Photo by Florent Lamoureux
Sports / Basketball

We Hate to Admit It, But the Golden State Warriors are Good for the NBA

The Golden State Warriors won their first NBA Championship in 2015. Back then, they were a fun-loving team whose play style and personas were easy to root for. This team was led by Stephen Curry, the kid out of Davidson College who exploded onto the scene, winning his first MVP Award. He became one half of the famous Splash Brothers duo, as Klay Thompson, the other half, quickly made a name for himself as one of the best perimeter threats in the league. These two, along with other major contributors including Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, were led by first-year coach Steve Kerr to the Warriors’ first NBA Championship since 1975. The following year, this same team finished the season with a record of 73 wins and only 9 losses–the best regular season record in NBA history. After barely losing in seven games to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, the Warriors signed superstar and former MVP Kevin Durant, and have gone on to dominate the league since, having easily won the last two NBA finals. Then, in the summer of 2018, the Warriors signed four-time All-Star Center Demarcus Cousins to a one-year deal. Today, the Warriors are regarded as the villains of the NBA. Unless you’re explicitly a Warriors fan, you likely find yourself rooting for their opponent every time they play.

However, the true reason we hate the Warriors so much is because they just win. The truth is, every team celebrates when they succeed, every team talks trash, and every team argues with refs. Nobody would care that Kevin Durant joined the Warriors if it didn’t make them that much better. Nobody would be mad about them signing their fifth All-Star in Demarcus Cousins if they didn’t dominate the league the year prior. Nobody would be saying that what they’ve done to the league is unfair or wrong if they weren’t so dominant. We long for equity in professional sports. We watch the games we do because competition is entertainment. If every game is a blowout, why would you ever watch?

People worry about the Warriors ‘ruining the game’ because they feel as though the element of competition is effectively being eliminated. They say that Golden State is bad for the league since no one else has a chance of winning. However, I argue that the team the Golden State Warriors has become and the strategy they have implemented is good for the NBA. It forces organizations to improve their team building, as well as their player development and coaching strategies.

The Golden State Warriors collectively have twenty-five All-Star appearances and three NBA MVP awards. No matter what you do, you cannot beat this team in a seven-game playoff series without talent on your roster. The Warriors represent the pinnacle of the Superteam era: the formation of ultra-talented teams containing multiple All-Stars acquired through trades and free agency. You cannot beat the Superteam of all Superteams without at least a couple of All-Stars on your team. This is great for the league because this means that teams will try like never before to bring together superstar talent. The league has been trending towards this for a while now, as teams like the Celtics, Rockets, Thunder, Spurs, Raptors, Wizards, and 76ers all have at least two All-Stars on their roster. Most of the best players are already playing against the best when it comes to the playoffs, as the majority of the NBA’s superstars find themselves playing in the postseason. But with the need for even more talent in order to have a shot at taking down the Warriors, these teams will acquire even more stars, and the vast majority of NBA superstars will be competing with, or against, each other on a small number of a teams. I predict that players like Kemba Walker, Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony Davis, Goran Dragic, Victor Oladipo, and Giannis Antetokounmpo will team up with each other and with other pre-existing Superteams in order to formulate a roster that could take down the Warriors.  

This is a fantastic thing for the NBA, as every fan wants to see the best players play each other. We already see most of the league’s superstars playing in the postseason, but what NBA fan wouldn’t want to see all of the best players in the league on the same court in the playoffs? The playoffs become that much more interesting to watch when all of the NBA’s best are facing off. It’s good for the fans, it’s good for the business, and it’s good for the superstars themselves, as they’d be playing with and against the best, which ought to be better than playing uncompetitively.

The other major reason why the Warriors are good for the NBA is that they force everyone else to improve, meaning the quality of play in the league increases all around. Even if you have a baseline of superstar talent, the only way to beat the Warriors in a seven-game series is with innovative coaching strategies, unique offensive and defensive schemes, and on-point scouting. Essentially, to beat the Warriors, you need to have everything–from in-game coaching adaptations, to schemes, to individual player matchups–pretty much perfect. Both the players and coaches are forced to perform at their highest possible level if they want a chance to compete with Golden State. Coaches must do hours of scouting and film-watching, and they will need to spend a lot of time practicing with individual players to help them compete in their personal matchups. Teams will spend a ton of time going over the offensive and defensive game plans in order to ensure that they will execute that game plan come game day. For example, the Houston Rockets played a switching defense all of last season just so they would be able to best defend the Warriors come playoff time. It will also be required that coaches have the willingness and flexibility to make in-game adaptations as necessary. The whole team will have to flat-out do what it takes to beat the best team ever assembled.

This has to be good for the game. If it was the case that every team was just relatively equal in talent and skill, there would have no pressure to improve. Sure, teams have always been competitive and trying to be the best. But the dominance of the Warriors forces team to take more risks, try new strategies, and be more aggressive in their drive to improve. The Warriors are simply playing a masterful game of chess, and it is on the rest of the NBA to make the right moves to make this chess match competitive once again. The only way to do this is to improve in every aspect of the game, and every team attempting to do so will ultimately make for more impressive and more exciting basketball.

The Warriors’ dominance within their play style also makes watching the sport so much more engaging and fun. Their incredibly fast pace, their wide spacing, and their ball movement make for a ton of highlight plays, a lot more three-pointers, and a lot more points in general. The versatility of their players, particularly Draymond Green, is also fun to watch, as having a guy that can both play and defend just about every position is a sight to see. Their play style makes the NBA so much more entertaining, which is great for fans.

Golden State is great for business as well. Forbes reported that, as of February 2018, the Warriors are worth $3.1 billion, which is up 19 percent from 2017. Their ticket prices are substantially higher than any other team in the league, with an average price of two hundred and forty dollars per ticket. Warriors players make out three of the ten highest-selling jerseys in the league (Curry, Durant, and Thompson). This organization has demonstrated immense success on and off the court. As teams begin to catch up to the Warriors on the court by adding more superstars and improving their schemes, they will also catch up off the court in their revenue and worth, which will be extremely profitable for the business of the league.

I want to conclude by saying that I am not a Warriors fan in the slightest. In fact, I actively root against them every time they play. They are the villains of the league, and I, like most, want to see the villains fall. But I can’t blame the Warriors for becoming the best team ever assembled. I mean, should they have not signed Kevin Durant and Demarcus Cousins after winning 73 games? Why wouldn’t they? It’s not like they’re going to sit around and wait for everyone else to catch up when they have the opportunity to continue improving even further. It’s on the rest of the NBA to step up its game in free agency, coaching, player development, managing, scouting, and drafting to build teams with the skill, work ethic, coaching, and heart to beat the Warriors in a seven-game series. It will require more risks, new innovations, and a unique approach to the game in order to take down this Goliath of a basketball team. To watch that unfold will be to watch the NBA reach unparalleled levels of play and talent. When the Warriors lose a series in the playoffs, fans everywhere, including myself, will rejoice in their fall from grace. However, what it will truly mean is that the league is in a better place than ever before.