Kawhi Leonard’s coup of getting the Los Angeles Clippers to trade for Paul George to join him shook the NBA landscape. The Houston Rockets trade for Russell Westbrook further shook it. In the course of a couple of weeks, the NBA looked completely different but was now deeper than it has been in years.
But while the Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Rockets have become intriguing teams for the upcoming NBA season, it’s important to not write off the Golden State Warriors as NBA title contenders.
Yes, the Warriors on the outside looking in look depleted. Kevin Durant decided to join forces with Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. DeMarcus Cousins has taken his talents to the Lakers and they shipped off Andre Igoudala to the Memphis Grizzlies. Lastly, the Warriors will be without Klay Thompson until around the January/February mark.
Wisely, they flipped the Durant loss into landing D’Angelo Russell from Brooklyn and signed key free agents Willie Cauley-Stein and Alec Burks. The moves are good, but interesting nonetheless. But here’s what everyone is wondering: Can Cauley-Stein and Russell fit into the Warriors ethos of selflessness?
In short, they perhaps don’t have a choice. But this is due to the strong culture the Warriors have cultivated within the Steve Kerr era. The Warriors were an Achilles, quad, hamstring and ACL injury away from their fourth title in five years. Although the Warriors would succumb to the Raptors in six games due to those circumstances, it’s impossible to note how evident the strong culture the Warriors presented.
Thus, it would simply be unwise to just write them off immediately. The NBA landscape has shifted and adjusted to the impact the Warriors curated in the last half of the decade. Teams attempted to build their roster around superstars as the Warriors did but to no avail. But as sports fans have witnessed with the San Antonio Spurs, New England Patriots and Alabama football: a strong culture trumps all. The Warriors culture, as well as their talent, parlayed them to three NBA titles. As long as Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson remain in the Bay Area, so will their culture
Besides, the Warriors will have much to prove this year, which is probably a feeling they haven’t had since 2014. Fans and media pundits are wracking their brains on how Russell will fit. Will Curry, who is 31, still be a superstar at his age? Can Green remain the human wrecking ball that powered the Warriors to their fifth straight NBA Finals? Will Thompson be the same player post-ACL injury? These are all legitimate questions. But it’s a safe bet those questions will get answered due to the Warriors basketball ethos.
So while LeBron has to get acclimated to Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard with Paul George, etc. the Warriors just have to bring Russell up to speed. This gives them a significant advantage over the rest of the league since the aforementioned players have to develop chemistry, while the Warriors just have to make sure Russell and their other free agent signings buy into their culture. Comparing which side has more to worry about, the Warriors come out clean.
The NBA media and talking heads will build-up the Rockets, Nets, and Clippers. But it’s best to stay in perspective and remain above water despite the fray. The Golden State Warriors still have the culture that most NBA teams are still trying to attain. They are what the Rockets, Nets, Clippers and the new-look Lakers want to be. It takes more than talent and money to replicate that.
So until one of those teams prove themselves on the court, the Warriors shouldn’t be counted out just yet. Durant may have taken their juice away as the runaway title contenders, but they are still a force to be reckoned with. We saw it this spring in the NBA Playoffs, and it’s sure to happen again for the 2019-2020 NBA season.