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Warriors links: Golden State's title more than luck, Harrison Barnes' injury won't affect contract negotiations

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Since it was a day ending in "-y", a lot of people used spaces online to discuss whether the Warriors were "lucky" to win the 2015 NBA title. Thankfully, a few wise people are trying to end this discussion with some common sense approaches to basketball that might add to the case for Harrison Barnes getting PAID.

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I have thought for a while now that the reason that this idea about the Golden State Warriors got lucky to win the 2015 NBA championship is part the unexpectedness of it all, part the fact that other key contenders did in fact suffer injuries, and part the franchise's 40-year gap between NBA Finals appearances (to focus on the high points of that span).

Of course, here at Golden State of Mind, we've already settled this question of whether the Warriors' championship run was buoyed by luck: beyond simply countering the accusation, Apricot perfectly outlined how every NBA champion in the last 40 years got lucky at some point in their quest for professional basketball immortality.

Yet ESPN's Kevin Pelton took that a step further in his exploration of the question, not only noting that the Warriors' luck was "ordinary" but also that the luck they did benefit from didn't really help them all that much — Golden State's path to the title was "...actually slightly more difficult than average, and a lot more difficult than San Antonio's and Miami's the previous two years."

...looking just at the Warriors' opponents doesn't really get to the true sense of whether their luck is really damning. For that to be the case, Golden State's playoff opposition also would have to be easier than the typical champion has faced. And it turns out that's not the case...Considering the actual paths of recent champions is a better way to frame the Warriors' run. Recent history says that, in fact, had the Warriors faced healthy competition throughout the playoffs -- let alone tougher matchups like the Clippers and Spurs -- they actually would have been exceptionally unlucky. None of the previous 12 champions have faced such a difficult set of opponents. To some extent, that reflects a stratified league where the best teams have loaded up as weaker ones rebuild, but it's also a good reminder that every champion gets some fortunate bounces along the way.

And I think that's the best answer I've seen so far, not that it will stop people from talking about it for the rest of forever as the regular season approaches and we find people pondering this question more often — just be sure to keep this response handy for the rest of eternity when people mindlessly regurgitate this argument.

More links (about luck)

If simply noting that the Warriors' path wasn't actually all that easy doesn't convince people, you can always just default to the position that the Warriors were, well, extremely good.

1. Matt D'Anna of Nylon Calculus provided a really interesting perspective on the Warriors' greatness using "...shot patterns among the Starting 5 for each champ, (more affectionately known as Hunting Grounds)." You can head over to Nylon Calculus to read more about the methodology, which will help you understand how he arrived at this intriguing conclusion:

In the modern NBA, where maximizing opportunities at the rim and behind the 3pt arc are ideal, the Warriors perfected it. There are four legitimate, need-to-be-guarded treats from deep. Part of the brilliance is how each of the four still maintained their own 3pt identity...Last season, the Warriors shot like the 2011 Mavericks and spaced the court like the 2003 and 2005 Spurs. That is a truly unique, relatively unheard of style. Is this the peak of the this style, or just the beginning? Is this the new model of champion? Is this the latest innovation in the Team-centric shot patterns? As more teams tinker with Small-Ball lineups, does the next champ emulate this model, or buck the trend? If this offseason was any indication, we are only getting started. At a glance, the teams closest resembling this style heading into this season are the Warriors, Rockets, and Spurs. If we see a reversal and the contrarian Superstar-centric style prevails, the Cavaliers, Thunder, and Clippers have the best shot at some Finals hardware.

With D'Anna also noting that the Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson-Harrison Barnes-Draymond Green-Andrew Bogut lineup was particularly special, it certainly complicates the ongoing discussion about how much Barnes is worth.

Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News reports that Barnes' recent knee injury that kept him out of last night's game will not affect his looming contract negotiations. And when you add that vote of confidence to the harder-than-assumed replaceability of Barnes and the unique dominance of this championship unit, it really does become easier to swallow a potentially large sum of money going his way.

If NBA players had individualized intro music — and really, why shouldn't they make that happen for starters -- I just came up with a good idea for his.

3. Back to the discussion of "luck", Jonathan Tjarks of Real GM wrote (quite accurately, I might add) that, "If there's anything the Warriors should be grateful for last season, it's what happened to the Oklahoma City Thunder...if I was Golden State, Oklahoma City would scare me more than any of the other teams out West and even a healthy Cleveland team." Not that it negates Pelton's point, but Tjarks does make a solid case to support his point in terms of the star power of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as well as the ability to play small with a player like Serge Ibaka at the five. If nothing else, I have to agree with him that it would be a compelling series to watch.

4. Then there's the Houston Rockets.

I was just joking with a high school student yesterday about the Rockets' recent trash talk and their performance in the Western Conference Finals yesterday when he got hella serious for a moment of historical reflection (which I actually appreciated).

"I mean, five of those turnovers weren't really his fault," referring to Harden's historic performance in the Western Conference Finals.

"Ok," I said. "Maybe that's true. But what about the other eight?"

"Well, I can't help him with that," he said recovering his grin.

Laughter resumed.

Despite my laughing at the Rockets' expense for the last few months — and Harden, Dwight Howard (mentioned here mostly for career achievement), and Ty Lawson have all given us plenty to point and laugh at — I really did appreciate Seth Partnow's article at The Cauldron questioning why the Rockets have been so easily dismissed as a contender by some people. Set aside the ease at which we can laugh at the Thunder and they certainly have merit as a team for Warriors fans to fear this season, in part because of the addition of Lawson.

5. But in the end, the Warriors have the ultimate trump card: Stephen Curry is pretty much indisputably the best shooter in league history unless you want to get real nit-picky. And Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group provided reason for optimism that he could in fact be even better in the 2015-16 season — yes, better than his 2014-15 MVP campaign — in his article about the top five reasons the Warriors will repeat.

The truth is the Warriors are a year ahead of the curve. They aren’t an old team that finally pulled it off. They were a young team that might’ve skipped a step. Which means, this season, should continue the steady ascension they’ve been making the last few seasons...It’s crazy to think the MVP could stand to improve in some areas. But Curry can. He posted his most efficient season as a pro last year. But that was largely because of a monster second-half, that took him from great to MVP. He shot 49.8 percent from the field, 51.7 percent from 3 after the All-Star break.

So for anyone who is still confused about why the Warriors' 2015 NBA title was about more than luck and they could prove that by repeating as champions in 2016, let's summarize with a TL;DR version:

  • The Warriors' path to the title was actually slightly more difficult than average.

  • The Warriors have the reigning MVP, Steven Stephon Stephen Curry, who could be a future presidential candidate if he's not eventually the father of one (so you should practice getting his name right now).

  • The Warriors have one of the best 3-point shooting lineups ever, a logical extension of having Curry in some ways, but mostly due to roster construction.

So please help spread the word: where this franchise is headed, they won't necessarily be relying on luck (h/t Derek Knight for thinking up that line).

Obviously there are more links out there than what I've listed here so feel free to drop your preferred links in the comments.