People weren’t going to stop hating the Warriors.
As long as they were competitive, as long as they kept taking and making insane amounts of three pointers, as long Stephen Curry kept being Steph and kept doing Steph things, as long as Klay Thompson doubled him up and created the best shooting duo ever and as long as Draymond Green kept being a pest, on and off-the-court, people were going to keep hating the Warriors.
That wasn’t changing if Kevin Durant left.
It could have gotten better. That’s not happening now.
The Warriors sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell was the most Warriors thing ever. It was also the most cruel, shrewd and unfair thing ever. These guys get to have him, one of the ten best guys on the market? Really?!? After all they got the past five years?
I mean, it’s pretty good value for when you’re about to lose one of the three best players in the league for nothing.
The fit for Russell in Golden State is complicated, no doubt. And they paid him a lot money, maybe a tad more than even I, someone who wanted the Suns to land him, felt comfortable paying. But it’s a completely acceptable risk for Golden State. What do they have to lose? More than 32 games? Not with this roster. Nope.
It’s going to be weird to see Russell go to a team with a player already not only playing his listed position, but taking his role as well. Russell was the No.1 option, closer and point guard in Brooklyn. Everything and everyone revolved around him. In Golden State, that’s Steph Curry’s job. And that’s not going to change.
In a way, Russell in Golden State creates almost a new Splash Brothers duo. It moves Klay Thompson into the three spot, a position that his game represents better than the two-guard. The backcourt of Russell and Curry somehow creates an even more explosive backcourt; Russell’s ability to create his shot off the dribble a tad better than Thompson and the passing Russell brings to the table makes the Warriors’ offense more complicated but also more potent.
It’s insane that’s even possible.
But this time, there is, and will be, some doubt.
What happens when teams play a guard and three wings? Curry and D-Lo is a horrific defensive pairing of two small and nimble defenders. Sure, the Warriors will still have Klay Thompson (By the way, his contract doesn’t matter, because he never leaving and was never not getting the max) and Draymond Green as two lockdown guys at the three and four spot come playoffs, but D-Lo and Curry are going to get cooked.
They should be able to score enough to make it not matter as much, but does D-Lo accept his new role as the secondary, or even third option offensively? What if he turns into an even higher usage, inefficient player trying to fight for shots and doesn’t buy into the Golden State style of play?
Golden State could flip him, which has been rumored quite a bit, with some reporters even saying it’s going to happen rather than it being a possibility. It seems like a stretch to go that far; Golden State isn’t going to be that big of a disaster, right?
The other thing that I think we’re forgetting about the fit: Curry doesn’t care. Neither does Klay. What makes both players so special is their ability to play and be effective with anybody. Curry doesn’t need the ball; he’s the best shooter of all-time. Klay can score 50 without dribbling. D-Lo should, and will get freedom to be D-Lo in Golden State. And if it really is a disaster, the Warriors can move him and get better role players to go around their core than they’ve ever had before.
What about Kevin Durant now?
D-Lo at least represents a fall-back plan for Klay’s injury, which probably keeps him out until the playoffs. In February, the Warriors can evaluate the market based on Klay’s progress, and the team’s success, and make a decision. But for now, it could be fair to say that Golden State hasn’t lost that much ground, if any at all. If Kawhi ends up on the Lakers, ground is lost. The Lakers may into the next dynasty. If it’s the Clippers, the West is insane. If it’s Toronto, the West is still insane, but Golden State shouldn’t be exclude from the No.1 seed conversation.
Houston is running it back again. The Trail Blazers made good, necessary moves but will be relying on younger, less experienced players. Utah is going for it, but I’m less high on them than others. Denver has a chance to replicate Toronto in terms of build and roster-makeup, but with a potential key piece in Michael Porter Jr. playing his first basketball in two years next season, they could be another year away. The Lakers without Kawhi could be playing with six legitimate dudes. The Clippers are probably just frisky again without Kawhi. Dallas has serious potential, but like Denver is probably one more year away.
Golden State, even without KD, even without Klay for the regular season, could be just as good. They brought back Kevon Looney on a bargain of a contract (I honestly think he could have gotten $8 million more annually somewhere) and signed Willie Cauley-Stein, a player whose value immediately jumps thanks to the situation he’ll be playing in. Those two give the Warriors a good defensive presence down low. Glenn Robinson III seems irrelevant, but has been a long time “wrong situation” guy for me; the Warriors are anyone’s fix for that.
And that’s why the Warriors are hated and won’t stop being hated. They make and fix guys into the best possible version of themselves. They gave Andre Igoudala, the sacrificial member of the dynasty, a career revival. They turned Draymond Green into one of the best defenders the game has seen after taking him in the second round. They got lucky and put two of the five best shooters ever in the same backcourt, and possessed the organizational competence to add one of the best eight or so ever (That designation could also be applied to player soon, in addition to shooter) as well. And because that guy left, they got value back that will still keep them as relevant. None of this is unfair or should be ridiculed. All they did was just be smart.