The Golden State Warriors continued their celebration of the team’s first title in 40 years with a parade through Oakland Friday (June 19), and the festivities will likely continue through the summer.
It was a magical year for the Warriors – a year in which their best player, Stephen Curry, reached superstar status, and first-year head coach Steve Kerr pushed all the right buttons to guide them to an incredible 83-20 record (regular season and playoffs).
But with every new champion comes the question: Are we witnessing the NBA’s next dynasty?
In order to answer that question as best as possible, one must look at a number of factors, including roster cohesion, age and rising competition from rivals. Let’s see how Golden State holds up.
Salary Cap Flexibility and Roster Management
It seems like a distant memory, but there was a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Curry’s long-term future in the league after recurring ankle injuries forced the 27-year-old sharpshooter to have surgeries in 2011 and 2012.
Before the 2012-13 season, the Warriors gave Curry a team-friendly four-year extension worth $44 million. That’s significant now because the relatively cheap deal provided the front office enough cap space to fill out the roster with quality role players like Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights, resulting in the type of depth that is the envy of the league.
In fact, the two highest paid players on the team this season were David Lee ($15 million) and Andrew Bogut ($13 million). Marc Stein of ESPN reported that the Warriors will look to trade Lee this offseason, which will provide even more cap flexibility moving forward.
Golden State’s biggest offseason concern, however, is re-signing Draymond Green, who is a restricted free agent. Green is the primary reason why the Warriors were so effective utilizing smaller lineups – he is strong enough to hold his ground against opposing power forwards and centers defensively, and can stretch the floor and act as as secondary playmaker offensively.
Outside of Green, the core of the team is under contract for next season, which bodes well for maintaining chemistry and building upon their success.
The importance of having a younger team can’t be underestimated in dynasty talk, as young legs are needed to make it through the marathon that is the NBA season – especially for teams with aspirations of playing into June.
The Warriors had an average age of 27 this season, making them the youngest collection of players to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy since the 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers (26.1 years), who repeated as champs the following year. In fact, Golden State’s four best players – Curry, Klay Thompson, Green and Harrison Barnes – will all be no older than 27 at the start of next season.
Youth plus championship experience equals a winning formula more often than not. But …
Looming Threats in the West
The Western Conference proved to be the superior conference once again this season, with nine teams earning at least 45 wins (compared to five in the Eastern Conference). That level of competitiveness is what we’ve come to expect from the West, and it should continue next season.
The Warriors will have a tougher road to the Finals next year, just by their rivals getting healthier. Injuries played a major role in this year’s playoff race out West, as the Houston Rockets (Patrick Beverly, Donatas Montiejunas), Portland Trail Blazers (LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews), Memphis Grizzlies (Mike Conley) and Oklahoma City Thunder (Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka) all battled significant injuries that put a damper on their title hopes.
And despite being bounced out of the first round by Golden State this season, Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans seem poised to be a tremendous roadblock in the near future.
All in all, the Warriors are in prime position to string together multiple great seasons, a necessary requirement to form a dynasty. But now that they have a target on their backs as champs, they must survive being the hunted, and the competition in their conference will be unrelenting.
Do you think the Warriors have what it takes to be a dynasty? Let us know in the comment section.
Photo: David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images