Lucky and Good: How the Warriors became the Scariest Team in NBA History

The Golden State Warriors are dominating the NBA in an almost unprecedented fashion. Bolstering a starting lineup with four likely hall of famers—- all in their primes, leads to a question that many people are asking. How did the Warriors build such a juggernaut? It’s a complicated answer that involves three major elements: Luck, skill, and culture. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

The Golden State Warriors are a product of superior scouting, a team-first culture, and a whole lot of perfect timing to create the greatest juggernaut in the history of the sport. Today, it is time to look at the building of the modern day Monstars.


One can trace the beginning of this era to June 25, 2009, when the Warriors selected Stephen Curry seventh overall. The player that is now widely considered to be the best shooter in the history of the game had major concerns coming out of college. While always a terrific shooter, there were doubts about his ability to play point guard in the NBA, as well as his small stature causing defensive and injury concerns.

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BABY FACED….FRANCHISE?  Stephen Curry has come a long way since being picked seventh overall in the 2009 draft. (Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty)

Curry proved the doubters wrong in his first few years in the NBA, though he didn’t look like he was on the path for superstardom. He averaged an efficient 18 points per game his first couple of years in the league, but ankle issues hampered his development.

This leads to the first real domino in the Warriors path to dominance. Curry signed a contract extension in 2012 that paid him a modest $11 million per year, which was the going rate for semi-stars at the time.

Even at that relatively low rate for Curry’s talent level, it was still considered a major gamble by the Warriors thanks to his ankle issues. The ankle problems didn’t return, and Steph made major strides in all aspects of his game, moving from “semi-star” to two time MVP.
However, one player does not make a team. The Warriors surrounded Curry with talent. Klay Thompson provided a fantastic two-way presence at the shooting guard position. Thompson’s ability to defend multiple positions, as well as provide another perimeter threat for the Warriors made them a deadly force on the offensive side of the ball. It is hard enough to defend a shooter like Curry on the perimeter, but near impossible to defend both Curry and Thompson.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Indiana Pacers
Klay Thompson (11) was the second piece of the Warriors puzzle, adding a silk stroke and lockdown defense to the Golden State backcourt. (USATSI)

Perhaps the most important piece in the Warriors puzzle is Draymond Green. Draymond Green ended his college career as one of Michigan State’s most decorated players. He showed the ability to defend, rebound, shoot, and pass on his way to a National Player of the Year award in 2012.

Despite the accolades, scouts were concerned about his tweener size and athleticism, and he dropped to the second round of the 2012 draft. Green struggled in his rookie season in the NBA, shooting the ball a poor 32 percent, as well as not being enough of a presence on the defensive end to make up for his poor offense.

However, he later developed into one of the most dynamic defensive anchors in the history of the NBA. He has a fantastic ability to defend both the paint and the perimeter, as well as direct other players on the floor to correct defensive positions.

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FIRST-TWEEN ALL-DEFENSE| Draymond Green is the glue that holds the Golden State defense together. (Getty Images)

Green is also no longer a liability on the offensive end. He has the ability to shoot, as well as pass to help make plays for the other players on the floor. It isn’t often for a forward to average seven assists per game, but Draymond Green has the vision to get the job done, and provide yet another dimension to the Warriors offense.

Is it luck that Green turned out to be the dynamic player he is today? No. That’s a testament to his hard work. Was it luck for the Warriors front office to recognize that kind of talent, and have the patience to wait until the second round to pick Green up? Definitely.
OK, that is three hall-of-fame talents in the Golden State Warriors lineup. How do they afford Kevin Durant, who is perhaps the most dynamic scoring force of this generation?

It is simple. A new TV deal caused the NBA’s salary cap to have a drastic jump following the 2015-16 season, giving the Warriors the cap space to sign Durant. Durant is perhaps even more deadly than ever in a Golden State uniform, thanks to the fact that he no longer is forced to defend the team’s best player, while also being the primary scoring option.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS VS DALLAS MAVERICKS
GAMEBREAKER: Kevin Durant turned the Warriors from a championship team to potentially the greatest team of all-time. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Durant isn’t necessarily a defensive liability, he isn’t a lockdown defender, and is better off defending the team’s secondary scoring options. His efficiency improved on both ends of the floor, and now gives the Golden State Warriors a fourth hall-of-famer in their starting lineup.

 

This would not be possible without the perfect timing of the salary cap going up as Durant hits free agency. Once again, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

The Warriors front office also recognized the value in having a cheaper center that can protect the rim, as well as put back rebounds. It is very expensive to find a center that can change the game in multiple ways, but there are plenty of “hustle guys” on the market, and with the talent the Warriors already have, there is no need to pick up a Shaq-like game changer at the center position.

Instead, the Warriors find players like Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee: Players that embrace their roles and provide energy and necessary rim protection to allow everything to work. These players will never score 25 points per game. They don’t need to. They smooth out any roughness in the edges of the Warriors offense.
It is also important not to ignore the style and culture the Warriors impose that helps them win games. Every player on that team plays with a team-first attitude. Players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston embrace their roles on the bench, and the team moves the ball effortlessly.

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SPARK PLUG: Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, provides a jolt off the bench for the already stacked Warriors squad. (Getty Images)

It is a testament to Steve Kerr and the front office in finding players that are not only skilled, but also unselfish and willing to do whatever it takes to win games. That team-first mindset translates to the ball-movement as well as the communication and commitment to defense.

The Warriors defense is perhaps more frightening than their offense. Everybody is so quick, and can guard multiple positions. Teams keep trying to replicate what the Warriors do on defense without the personnel, but instead of creating the same stifling defense, it just creates more holes. Switching on defense as much as the Warriors do requires a lot of communication, as well as a lot of size and speed that many teams cannot match. It is a roster that features not only a stockpile of talent, but also talent that fits together seamlessly both physically and mentally.
In conclusion, the Warriors are a product of masterful building, as well as quite a bit of convenient timing, and a bit of luck. The Warriors front office did a terrific job of building a team that fits together, as well as picking players that are team-first, skilled, and can do a wide variety of things on the basketball court. It helped that many risks on players such as Curry and Green paid off, and a jump in the salary cap occurred at the right time in the team’s development. The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA, and it does not look like that will change any time soon.

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