), Kevon Looney (Round 1, Pick 30, 2015), and Jordan Bell (Round 2, Pick 38, 2017). Many will say it is unfair to credit Golden State for role players such as these who likely benefit greatly from the stars around them. Yet three of the four-star players were drafted by the organization just like the role players. One of them (Green) was even a second-round selection. That type of success in the Draft is remarkable.
That Draft success is what people seem to forget rather quickly when considering Golden State. Kevin Durant, albeit a massive addition, was the final piece. He was also the only major piece to arrive via free agency. The Warriors drafted well, saved cap space, and won more than a few trades on their way to assembling the titan that is so polarizing today.
In that sense, the Warriors did not ruin the NBA. If anything, they exposed it. The team never tanked (I think Golden State’s process worked out better), never went all in on a trade for a big name (Stan Van Gundy really made that work in Detroit), and never overspent when the team first flashed potential (things in Portland are really working out well). The organization did everything right. The moves were patient, well-thought-out, and had positive results almost every time. The Warriors front office makes organizations like Orlando and Phoenix look like they should be relegated to the G-League just as much as the players on the court do.
Hate the Warriors all you want when they win. Dynasties bring out that sort of opposition and I am in no way trying to direct hate away from the franchise. Sports are sports and being disliked simply comes with being the best. Still, before declaring that the Warriors ruined the NBA maybe consider that several franchises around the league were already broken. The Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks are not a shell of the franchise’s past because of the Warriors. The Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns are not perennial trainwrecks because of the Warriors.
Lastly, it should not be forgotten that Boston is following the Golden State mold and having outstanding success. Never tanked, never went all in on a big trade, never grossly overspent to try and catch lightning in a bottle. The Celtics have drafted extremely well, added legitimate pieces when it made sense to do so, and are now up 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals even without their two best players.
Blaming the Warriors for the state of the NBA is a nice cop out for front offices that do things like sign Evan Turner to a 4 year 64 million dollar deal. Maybe fans and analysts alike should take a closer look at their own teams. Take a look at who is calling the shots, and what shots are being called. Golden State did not ruin the NBA. The franchise just operates on Hall of Fame mode in a league where most teams are stuck on Rookie.