What the Warriors mean for NBA inbetweeners

Jacob Doole Roar Rookie

By , Jacob Doole is a Roar Rookie

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    On Tuesday (AEST) the Golden State Warriors did what they were built to do and won the NBA Championship.

    After being labelled all season as one of the greatest teams ever assembled, they fulfilled their destiny and bulldozed every team that stood in their way, finishing with a 4-1 demolition of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.

    For Kevin Durant, it was vindication that he was right to jump ship from Oklahoma City and join the rival Warriors, although he will still be widely criticised for it.

    For Stephen Curry and the rest of the returning Warriors, it was redemption for last year’s upset loss to Cleveland in the Finals.

    But as the confetti fell from the bleachers of Oracle Arena and the champions hoisted the trophy aloft, the fans of every team not on the podium started looking ahead to next season.

    The Warriors look to be favourites to win the title for the next three-to-five years at least, so what does this mean for the rest of the league?

    Boston’s pot of trade-able gold
    During the season, everyone waited for Boston to cash in their treasure trove of assets for a proven superstar.

    The Celtics have this year’s Brooklyn Nets first-round pick (now number one overall), as well as next year’s Nets pick and a swag of first and second-rounders from now until 2019, and young studs such as Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart.

    As the Celtics battled with the Cavaliers for top spot in the Eastern Conference, most assumed they would take a win-now approach and trade a chunk of these assets for available stars Jimmy Butler and Paul George.

    But the Celtics stood pat, and were widely lambasted for doing so as they crashed out of the playoffs in the Conference Finals.

    There’s still talk of them going after Butler and George this offseason, but is there any real point?

    There are two key questions the Celtics management should ask themselves; the first of which is, would either of these players be enough to get them past LeBron?

    And assuming they do escape the Eastern Conference, would they stand any chance against the Golden State juggernaut?

    If the answer to either question is no, they may be better off stockpiling their youngsters and building for a future where LeBron and the Warriors are in decline.

    Isaiah Thomas layup John Wall

    (Image: Keith Allison CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Chris Paul: Wealth or wins?
    Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul is hitting free agency this summer, and he faces a souped-up version of an age-old question.

    The Clippers have long been stuck in NBA limbo, making the playoffs for the past six years but never making it past the Western Conference finals.

    Given his age (33 next May) and number of championships (zero), the reported interest of the San Antonio Spurs should tempt him given their history of winning and their young MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard.

    But a deal with the Spurs would need to come at a huge discount, with the Clippers able to offer Paul a deal upwards of $210 million.

    If Paul thinks the Spurs give him a real chance of winning his first title, then his bank account may go on the backburner.

    If he, like many pundits and fans, think that the current Warriors are a real-life cheat code that can’t be beaten, he’s a good chance to cash in with the Clippers and live with the mediocrity.

    Ring or bust in the Land
    LeBron James has made it clear that he’s chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan.

    Therefore the only thing he wants is championships, and lots of them.

    Can Cleveland win a title in the short term? Evidence suggests not.

    In this year’s finals, LeBron became the first player to ever average a triple-double in the league’s final stanza, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love gave some of their best performances for the Cavs, and yet they were still brushed aside by the Warriors.

    Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James

    (Source: Wiki Commons)

    And with little to no salary cap space to work with this offseason, they may be stuck as is unless they can make a splash on the trade market.

    Kevin Love may be on his way out; he’s coming off a good showing in the playoffs and would hold some trade value, but the belief is that he’s not an adequate third option to compete with Golden State.

    Even if Cleveland do bite the bullet and try to upgrade via trades, it’s hard to see them improving drastically in the short-term.

    Will LeBron’s eyes wander elsewhere if they again fall short next year? It’s certainly possible.

    There are already rumours flying of LeBron looking at a Los Angeles destination (Clippers or Lakers) if things don’t improve.

    Don’t be surprised if the rumours intensify as the Golden State dynasty really kicks off next season.