Well, it was ugly, but at least it's over. The Golden State Warriors completed a four-game shellacking of the Utah Jazz with a 121-95 rout in Game 4. I mean, the poor Jazz led for less than a quarter's worth of time, 11 minutes and 10 seconds to be precise, over the course of the whole damn series.
At times, the Warriors seemed to be playing a different sport, with their pristine ball movement, unstoppable fast breaks, and seamlessly switching defense. With four All-NBA caliber players, an excellent scheme, years of continuity, and some wily vets, the Warriors are every bit the juggernaut we expected when they signed Kevin Durant. The question now becomes: is that a problem?
After a three-year stretch that stacks up well in league history, the Warriors have appeared to reach their apex. They boast a ridiculous +16.5 point differential through the first two rounds of the playoffs. If they maintain a level of play anywhere close to this, they will likely shatter the 2000-01 L.A. Lakers' playoff point differential record of +12.8. All four of their stars are in the midst of their primes. They'll likely have their pick of ring-chasing veterans in coming offseasons. It's hard to envision a scenario where they slow down any time soon.
Granted, there are still two rounds of these playoffs left, but this Warriors team seems symbolic in a postseason characterized by blowouts.
After all, it took one of the greatest performances of all time by arguably the greatest player of all time to orchestrate the greatest comeback of all-time just to take down last year’s Warriors squad. You know, the one with Harrison Barnes instead of Kevin Durant. They had a sub-100% Stephen Curry and no JaVale McGee. I’m only kidding a little bit.
Maybe the "King," LeBron James, has one more earth-shattering performance left in him to defend his crown; although, even "His Majesty" still might be hard-pressed to drag this current group past the Dubs. Maybe Houston can game the system and heave enough threes to prevail over this basketball behemoth. Maybe Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs can thwart another would-be dynasty. Even after considering all of that, it’s certainly starting to feels like the odds of the Warriors completing a perfect 16-0 postseason are beginning to outweigh the chances of their losing a series to any of the remaining teams.
How will the rest of the league respond in the offseason? #RINGZZ culture is at its extreme (due to the Interwebs and Mr. Hinkie), so a wide range of outcomes could appear successful for a team. From ticket sales to playoff berths, to player development, to sheer competence, a season can be positive for a franchise without winning a championship.
In the end, every franchise makes decisions to win a championship. To see Golden State play at the level at which they are playing must be at least a bit demoralizing to opposing players and front offices. Maybe this postseason run will set off an arms race where players try to unprecedentedly finesse their way into super teams. Maybe teams will decide that one or two superstars is no longer sufficient.
How long until we see a group of guys take massive pay cuts to try to replicate Golden State's success? How long until LeBron James takes a veteran's minimum deal to create a super-duper team?
Maybe teams will try to bide their time waiting for an injury to open the championship window. Maybe they'll wait for Kevin Durant to return to Oklahoma City or for Golden State to simply get old or become too expensive.
Either way, in a league where every team is perpetually trying to keep up with the Joneses (Andersons?), you can be sure that Golden State's dominance will have major team-building ramifications, probably as early as this offseason. That's not the most frustrating thing part. Even without cap restrictions and roster limitations, constructing a team to challenge Golden State would be difficult.
With them, it seems nearly impossible.
Every team has an exploitable weakness with a strong strategy and the right personnel. As infallible as Golden State seems right now, their Achilles’ heel will
hopefully surely reveal itself eventually.
In the meantime, it will be fun to see teams come at Golden State every night with everything they have. It may even lead to some NBA weirdness as teams eschew convention in hopes of taking down the league's Goliath.
Of the major sports, predicting an NBA champion is the easiest; however, this year, it seems less like an easy prediction than an inevitable reality. The Warriors will win, this will surprise no one, and this will anger people.
Watch out for those angry people though. As good as Golden State is, don't expect the rest of the league to resign itself to a Silicon Valley dynasty without a fight.