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Why the Warriors won the offseason: Culture matters

All the focus on the big trades around the league obscures one simple fact - the Warriors remain lightyears ahead of the competition

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing symbolized Kevin Durant fitting into the Warriors’ team first culture than the sacrifice he made when it came to his decision this summer. By taking a full $9.5m less than he could have done, he not only ensured Bob Myers could bring back Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, but also arguably allowed them to use the mini-Mid Level Exception to bring in Nick Young.

As Durant explained to The Athletic he wanted to make sure his teammates got paid the money they deserved.

That doesn’t happen without a strong bond formed out of the respect and trust these guys have built over the last few years. As Durant himself famously said in the Hamptons meeting with the core guys, they were so close it looked like they were holding hands when they came into the room.

The importance of leadership and culture

Contrast with the chaos in Cleveland, and you can see leadership from the top matters - whether owners or the top players. Joe Lightyears Lacob may be brash at times, but he’s smart, and knows that hiring the best people, like Steve Kerr and Bob Myers who have strong focus on empowering people and letting them work gets results.

And that feeds into the decision making process, which is both grown up and collaborative. Giving everyone an opportunity to work through options, and yes disagree sometimes is the way to get the best decisions.

Of course, Steph Curry is as team-first a superstar as we’ve seen since Tim Duncan. A collaborative talent you might even say. That’s why if you’re starting a franchise for my money I want him to build around, rather than Lebron James’ passive aggressive moodiness.

None of this happens without him, and no offseason review can be complete without a thank you prayer that we get to see him for another five years in a Warriors uniform.

Bringing in new talent

As for adding new pieces, they needed to bring in shooting and wean Kerr off James McAdoo. The small price of fostering an inclusive and team first culture is Kerr’s insistence on playing the end of the roster guys. ‘Strength in numbers’ is a big part of the philosophy here, so those last spots on the roster matter a bit more than perhaps in some other teams.

So on to the new guys. First, Omri Casspi repeatedly mentioned culture in his interview as to why he wanted to come here - winning, team first, fun.

By all accounts he’s a solid teammate who will add to that culture, and of course we all know that he can shoot...

The importance of joy

Secondly, as for the addition of Nick Young, I was sceptical initially, but we haven’t really had a flamethrower off the bench for awhile. Stick this on the end of Warriors’ ball movement and it’s going to look pretty lethal. Part of what the Warriors are so good at is putting players in a position to succeed - see how the Warriors have limited Javale McGee’s role to play his strengths and maximise his impact. As this breakdown from our very own Apricot shows, by the end of the season his vertical spacing was an important weapon.

But what about off the court? Well remember one of the Kerr’s four core values is joy. And Nick Young lives that. Look how happy he is, how much fun he is having, how excited he is to be part of this.

The Dubs understand that it’s a long season, that you need to keep it light and upbeat at times, and that while guys will make mistakes, if you empower people and give them some freedom you build a relationship of trust that brings rewards.

For all the misgivings in Ethan Sherwood Strauss’ article about Draymond Green at the start of last year following his summer mishaps, they dealt with that really well - no off-court distractions this year, and a renewed focus that was rewarded with the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Sometimes these young multimillionaires with the world at their feet do make mistakes, but it’s how you help them work through that and learn from it that matters.

The Warriors tend to be pretty good judges of what a guy is like and whether or not the locker room will work, and doubtless Luke Walton gave a positive reference for Young. And there’s always David West in the corner of the locker room to keep everyone on the straight and narrow if things get too rowdy.

As for Jordan Bell, well he looks like a really nice fit - able to do what McAdoo could, but actually block shots and with some serious upside. He brings intelligence and intensity on defense on the court, and with this team of vets to mentor him he could be really good - as Patrick McCaw was Iguodala’s project, you know Bell is going to be Green’s.

Yes, culture matters

I’ll give the final word to Jalen and Jacoby. In this segment they ask ‘did the Warriors win the offseason?’ With a refreshing take from the media so quick to hype up trouble in paradise, they say not only yes, but also that they’re also set up for years to come, thanks to the winning, team first culture.

Of course you can never predict the future, but you can create the conditions that give you the best shot at long-term success possible - and that’s just what the Warriors are continuing to do.

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