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The Golden State Warriors keep getting stronger.
Win a record-setting 73 games during the 2015-16 season before blowing a 3-1 lead against LeBron James‘ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals? No problem; they’ll just add Kevin Durant and win each of the next two titles to establish themselves as a dynasty. Worried that complacency might set in after getting the brooms out during the 2018 NBA Finals? Here comes DeMarcus Cousins on the mid-level exception, ready to complete his Achilles rehabilitation before attempting to find his stride alongside four incumbent All-Stars.
Marc Stein @TheSteinLine
Those five Celtics in 1975-76 who were All-Stars the previous season: Jo Jo White, Charlie Scott, Dave Cowens, Paul Silas and John Havlicek https://t.co/IZd67UmBKV
The Warriors continue adding to their riches, exhibiting tremendous team-building acumen while taking advantage of the veterans who’d prefer to chase rings in the Bay Area. As dominant as they were last season, they might be even better moving forward, which begs the question of whether they’re ruining the NBA.
To be clear, they aren’t.
If shattering the illusion of competitiveness were so easy, the Association wouldn’t have survived Bill Russell’s run of excellence with the Boston Celtics. It couldn’t have moved past the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers owning the ’80s before Michael Jordan won six titles in the ’90s. The league has played witness to one overpowering force after another. The Warriors are only the latest in a long line of succession.
And yet, that “ruining the NBA” feeling still pervades. How is it fair that Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green get to play with Durant? And now they’re adding Cousins into the mix?
But don’t blame the Warriors for taking advantage of the opportunities bestowed upon them. Blame the NBA’s other organizations for failing to avoid shooting themselves in the feet while engaging in a ceaseless—and thus far unsuccessful—pursuit of the defending champions.
Bad Decisions Across the League
Not every ill-advised decision from other teams directly led to the Warriors’ dominance, but they all help paint the picture of struggle. Though some organizations have consistently drafted well and made strong personnel decisions—the pre-Kawhi Leonard-drama San Antonio Spurs, for example—even stellar ones such as the Houston Rockets can’t avoid having pieces like Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute slip away.
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Did former Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King trading away every draft pick under the sun for access to aging veterans play a part in Golden State’s rise to prominence? No, but it took one franchise out of the picture throughout the Warriors’ rise. Ditto for the Cleveland Cavaliers drafting Anthony Bennett, the Dallas Mavericks dealing for Lamar Odom, the Utah Jazz not giving Gordon Hayward a five-year max extension back in 2014 and so many more unfortunate choices.
These moves make it that much more difficult to blame Golden State’s front office. The NBA, as a whole, has had trouble getting its you-know-what together.
Just look back to the 2016 offseason for even more examples.
The Warriors landed Durant (two years, $54.5 million), Zaza Pachulia (one year, $2.9 million), David West (one year, $1.55 million), Ian Clark (one year, $1.01 million), James Michael McAdoo (one year, $0.98 million) and Anderson Varejao (one year, $1.5 million) that summer, per Sean Meagher of the Oregonian, but the rest of the field struggled to exercise restraint. With an exploding salary cap, a lack of cap smoothing and plenty of itchy trigger fingers, other teams handed out one bad contract after another.
During that summer alone, the following albatrosses came into being:
- Nicolas Batum: five years, $120 million with the Charlotte Hornets
- Hassan Whiteside: four years, $98 million with the Miami Heat
- Chandler Parsons: four years, $94 million with the Memphis Grizzlies
- Harrison Barnes: four years, $94 million with the Dallas Mavericks
- Ryan Anderson: four years, $80 million with the Houston Rockets
- Allen Crabbe: four years, $75 million with the Portland Trail Blazers
- Luol Deng: four years, $72 million with the Los Angeles Lakers
- Joakim Noah: four years, $72 million with the New York Knicks
- Bismack Biyombo: four years, $72 million with the Orlando Magic
- Dwight Howard: three years, $70.5 million with the Atlanta Hawks
- Kent Bazemore: four years, $70 million with the Atlanta Hawks
- Evan Turner: four years, $70 million with the Portland Trail Blazers
- Timofey Mozgov: four years, $64 million with the Los Angeles Lakers
- Ian Mahinmi: four years, $64 million with the Washington Wizards
- Marvin Williams: four years, $54.5 million with the Charlotte Hornets
- Miles Plumlee: four years, $50 million with the Milwaukee Bucks
- Jordan Clarkson: four years, $50 million with the Los Angeles Lakers
- Tyler Johnson: four years, $50 million with the Miami Heat
- Solomon Hill: four years, $48 million with the New Orleans Pelicans
- Dwyane Wade: two years, $47 million with the Chicago Bulls
- Jon Leuer: four years, $42 million with the Detroit Pistons
- Jamal Crawford: three years, $42 million with the Los Angeles Clippers
- Meyers Leonard: four years, $41 million with the Portland Trail Blazers
That list could be even longer if we weren’t limiting it to the bad investments with an average annual value of at least $10 million. And that’s from only one offseason.
Isolating any of those pacts is problematic, but the overall