By sweeping through the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Golden State Warriors have now won their second title in a row and third in four years.
For the second season in a row, Kevin Durant was named as the Finals MVP.
There is no doubt about it—the Golden State Warriors are a dynasty. With each title they win from here on out, they creep closer to being one of the best teams ever, competing with the hay-days of the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Lakers.
How They Got Here
After winning a league-leading 67 games in 2016-17, Golden State seemed like a solid bet to improve upon that this season. Another season of gained chemistry with Kevin Durant, how could they not win more games?
Well, Stephen Curry missed 29 more games this season than the year before. Golden State went 17-14 in those games, well below their typical level of dominance.
It didn’t help that the Warriors didn’t seem to care, either. They knew Curry would be back for the playoffs, so the regular season hiccups didn’t matter much. Golden State finished the season 58-24, seven games back of the Houston Rockets.
Golden State didn’t have Curry for their first six playoffs games, either. They got past the San Antonio Spurs in five games and spanked the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 1 of the second round. It turns out that even without Curry, the rest of the Warriors caring means a lot.
The Warriors started the postseason off 5-1. With Curry returning for Game 2, things were about to get real.
Golden State got past the Pelicans in five games. Next came their only true challenge of the postseason—the Houston Rockets.
The Warriors threw some punches and took some as well, and eventually found themselves down 3-2. Thanks to a Chris Paul injury that caused him to miss Games 6 and 7, Golden State beat a compromised Rockets team. It was almost as if they won the title right then and there.
But that’s not fair, is it? Cleveland had LeBron James, and that carries enough weight to take them seriously.
In Game 1, James did all he could posting a 51-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist performance. Thanks to a George Hill missed free throw and JR Smith blunder, Cleveland lost multiple chances to take a late lead and instead lost in overtime to Golden State.
You could see it on LeBron’s face at the end of regulation—that was Cleveland’s one chance to force the Warriors to take them seriously. When the Cavs fumbled away that opportunity, it was smooth sailing for the Dubs.
Game 2, Golden State won by 22 points. Game 3, eight. Game 4, 23.
It is no surprise that we ended up here. After battling injuries all season and facing elimination in the Western Conference finals, the Golden State Warriors still reigned supreme.
It is unlikely that Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green go anywhere. Andre Iguodala will probably stay put. Outside of that, it is fair to wonder if some player shuffling occurs. Aside from that core five, only Shaun Livingston, Damian Jones, and Jordan Bell are under contract.
The bench only matters so much with this group, but it does matter. Having a competent big to battle with some of the behemoths of the league has been a bit of an issue during Golden State’s run, though they have managed it well enough. JaVale McGee, an impending free agent, was effective in the Finals and may be asked back, though he could seek a larger payday elsewhere.
David West could retire after two-straight rings. Zaza Pachulia could retire or look for more opportunity elsewhere after playing nothing but garbage time this postseason. Kevon Looney and Patrick McCaw will probably take a pay raise elsewhere.
While the key contributors will stay put, the bottom half of Golden State’s roster could see a major shakeup.
Will there be a shortage of players willing to take a pay cut in order to play with this group, though? Absolutely not. The upcoming NBA offseason could be crazy, with the potential for a lot of player movement. Some team will try to build upon what they have to contend with this group.
Some teams are closer than others. We know Houston will still be coming at the Warriors’ neck, and maybe a team out East will step up and give them a challenge.
Golden State knows teams will be trying to take them down. And for the third time, they will have to take the punches and hope they can come out on top once again next June.