The Golden State Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers away on Friday, winning their third championship in four years and cementing themselves as a dynasty. The sweep was a tiny bit deceiving, though -- the Warriors did not skate through the postseason without any adversity. They came close to losing Games 1 and 3 in the Finals, and, more importantly, they had to come back from a 3-2 deficit in order to get past the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference finals. Despite what you might hear about this title being inevitable, this season was somewhat of a slog.
"Every journey is a new one each season," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday. "Yet the cumulative effect on multiple journeys adds up, and we have felt that this year. I think it's been our most inconsistent season. It's been our most difficult season."
Golden State had moments where it reached basketball nirvana -- the second half of Game 6 against Houston (featuring Klay Thompson's eruption), the fourth quarter of Game 2 against Cleveland (featuring Stephen Curry's explosion) and the second half of the clincher come to mind -- but it did not get there all that often. The Warriors freely acknowledged their issues with motivation and intensity throughout the regular season, and injuries to Curry and Andre Iguodala in the postseason revealed a . In the champagne-soaked locker room, David West made cryptic comments about behind-the-scenes drama.
As the draft and free agency approach, Bob Myers' front office has more work to do than you might expect. Let's take a look at where the back-to-back champs go from here:
So, you're saying this incredible roster has flaws?
Yes, insofar as a team with four top-20 players that fit comfortably together can have them. A quick thought exercise: If the Rockets had beaten Golden State, what changes would have to be made? Your mind probably first goes to the fact there are five centers on the roster, then to the fact that the Warriors didn't get what they hoped from Omri Casspi and Nick Young, last summer's free-agent additions.
Golden State's core is the best of all time. Several tweaks to the bench could turn this juggernaut into -- uh, what is bigger and bolder and badder than a juggernaut? A supermammothjumbocolossus? Let's go with that.
What kind of additions should they be looking at?
I am not Bob Myers, and Bob Myers does not need my help, but the simplest answer to this is "players who would actually be able to stay on the floor against Houston." (Another answer: "players who would actually be able to stay on the floor against a full-strength Boston Celtics team or a Philadelphia 76ers team with LeBron James.") Essentially, the Warriors should be looking at two-way players who are either floor spacers or rim runners.
"Sometimes I try to picture myself playing in the Finals now," Kerr said Thursday. "Twenty years ago, I survived. It was tough, but I survived. I could find guys to guard. I can only imagine right now. LeBron would be pointing right at me saying, 'Come on up. We're going to set a screen with you.'
"It's gotten so tough. You have to have so much versatility and size and speed and strength to be able to survive on the floor because of this incredible skill level. Because these guys can make shots from 30, 35 feet without blinking. Now you've got to go out there and pick them up. Now they're driving by you. And they've got four 3-point shooters in many cases, but usually at least two 3-point shooters. Sometimes three or four surrounding them. So guarding and playing defense today is the most difficult it's ever been."
On a recent episode of "The TK Show" with The Athletic's Tim Kawakami, ESPN's Chris Haynes speculated that Rockets forward Trevor Ariza could consider taking a pay cut to go to Golden State. This would have to be a pretty significant pay cut -- all the Warriors have available to them is the taxpayer midlevel exception, worth $5.3 million. If he went there, though, he would fit in perfectly.
Would Ariza or J.J. Redick consider making that kind of financial sacrifice? What about Danny Green? The Warriors should aim high with their midlevel exception and bring the entire Hamptons 5 to their recruiting meetings if they have to.
Here are some other potential fits in free agency:
- Wings: Luc Mbah a Moute, Joe Harris, Wayne Ellington, Doug McDermott.
- Stretch bigs: Dewayne Dedmon (yes, he's kind of stretchy now), Davis Bertans, Anthony Tolliver, Ersan Ilyasova, Nemanja Bjelica, Mike Scott, Channing Frye.
- Non-stretch bigs: Aron Baynes, Montrezl Harrell, Tarik Black, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Nerlens Noel.
Mbah a Moute is particularly appealing because signing him (or Ariza, obviously) would mean weakening Houston. I love the idea of Harrell starting at center and Jordan Bell backing him up -- so much athleticism! Frye and McDermott don't quite fit the mold if the Warriors are trying to be more versatile defensively, but just imagine the spacing with them on the court. Baynes' transition would be seamless after his year in Boston, and opposing fans would have a lot of fun hating him.
Who could leave?
Centers Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee and West are all unrestricted free agents. Golden State could re-sign them with early bird rights, but it is difficult to imagine all of them coming back. West might retire.
In fact, it would not be surprising if Bell and the little-used Damian Jones were the only centers to return next season. Kevon Looney had by far the best year of his young career, but probably played himself off of the team -- the Warriors can only offer him $2.2 million in free agency because they declined his fourth-year option.
Patrick McCaw's situation is basically the opposite of Looney's. This time last year, it seemed possible that he would be prohibitively expensive to retain. Now, Golden State will presumably offer him the $1.7 million qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent and wait to see what his market looks like.
Young is an unrestricted free agent, and it would be somewhat surprising if he stuck around. Shaun Livingston is a man of unimpeachable character, shot 13 for 15 in the Finals and the Warriors should not trade him … but, with two years and $16 million left on his contract, I feel obligated to mention that he could be moved. This is simply because Golden State has such little financial flexibility that this is one of its few avenues to mix things up.
So, nothing changes with the stars?
Well, Durant will have to be re-signed, and it is not clear whether he intends to sign a two-year max deal or a four-year max deal. There is no expectation that he will take a discount this time.
Thompson and Green are eligible for contract extensions, but they would cost themselves money if they agreed to them this summer. Thompson is seen as more likely to do this than Green, since his current deal expires a year earlier, but his father, Mychal Thompson,that he probably won't sign anything until 2019.
What about the draft?
Golden State has the 28th pick. Some names that make sense if the front office wants a wing: Josh Okogie, De'Anthony Melton, Rawle Alkins, Chandler Hutchison, Melvin Frazier, Shake Milton and -- you'll love this one! -- Grayson Allen.
Is there any chance of a major shakeup?
I mean, I guess if, sure?