On paper, it seems that the best way to dethrone the Warriors grip on the current NBA crown is to boot up your favorite console, load NBA 2K18 and select enough legends of the game to give anyone problems. Forums are full of how Jordan, Johnson, Pippin, Bird and the like, would cause all sorts of issues for the Golden State franchise – but how do you really get to grips with the actual Warriors?
There has been much spoken and written about the sheer class, quality and winning mentality of the current Warriors group of players. Their ability to control any game and any situation have shown why they are the team to be feared as we leave the midway point in the season and head towards the glory of the playoffs.
Is there anyone who can match them when it really matters?
In the UK, there was a team that dominated English football for the entire 1980’s – that team was Liverpool FC, otherwise known as the Mighty Reds. Their dominance in league and cup runs meant that no one wanted to play them especially at Anfield, their home fortress.
Their bitter rivals Manchester United were particularly aggrieved by this. The knowledge and witness of their rivals continued success drove the Management to do something about it.
Manchester took the brave step to employ the now Sir, Alex Ferguson and the rest you could say is history. With 13 league titles and another 25 trophies, you could say that it was a success. The issue with stats is that they do not tell the whole story.
Digging below the stats reveals a story that took many years of squad development to play out. The story of the great Manchester turnaround had many setbacks. Players were developed, acquired and sold on. There were many games and seasons that were not pretty examples of the beautiful game and certainly not the ‘Manchester’ way.
However, little by little the squad grew in quality, ability, and confidence into arguably one of the best English football clubs ever. In a sporting world that thrives for success in the now, is it possible that this approach could change the NBA?
Another interesting thought to add to the mix is the underlying ethos developing in the current crop of GMs and Head coaches in the current NFL. These teams are developing squads by using other squads to do their work for them. A good number of teams seem to be ‘giving’ away their draft picks for what appears very little in return. Jimmy Garoppolo would be a prime example of this.
Are we seeing teams recognize that draft picks are not as valuable as they once were? Could it be that teams want more data on a player actually playing in the NFL which we all know is an entirely different beast to that of the collegiate program? Is a season in the NFL more use to multiple years in a college system?
The established teams seem to be using the teams in their rebuilding phases to train and develop rookies into NFL vets. The Big teams know they will always miss out on the standout players of any draft just because of the ranking system – so they don’t compete in that market. They elevate their view and take a long-term look at what could be on offer later.
The successful teams, the legacy teams are looking two, three, four years down the road to Free Agencies that most teams haven’t even thought of yet. They are developing cultures and mindsets that will create the teams of 2020 and beyond.
A team must be brave enough to put together a three to four-year plan that we not only see the grip of the Warriors loosen but establish themselves as a force for years to come.
The quick fix, the quicker this is how you take Stephen Curry out of the game, this is the best defense to play against the Warriors should be side-lined to the fantasy/video game world it is trying to play in.
Yes, there are ways to beat the Warriors and there may be a team to do it this year. The Celtics, Spurs, and Cavs along with many others certainly believe so.
But, will it last?
The Warriors have a strength in depth and a proven culture that will see them there or there about for years to come. No, to really take on the warriors a new way of thinking, being and developing squads must be approached. It will take a brave team to develop such a way of thinking.
It will take a real belief in a way that could see criticism, it would seem a team languishing in the middle of their division and conference for the next few years. Much in the same way that Manchester United did for many years before acquiring proven players that could not only get the job done in the immediate but for years to come.
So, who are the franchises best place to take on such a dream?
It has been argued that most teams are at least one if not more star players away from truly competing against the Warriors.
But, there are franchises who could legitimately make a claim and be the next Super Team.
1. San Antonio Spurs
- They have already shown in previous years and this year their ability to keep the Warriors contained defensively.
- The Spurs defense has shown glimpses of their ability to push Golden State further into the shot clock then they would where Golden State’s conversion rate plummets.
- They have legacy credentials – a well-known team, great support base and a back-room staff that can compete with any NBA team
- Leonard is a genuine star who can compete with the absolute best in the league. He has ways of shutting players completely out of games and has demonstrated his ability to read plays and players unlike many in the sport.
- Could a swoop for Donovan Mitchell be of use in the coming season or two?
2. Milwaukee Bucks
- Having exercised some of their playoff demons last year and showing progress this year – they have a mindset that appears different to many other teams. The desire to move forward slowly
- The sheer size of the Bucks squad has shown that they can impact games just by being more physical and holding a presence on the court.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo is brilliant and exactly the sort of player that a legacy franchise could be built around.
3. LA Lakers
- The Lakers have already made it public knowledge that they are looking to the 2019 free agency class to pick up the players they think they need. They are showing signs that they are building for the future.
- Like the Spurs, they have the legacy and name to attract the biggest, brightest and best starts of the NBA for years to come.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
- Westbrook is class and can turn a game on his own
- The Thunder showed just this week that they a capable of by beating the Warriors by throwing them off their game with both George and Westbrook taking the game early to Golden State and setting a commanding 1st quarter lead.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
- No matter what else happens, for the moment they STILL have Lebron James – as this is potentially enough to win in the now and build for the future.
- The challenge is to add strength across the board, to provide strength in depth to compete with the Warriors when they need to go straight into a shootout.
The questions a good number of squads and teams are looking at is how do you take on the speed, skill, and sense of timing of the Warriors now? This is today’s problem and needs to be addressed in order to win a championship, but the team(s) that will dethrone the Warriors will be a ‘new team’.
This ‘new team’ will be birthed with its own culture, mindset and skill set that will set the bar for future teams to aim at. A team with its own culture, its own ethos, its own way of playing ball. This is what Manchester did – they started from a position of, ‘we will beat Liverpool and become more successful than them’, so we are the best team in England – other teams will now have to beat us.
The new NBA squads post this trade block, the draft and subsequent trades and drafts must develop their own mindset away from the Golden State Warriors. They will be a catalyst, of that there is no doubt, but the team that dethrones and establishes a new rule and reign will do so by developing their own culture – the question is who is brave enough to play the long game?
Only time will tell.