By: Justin Martinez (@JustJustin956)
Those damn Golden State Warriors.
What don’t they have?
Elite players? They’ve got enough of those to beat the Eastern Conference All-Stars.
Rings? They have two, but they’re already getting fitted for a third.
Records? They’re breaking their own at this point.
The Warriors have established a dictatorship in the NBA, and anyone who opposes them on the court faces a punishment so cruel that networks like ABC and ESPN ought to consider not televising it.
Golden State is the proverbial Frankenstein of the NBA — an array of loose pieces assembled by the mad scientist, Bob Myers, that’s formed an unstoppable force the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.
But before you begin handing out pitchforks, stop for a second and imagine a league without those Bay Area Bad Boys. Although critics are reluctant to admit it, the Warriors have changed the game of basketball forever, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
The first example of this: Revolutionizing how teams score.
The three-point shot is the most exciting aspect of basketball nowadays. Marksmen like Larry Bird and Ray Allen are the founders, but the Splash Brothers took the art to a whole new stratosphere.
The top five single season totals for made threes all belong to either Steph Curry or Kay Thompson. There are no “bad shots” for this deadly duo.
In fact, Curry’s knack for sinking improbable shots is so absurd that developers of NBA 2K17, a popular video game, struggled to make a digital version that’s as good as his real-life counterpart.
Not to be outdone, Thompson is a menace from deep as well. The high-octane shooter set the record for most points in a single quarter back in 2015, exploding for 37 points on 13-for-13 shooting, including going 9-of-9 from behind the arc.
Golden State’s long-range exhibitions shifted the state of mind around the NBA. What was once a league dominated by big men and smash mouth basketball became overthrown by sharpshooting guards.
In the 1978-1979 season, the last year before the NBA introduced the three-point line, teams attempted an average of 91.7 two-pointers a game. That number continues to decline, and in the 2016-2017 season, it plummeted to a record-low 58.4 two-point attempts per game.
Due largely in part to the Warriors, teams now put on a fireworks show from deep each and every night. The league averaged 27 three-point attempts per game last season, and fans can’t get enough of it.
But that isn’t the only way Golden State changed the league. They also made us look differently at the NBA Draft.
The Warriors are stacked with stars, but not a single one of them is a former No. 1 overall pick.
The Spurs had Tim Duncan during their dynasty run, and the Cavaliers have LeBron James, but Golden State built its championship team through non-traditional methods.
Teams now take a new approach on draft night, searching for the next Curry (No. 7 overall), Thompson (No. 11) and Draymond Green (No. 35). All three players flew under the radar coming out of college.
Despite lighting it up at Davidson, Curry received plenty of doubt at the combine due to his lack of size (6’3″, 181lbs) and lack of speed (ran a 3.28 in the 3/4 court sprint). This led to Johny Flyn being picked before the eventual two-time NBA MVP.
Thompson also received his fair share of criticism. The Washington guard was cited for not being a good defender and being unable to take the ball off the dribble. BYU’s Jimmer Fredette got selected before him.
Green impressed at Michigan State as a bully ball specialist, but many viewed the 6’7″ power forward as too small to hang in the paint with the pros. The soon-to-be Defensive Player of the Year had to watch as fellow power forwards like Royce White and Arnett Moultrie got selected before him.
But don’t feel sorry any of them. Things worked out just fine.
Curry flourished into the best shooter of all time, Thompson became an elite 3-and-D player and Green established himself as one of the more versatile players in the game.
Golden State’s success with lower draft picks showed the rest of the NBA that having the No. 1 pick doesn’t mean you’ll get the best player. Rather, a star can be made through developing your guys and placing them in the proper system.
The Warriors also changed the game in one final, more controversial way: Re-defining what it means to be a super team.
Kevin Durant sent the league into a blind fury in the summer of 2016, joining forces with a Golden State team that had just gone 73-9 and defeated his Oklahoma City squad in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
The move was viewed by everyone as weak, but the aftermath of Durant’s decision is anything but.
The former MVP didn’t simply hitch a ride to his first championship. Instead, Golden State leaned on Durant in the most high-pressure moments, including when he sunk a dagger in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Super teams have been assembled before. The Celtics climbed their way to the top after bringing in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play alongside Paul Pierce. LeBron James also won a pair of rings when he left for Miami to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But Durant didn’t create a super team, he joined one. It had never been done before, and the result was the formation of one of the greatest teams this league has ever seen.
Although this unprecedented alliance in the Bay Area may appear to be bad for basketball, it’s actually quite the opposite. Teams have gotten rid of the idea of tanking and are now going all-in to take down Golden State.
This offseason is a prime example of that. Jimmy Butler joined the Timberwolves, Chris Paul joined the Rockets and Gordon Hayward joined the Celtics. All of these moves were made with the hope that they could be the David to take down Goliath.
The 2017 NBA Finals had the highest ratings since the Jordan era back in 1998, and the upcoming season is lined up with more storylines than ever before.
People won’t admit it, but they’re loving every second of this symphonic madness.
Nostalgic fans look at teams like the 1995-1996 Bulls or the 1986-1987 Lakers as the best of all time, and they claim that the modern era pales in comparison to how the league used to be.
But it’s the same plot, only with different characters. Much like those Bulls and Lakers squads, the Warriors are an icon — the best that their generation has to offer. And the more they improve, the more the league will benefit from it.
It’s easy to dislike Golden State because they go against the norm.
Their sheer dominance on the court sucks the life out of teams on a nighlty basis, leaving nothing but resentment to rise to the surface.
But the negativity surrounding them will fade away over time. It always does.
Wounds will heal, and what’s left will be the positive changes to the game made by those damn Golden State Warriors.