The Golden State Warriors are NBA champs. They did so by winning a league-best 67 games in the regular season, and then swept Portland, Utah and San Antonio en route to beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games in the finals. They lost a grand total of ONE game in the playoffs this season. Total and utter dominance, for certain.
To hear a lot of people tell it, the Warriors' very existence is the root of all evil in professional basketball today. The fact that the "Dubs" went out and got Kevin Durant to assemble a "super team" that no one in the league had any chance of beating, is apparently the reason why the 2016-17 season was so boring and predictable because it was a foregone conclusion that Golden State would win it all.
That's somehow the Warriors' fault, or at the very least Durant since he left Oklahoma City high and dry just to win a title with a loaded team. Now the NBA is seemingly ruined because this is what is making the league non-competitive, predictable and no fun to watch. The product itself suffers because the "super team" concept is killing it.
That might be the most ridiculously lazy conclusion for any fan to make, sour grapes or not, but to hear people tell it today in the wake of Golden State's title, it's the most valid reason on the planet for why the NBA is a garbage product.
To these people arguing this, I have one question: What about the other 28 teams in the league?
I say 28 because even though they really aren't a "super team," the Cavaliers are head and shoulders the best team in the Eastern Conference and are pretty definitively the second-best team in the league. We all could have predicted before the season started that the finals would be a collision course between Cleveland and Golden State, and as long as the key superstars on both sides don't make any major moves elsewhere, we can predict that for the next couple of years at least. I agree that it's boring and predictable, but how is that the Cavs and Warriors' fault? Where is the rest of the NBA in this equation?
The NBA has a salary cap, so this really isn't a case of "haves" and "have nots" like it is with baseball where there is no limit on spending. Sure it's a soft cap with luxury taxes if you go over in the NBA, but that still doesn't account for why two teams, neither of which is the highest valued team in the league, are so far ahead of everyone else in terms of competitive balance. In fact, Cleveland was one of three franchises that lost money last year along with the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City because of excessive payrolls that triggered their luxury tax. The Cavs lost $40 million, which was the fifth-largest loss in NBA history according to Forbes, due to $185 million in player costs. Golden State's value as a franchise DID increase to $2.6 billion this year, but that puts them third behind the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers in terms of most valuable franchises. All 30 teams earned $5.9 billion in revenue last year and the average value of franchises went up 9 percent to $1.36 billion on average apiece.
The point here is that NBA teams are not so far away from Cleveland or Golden State that they can't spend as much money as either team did for Lebron James or Kevin Durant. Sure it hurt the Cavs financially, but they did get a title out of it last year and they've been to three straight NBA finals now. So is anyone going to point the finger at teams like New York, the Lakers, Boston, Chicago, the Clippers, Brooklyn, Houston, Dallas or Miami for why the competitive balance is out of whack in the league? Those teams along with the Warriors are your Top Ten most valuable franchises in the NBA as listed by Forbes. Why are THEY off the hook for their bad business decisions that weaken the league far more than Golden State's "super team" does?
The Warriors as a franchise did what they had to do and got a player that got them back to the finals to win it again. It doesn't matter that it was Kevin Durant and that their team was strong enough with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the lineup that they didn't need a player quite as strong as Durant to get back over the hump. The opportunity was there and they took it, as any well run franchise should do. Calling the Warriors' moves "unfair" and claiming that what they did is ruining the game is asinine at best, outright lazy and ignorant at worst. Golden State is the model for what a strong NBA franchise should do: draft well, develop your talent, build a strong core and then pull the trigger on a strong free agent or two to get you to the promised land.
As far as the rest of the league is concerned, only half of those Top Ten most valuable franchises, Golden State, Houston, L.A. Clippers, Boston and Chicago, made the playoffs. That means the other half of franchises that are considered the most valuable in the league and made a minimum of $185 million in revenue last season, sucked on the court. Four of them, Dallas, LA Lakers, New York and Brooklyn, finished in the Bottom 10 of the season standings, with the Nets dead last having won 20 games out of an 82-game season. I guess that's all because of Kevin Durant going to the Warriors, right?
What about the other teams that DID make the playoffs? Did Durant going to Golden State really keep Houston and San Antonio from being more competitive in the playoffs? Or do those teams have other issues that kept them from winning a game against the Dubs in the postseason? How about Boston, Washington or Toronto, the top three records in the East? What really kept any of them from giving the Cavs a battle en route to the finals? Was it because Lebron is just that good, or do the failings of those teams have anything to do with it either?
Ultimately, the problem with the NBA does not rest on what two teams are doing, but rather on what the other 28 are failing to do. I'm a Detroit Pistons fan and I don't have enough time in this post to explain to you the mountain of problems that franchise is suffering right now, yet we are about to get a new arena next season. I promise you it won't be filled every night if the team keeps floundering, and that has nothing to do with Cleveland or Golden State's success. The same can be said for fans of any other NBA franchise with regard to competitive balance.
This isn't even getting into the fundamental issues that the NBA has, like continuing to pay millions to 19 and 20-year old players solely on their potential and running a league where defense is now officially an afterthought. When your best defensive team points per game (Utah) is still allowing an average of 97 points per contest, that tells you the state of defensive basketball as a whole in the NBA. No one wants to see defense, the game is not called in a way that truly allows it and these players are largely not interested in playing it to any major intensity. That is the NBA today.
So as much as I'm sure many people want to point the finger at Golden State's "super team" or at Kevin Durant in particular, especially basketball fans in Cleveland or Oklahoma City, the fact is that the blame really goes everywhere else around the league and on the league itself when it comes to the product being boring, predictable and difficult to watch. The most you can blame either the Cavs or the Warriors for is taking advantage of the rest of the league's widespread weakness. If the NBA wants more competitive balance and an exciting playoffs to watch, then the rest of the league needs to step up and make better decisions when it comes to building teams that have a shot to win. It's a complicated process, but that's what GM's are paid big money to do. When more of them start doing it, then the league can begin to get stronger again. Until then, get ready for Round Four of Warriors-Cavs in 2018 because the rest of the NBA is in no position to stop it......yet.