Predicting the NBA awards during the offseason is always tough to get right, but everyone loves whacking together a few bold predictions to see how wrong they are this time next year.
The Golden State Warriors conquered the NBA world in June when they won their second championship in three seasons.
Having won 72 games the season prior en route to a crushing finals defeat, the Warriors added former MVP Kevin Durant to the mix to become the league’s most feared team. As they cruised through the 2016-17 regular season, winning 67 games to top the league in wins once again, the team took their play to a whole new level, dropping just one game and winning 16.
Continuing the trend, the Warriors have yet again improved their roster over the summer and have set themselves up for the future.
Golden State general manager Bob Myers struck the first of many terrific moves in sending the Chicago Bulls $US3.5 million ($A4.3 million) in exchange for pick 38 in the draft. The Warriors used this pick to select Jordan Bell, a six-foot eight-inch forward who spent his college years at Oregon.
Bell, 22, posted an impressive stat line in one of the Warriors summer league games – a 78-76 double overtime loss to Minnesota – in which he recorded a rare game of five points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five steals and six blocks on one hundred per cent shooting.
Similar to defensive player of the year Draymond Green, Bell is versatile and provides the Warriors with many options, and it would not be a surprise to see him playing important minutes in the playoffs next season.
Also on the agenda for the Warriors was re-signing their two best players: Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. Curry signed what was the largest contract in NBA history (James Harden would one-up him): a five year, $US201 million deal which would see him earn $40,231,758 annually. Curry said he was willing to take a discount to help out the team, however.
“I actually asked Bob (Myers) if I were to take a discount – at any number, I don’t know what it would be – how much of a difference would that make for us to be able to sign other guys,” he said.
This was unnecessary as Kevin Durant was also willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. Durant, the 2016-17 finals MVP, could have demanded a contract worth north of $31 million per season but signed on for $25 million, allowing the Warriors to shape the rest of their roster just nicely.
The Warriors retained key championship pieces Andre Igoudala, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston. Livingston, who played a key role as the backup point guard in the Warriors’ two championship seasons, signed on for three years and $23 million. The third year is a team option, meaning that if Father Time catches up with Livingston earlier than expected, the Warriors could offload him, with just $2 million of his salary guaranteed.
Igoudala, the 2014-15 finals MVP with the Warriors, signed on for a more lucrative three-year, $48 million deal. The Warriors reportedly offered Igoudala $12 or $14 million per year initially, but Igoudala was able to squeeze the most he could out of the team.
“I think Andre might have had something more lucrative,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers told reporters. “He told me he did [laughing]. I fell for it.”
Finally, the much-maligned Zaza Pachulia, known for his high basketball IQ and ability to step on opposition player’s ankles – NBA fans are still irate that Pachulia robbed them of a classic Western Conference Finals series – signed for $3.5 million in the 2017-18 season.
“We’re so happy to have him,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said in November. “He could’ve gone elsewhere and made more money, but he’s smart, he’s tough … He’s exactly what we’ve needed.”
The Warriors then addressed their most glaring weakness: shooting. Never mind that they ranked third in the league in three-point shooting and first in overall shooting percentage!
Nick Young, a former Laker and career 38 per cent three-point shooter, signed with the team on a one-year, $5.2 million contract. Young was ecstatic about the proposition of playing alongside Durant, Curry and Thompson.
“I’ve never been on a team where I get so many open shots,” Young said. “I’ve always had to create for myself. But they’re not [going to be] paying attention to me, they’ll be paying attention to those guys.”
Another elite perimeter shooter, Omri Casspi, signed with the Warriors on a more modest one-year, $2.1 veteran minimum contract. Casspi has never earned more than $2.8 million in a single season, and he sacrificed a more lucrative offer to play with the Warriors.
“He… wanted to play for a ring,” ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe wrote. “Casspi turned down a one-year, $4.5 million offer from a likely lottery team, according to a league source.”
Casspi and Young figure to fit right in with the Warriors, who spread the floor better than any other team in the history of basketball. And with the potential emergence of Jordan Bell and second-year pro Patrick McCaw, the Warriors have plenty of upside heading into the 2017-18 season.
Jeff Van Gundy said just two days ago that “the Warriors are going to win forever… 2018 is a wrap“. And given that Golden State managed to significantly improve their roster over the summer, it’s hard to disagree.