NBA teams have been going mad this offseason. The reason for all this madness goes back to one thing, the Golden State Warriors. Last offseason, the Warriors were coming off an NBA Finals loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. So what did they do? They went out and signed Kevin Durant. From that moment on, the Golden State Warriors were the heavy favorites to win the 2017 NBA championship. They cruised their way to the best overall record during the regular season, a 15-1 record in the playoffs, and eventually an NBA title.
Ever since that moment, NBA teams have been running around like mad men trying to find a way to beat the Warriors. We’ve heard a lot of rumors, seen a lot of trades, and some big free-agency signings. My question is, do any of these moves really matter? Has anyone done enough to unseat the Warriors as NBA champions?
In the Western Conference, there are three teams that have made big moves this offseason: The Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, and Oklahoma City Thunder. The moves each team has made have been great, but will the be enough?
- Traded for Jimmy Butler
- Signed Jeff Teague
The trade for Jimmy Butler now gives Minnesota their big three. Butler, Wiggins, and Towns are three stars who can finally lead this team into the playoffs. Butler is the oldest of three, being just 27. He’s in his prime, and will likely be the leader of a young and talented group. Signing Jeff Teague gives them an upgrade at point guard, especially on offense. He’s a veteran player who knows what it takes to be on a winning team.
Adding both of these players is great for the Timberwolves, but does it put them above the Warriors? One thing I still see lacking from this team, is 3pt shooting. A team that ranked 20th in 3pt% last season, hasn’t done much to improve that. In order to keep up with the Warriors, you have to be able to either beat them, or at least put up a good fight in the 3pt battle.
I also see a lot match-up concerns for the Timberwolves. Can Teague guard Curry? Can anyone guard Kevin Durant? Towns is a good defender, but if he guards his position, he won’t be guarding anyone of significance on the Warriors. If he tries to guard Draymond Green or Kevin Durant, I’m afraid they’ll walk all over him. Jimmy Butler is a great defender, but he can only guard one player at a time. After ranking 27th in defensive efficiency last season, this team did get better on defense, but is it enough to stop the Warriors? I don’t think so.
- Traded for Chris Paul
Chris Paul is one of the best point guards in the NBA. He can come in and run the show for the Rockets. Wait, doesn’t James Harden do that? Does Chris Paul fit with the Rockets? Both players are ball dominant guards, who thrive when they have the ball in their hands. I’m not sure if these two stars will be able to make it work.
Let’s set aside the fit for a second. Say Chris Paul and James Harden do make it work. They’ve got two stars who are playing great together. How many stars? Only two? Even if Chris Paul and James Harden can make it work, how will they deal with guarding the Warrior’s four stars? The Warrior’s four will outmatch the Rockets two. If they can guard Curry and Thompson, who guards Green and Durant? Guarding Durant is my main concern. They don’t have anyone who can guard him.
The best chance this Rockets team has of beating the Warriors, is their 3pt shooting. Houston led the league in 3pt shots made per game last season. They made 2.1 more per game than the Warriors. The have one of the most important factors in beating the Warriors, but I don’t think it will be enough to do so.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
- Traded for Paul George
Russell Westbrook has another star to play with again. He no longer has to do everything by himself. The Thunder made a risky move trading for Paul George, but it could pay off big time. The Thunder struggled greatly whenever Westbrook went to the bench last season. That shouldn’t be a problem anymore with Paul George on the floor. They now have two team leaders.
A big win for the Thunder, is now having someone who can guard Kevin Durant. Paul George is a great defensive player. Kevin Durant will still score as great players do, but George will give the Thunder a fighting chance to slow him down. Even though they could slow down Durant, they still have to stop Curry, Thompson, and Green. Westbrook could guard one of those players, but that still leaves them two guys short.
Oklahoma City has the same problem as Houston, just with different players. This problem could be somewhat solved by resigning Andre Roberson. Resigning Roberson would give them a third quality defender. Roberson isn’t an offensive player, which would still leave Oklahoma City greatly outmatched on that side of the ball, but defensively they’d be in much better shape. Even if they had three defenders to match up against the Warriors, they still couldn’t match their offense.
What about the Eastern Conference?
Beating the Warriors shouldn’t matter to the Eastern Conference teams. What these teams should be worried about, is beating LeBron James. If you can’t figure out a way to beat LeBron James, you won’t get a shot at beating the Warriors. There’s only way to stop the Warriors from the Eastern Conference, and that’s to make it to the NBA Finals. For the last seven years, no team has been able to stop LeBron from making it there. When a team can unseat LeBron as Eastern Conference champion, then they can talk about beating the Warriors. Until then, they should just focus on LeBron.
Speaking of LeBron, he’s determined to make it back to the NBA Finals. He wants revenge on the Warriors. He will do everything in his power to unseat them as NBA champions, but will his power be enough? He didn’t get much help in the NBA Finals, and the team hasn’t made any significant changes. Changes need to be made if the Cavaliers are going to beat the Warriors. At this point, I’m not sure if they’ll be able to make the necessary moves to get that done.
How long will the Warriors reign?
Teams wanted to hurt the Warriors this offseason by taking Andre Iguodala away from them. Well that plan failed. Even if a team had taken him away, the Warriors wouldn’t have had much trouble. Iguodala is a great player coming off the bench, but I don’t think they need him to stay at the top. The Warriors also resigned Shaun Livingston and David West, helping to keep their bench mostly in tact.
The one problem the Warriors have, is their money situation. They have a crazy amount of money to pay. If they’re already having money problems, how long can they keep this group together? What will they do when the contracts of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green expire? Can they keep everyone happy? This is a long-term problem for the Warriors, but their short-term success is looking very promising.
The NBA has seen a lot of changes this offseason, all because teams are trying to load up for the Warriors. Does it really matter? In the long-term, yes. In the short-term, probably not. This is the Warriors time. They will rule the NBA for the next few years, regardless of what teams do to try and beat them.