We often find ourselves amused by NBA fans’ predisposition to use the term “dynasty” to describe a team. Sure, we’ve used it too from time to time, but take a step back and understand its true meaning—prolonged runs of successful seasons that end in championships—and you realize just how watered-down the phrase has become. Everyone said the Shaq-and-Kobe-led Lakers teams from the last decade was a dynasty...until they imploded under a mountain of jealousy, feuds, and accusations of rat-outs. Same thing with the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. Two titles in four high-profile seasons is a roaring success, but a dynasty? No. The closest thing to a dynasty the NBA had that fit into the trope is the San Antonio Spurs. Five titles count for a dynastic run, but it’s also in part smeared by the fact that those titles were spread out over a course of 15 seasons. If we really go by “prolonged runs of successful seasons that end in championships,” we end up with two teams on that list: the 1960’s Boston Celtics and the 1990’s Chicago Bulls.
Don’t look now though because the Golden State Warriors could very well be the third.
We understand the urge to giggle at the thought. The Warriors? A dynasty? The same team that blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals? That’s a dynasty?
We get it. Some arguments from the anti-Warriors contingent are valid. But so is the fact that what we’re seeing in the NBA now isn’t so much an arms race to the top for a lot of teams; it’s an arms race to the top, where the Warriors are waiting. Remind us of a season we had that featured a team that was as overwhelmingly favored as the Warriors are this coming season. You don’t need Google to help with the answer because it was just last season, and with the same Warriors team.
Peek into Las Vegas’ odds for the NBA title this season. You’ll notice that the Warriors are so heavily favored that you’re winning (less) than what you’re betting (a 100-peso bet wins you 60 pesos) if you pick them to win the 2018 title before the season even starts. Years of being on the skirts of the gambling scene and we can remember only one other time that a team had less than even odds to win the title this early in the season. Yes, last year again, with the Warriors.
That outlook isn’t going to change any time soon, too. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry’s back on a fresh five-year, $201-million deal. His MVP teammate, Kevin Durant, is also returning with a new contract. Sure, it’s a shorter 1+1 deal, but let’s not get it twisted either; he’s not leaving Golden State any time soon. Both Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are locked into their pre-salary-cap max deals for a few more years. They’re not leaving either. You would think that the amount of money the team is paying these four guys would be their downfall, right?
Guess again, or better yet, come to terms with it. Durant actually signed for much less money than he could’ve, leaving $9 million/year on the table so the Warriors could re-sign Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, and Zaza Pachulia. They also signed Nick Young and Omri Casspi to strengthen a bench unit that was supposed to be their weakness last season. In other words, the Warriors, fresh off of winning two of the past three championships, are somehow stronger and deeper as a team than they were in seasons past. Let that sink in.
This is the kind of landscape the Warriors have built, and it’s one that other teams are desperately, if not aimlessly, trying to replicate. The Houston Rockets traded for Chris Paul because of the Warriors. The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Paul George because of the Warriors. The San Antonio Spurs shopped LaMarcus Aldridge so feverishly because they knew they can’t beat the Warriors if he’s their number two guy. When was the last time you saw two teams who played each other in the conference finals trade for the other’s superstar player in the offseason that followed? It’s never happened until the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics finally sealed their trade today.
All these feverish player movements around the NBA isn’t so much a product of teams setting themselves up for the long-term; it’s a product of them trying to keep pace with a Golden State team that’s already being considered as one of the greatest teams of all-time. Unfortunately for everybody else, the chase is going to last longer than they’d hope because the state of the Warriors isn’t changing any time soon, largely because both Thompson and Green have said they’d leave money on the table too when they’re up for extensions, just to keep the team intact.
Call it unfair all you want, but it’s not going to change the fact that the Warriors are Zeus to everybody else’s Hercules. They drafted well (Curry was a 7th pick; Thompson was an 11th pick; Green was a 35th pick), traded well (Iguodala), spent their money wisely (Livingston), landed arguably one of the most player-friendly coaches in NBA history (Steve Kerr), and lucked into a once-in-a-generation salary cap spike that gave them enough space to sign one of the 25 best players in NBA history (Durant).
Speak ill of the Warriors all you want. Call their fans bandwagoners until the cows come home. None of it is going to change the growing belief that we’re witnessing a young dynasty that’s set itself up for NBA dominance for years to come.