The media loves to play sports on paper. It seems as if poring over and analyzing hypotheticals is much more appealing to some than actually discussing the reality in front of them. They do this with trade rumors, and certainly do this when there’s a blockbuster trade or a free agent signing. “Games on Paper” thrives on sports shows and in preseason polls and predictions.
NBA on ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy saying that the forthcoming NBA season is a wrap—that it will culminate with another Golden State Warriors championship and that they will “win forever”—didn’t bother me in itself. The hyperbole in his statements did.
With a returning core and some new additions to the bench, it is obvious that the Warriors are an overwhelming favorite to repeat as champions. The crux of Van Gundy’s statement wasn’t wrong in that regard. I just disagree with his assumption that it’s going to be a cakewalk for the Dubs. As great as the Warriors are—and they are a juggernaut—the fact of the matter is:
- The 2017-18 Warriors are a different team.
- The Western Conference is tougher than it’s ever been.
- Dynasties are hard to create and harder to maintain.
The Warriors’ core is back and the core will be better than last year’s for sure — that’s is not the concern here. My concern is that we have Nick “ Swaggy P” Young, Omri Casspi, and Jordan Bell to effectively acclimate in to the system and the rotation. Swaggy and Omri are here not only to replace Ian Clark, but also to consistently provide scoring firepower whenever Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant sits. But they will also have to be acclimated defensively as well.
Young has come a long way defensively but I expect him to be really tested by Ron Adams this season. Jordan Bell is willing to get in and do the dirty work like Draymond does, but how will coach Kerr integrate him into the rotation? Seamlessly acclimating these new guys in the rotation on both ends of the floor is a considerable challenge that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Beyond the Warriors’ roster, the tandems of Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston and Paul George and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City not to mention Jimmy Butler to Minnesota make for a tougher Western Conference landscape than a year ago. These transactions made it clear to the conference and to the league that the teams involved are loading up to try and beat the Warriors.
When Van Gundy said that, I thought it was disrespectful to the contenders. I don’t think the team gets off on that type of praise. The Warriors know that they can’t get too high off of their press or get two low when they struggle. They know not to take anyone for granted and they know that nothing is guaranteed in this league.
The L.A. Lakers and the Miami Heat are the only teams during the past 15 years that have repeated as champions. There’s a reason for it and the reason is that it’s hard to repeat and thus it’s hard to build a dynasty and maintain one. The Warriors—like the Kobe/Shaq-era Lakers and the Big 3-era Heat—have the firepower and talent for a dynasty. However, they must prevent themselves from becoming complacent and preserve their selfless culture in order for them to have a shot at a dynasty.
Predictions and hypotheticals are fine in their place but when it comes to dynasties, they aren’t built on paper. You can’t play the game on paper. Until the Warriors hoist the Larry next June, save the proclamations and enjoy the season ahead.