The Golden State Warriors have been all the buzz since their six-game skirmish with the San Antonio Spurs under the bright May playoff lights. Their YOLO brand of ball had the Spurs on their heels, but ultimately their risk-taking backfired when their long range buckets stopped splitting the nylon.
Expectations surrounding Golden State have reached their apex. From Run TMC to the rise of Gilbert Arenas to the B-Diddy/J-Rich era Warriors, Golden State has shown promise before. However, their young athletic talent could never seem to harness it into Western Conference supremacy.
There are usually four NBA clique categories. The tankers are ordering pizza from the couch at noon on a weekday and plotting arson in the hopes of landing a top-3 draft pick. The middle men are stuck in dead end jobs as middling teams with no chance of getting promoted to a championship level. Then there is the EDM crew. They’re the life of the party, buying up bottles while fans and promoters know them on the first-name basis. The EDMs are must-see when they show up on TNT.
However, the last group of NBA moguls run the show. From dusk til’ dawn, they’re ruthlessly grinding trying to get that championship money.
The Heat, Spurs, Grizzlies, Thunder, Clippers, Pacers, Bulls and Nets constitute the NBA’s Fortune 500 crew staring down from their 30th floor offices at the people who look like ants below.
The Warriors are the franchise that’s perennially poppin’ molly while the West’s elite are rockin’ Tom Ford. The next step for Steph’s Warriors is to accomplish what Run TMC couldn’t and breach that upper tier by taking a shrewd, business-like approach to defense. Fans will leave the Oracle Arena every night with their adrenaline rushing like Usain Bolt, but at a certain age it’s time to man up and start playing the type of basketball that championship teams employ.
"We already have established ourselves as a very good defensive team," Jackson told the San Jose Mercury, about a unit that gave up over 100 points a game last season. "There were nights where we were great. And then there were nights where we could've been better. So we're going to continue to keep our foot on the gas pedal and demand that we be an elite defensive team."
NBA franchises have embraced small-ball like black women want to hug Olivia Pope, but a closer look at those serious contenders reveals that an effective post presence and defensive strong-arming is still the quickest path to contending for a title. The Heat, Rocket and Cavaliers understand that no championship squad is complete without a bulky body occupying the post. Miami is a singularly talented unit that is the Mona Lisa of small ball, but they wouldn’t be champs if LeBron James hadn’t passed on playing point forward from the perimeter and mastered a low post mindset. The Splash Brothers attempted to swoop in on Dwight Howard during free agency, however Andre Iguodala’s signing put an end to that.
Last season's leaders in defensive efficiency were all championship jewelry shopping. In sequential order from first to seventh, the top defensive teams measured by the efficiency metriclast season were Indiana, Memphis, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Boston and Miami. The Warriors were window shopping back at 13th in the middle of the pack. It was a Carl Lewis-sized leap forward from the previous season where they finished tied for the fifth-worst defensive team in the league. If they can make a smiliar leap forward again they may be well on their way. Iguodala doesn't not have Howard's Defensive Player of the Year hardware, but he'll defend the best perimeter player on a nightly basis and allow Curry to save his energy for the offensive end.
Offense is fun, but defense wins championships and has better longevity. According to a New York Times study, only four teams in the last 30 years have finished 10th or worse in defensive efficiency and won an NBA title.
Iguodala gives them more athleticism, but it remains to be seen how much better he can make his new team. The Warriors are banking on his ferocious defense rubbing off while gets back to running on the break in Golden State’s whiplash speed, but in Denver and Philadelphia, he was incapable of lifting those franchises to new heights.
There are kernels of All-Star potential in Barnes’ hoops DNA, and under the bright lights of playoff basketball, the baby Jordan that UNC thought they’d recruited popped up from time to time. Iguodala’s signing will probably put him back in the box as the sixth man.
It doesn’t help that Warriors starting power forward, David Lee, is a 6-9 defensive liability. It would also be nice if the Warriors’ savvy defensive center Andrew Bogut, didn’t have more cracks in him than the San Andreas Fault. Bogut will be a free agent next summer and if he bolts, the Warriors could be in for a rude awakening.
Until the Warriors develop a “Mama said knock you out” physical presence on both ends of the floor they’ll be the West Coast Knicks; a band of finesse snipers playing beer pong from the perimeter. The deeper into the playoffs teams finesse scoring teams get, the harder it becomes to put the ball in the hole as disciplined defenses begin slapping beer goggles on streaky shooters.
The Thunder appear to be one of the few teams that can eschew conventional philosophy and claim to have a realistic chance at winning the title. But not every team has a transcendent scorer on the wing in Kevin Durant’s mold along with a point guard in Russell Westbrook who stalks the paint, and a power forward who issues restraining orders towards trespassers in the paint.
The Splash Brothers are the hottest thing since Lob City, but being exciting and chic gets played out after a while. Even Lob City’s founders decided it was time to switch up their steelo by bringing Doc Rivers and a slew of grounded veterans to town.
The Warriors are on the brink of something special, they may get knocked back down a peg if they don’t cut back on tossing up treys which open up transition opprtunities o misses and start fishtailing it to the rim instead while defending theirs beter.
Golden State is all grown-up now. The time is coming to trade in those skinny jeans for a blazer, polo and throw in some defensive tenacity.