The Golden State Warriors are NBA champions and the likelihood of them being dethroned, seems slim to non-existent. Draymond Green has drawn quite a bit of flack for his candid comments that proclaimed that the Warriors were peerless in the league. As Green is popularly reported to have said, the rest of the league doesn’t have a bleeping clue how to beat the Warriors. Green’s original comments come from an interview he did with Clay Skipper of GQ. In the interview Skipper asked Green to respond to comments made by Houston’s General Manager Darryl Morey ,
” because teams know they don’t have an f….ng clue”
were among the many gems that Green provided Skipper. Can we really, critically dismiss Green’s comments as the mere mutterings of a player who has an overly inflated view of both self and team? Of course not, with the exception of the San Antonio Spurs every other title contender overhauled their roster.
The Houston Rockets traded for Chris Paul, “The Point God”, and spent a major portion of the offseason trying to complete a trade for Carmelo Anthony. The Rockets failed in their attempt to acquire Anthony, who was eventually acquired by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Anthony joins Westbrook and Paul George, who was himself acquired in a trade with the Indiana Pacers. The Cleveland Cavaliers in a desperate move to bring back scoring and defence traded an increasingly disgruntled Kyrie Irving. The Minnesota Timberwolves desperate to be counted among the contenders completed a trade for Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls.
Each of these teams in gutsy moves pushed all their chips to the middle of the table. The league wide obsession with the Golden State Warriors fuelled these gutsy gambling moves. The Rockets traded for Chris Paul an impending free agency with no historic ties to the team. Additionally if the reports coming out of the Clippers camp are true, then Paul is a difficult and controlling player that can suck the fun out of game. The Rockets knew of Paul’s reputation and his potential to sign elsewhere, but they still traded for him. Paul wasn’t the only player pursued by the Rockets to bolster their roster. The Rockets doggedly pursued Carmelo Anthony and attempted to construct a variety of multi team trades to wrestle him from New York. The Rockets acquired Paul but failed in their attempts to acquire Anthony. The acquisition of Paul and the failed attempt to acquire Anthony, demonstrates the Rockets commitment to competing with the Golden State Warriors. Standing pat makes you fodder for the Warriors and the Rockets are determined not to be fodder.
The Oklahoma City Thunder reside in a Casino. Sam Presti, the Thunder’s General Manager spent the offseason perfecting his gambling techniques. Presti traded for George a player seemingly destined to sign with the Lakers once he hits free agency. So connected is George’s name to the Lakers, that he ended up being embroiled in a tampering controversy between the Lakers and the Pacers. Presti is banking on the Thunder’s culture and structure, at the very least convincing George to seriously consider them once free agency rolls around. Presti’s George gamble might already be paying off if George’s utterances in reference to the Thunder are to be believed. Presti also acquired Carmelo Anthony a player with a questionable on court reputation. Teaming Anthony with Westbrook and George just might fail famously on the court but Presti fended off such concerns in order to add another star to the Thunders roster. These are the types of risks that become necessary when you are competing with a behemoth such as the Warriors. It is going to take star power to compete with the Warriors and Presti’s gamble ensures that the Thunder has just that.
The Minnesota Timberwolves imported Jimmy Butler and shipped out the high flying fan favourite Zach Lavine. Butler was brought in to be the teams star, leap frogging the established duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. How Butler being vaulted to the position of team leader and star, will play with Towns and Wiggins in the regular season is anyone’s guess. Players can make all the pronouncements they choose to before the season, but the minute the season starts they have to live it. There were numerous reports coming out of Chicago last year about issues with Jimmy Butler’s leadership. Will similar issues surface in Minnesota? We have a season to find out. The Timberwolves were desperate to build a team that could one day compete with the Warriors so they traded for Butler and all his baggage.
The Boston Celtics traded a fan favourite who went beyond the call of duty to recruit players. This fan favourite was so committed to the team that in spite of a personal family and an injury he kept playing during the playoffs. Trading Isaiah Thomas was a public relations disaster for the Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge knew that he would receive severe publish backlash for trading Isaiah, especially after his post season and offseason commitment to the team. Ainge still went ahead and traded Isaiah as part of the package that brought Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. Ainge did this because as great a player as Isaiah was for the Celtics his ceiling is dwarfed by Kyrie’s. Kyrie is a potential super star, and anytime a team has an opportunity to acquire a potential super star they should take it. Teaming Kyrie with Gordon Hayward, Al Hortford and rookie of the year contender Jayson Tatum has definitely set the foundation for championship basketball in Boston. Unlike all the other championship contenders chasing the Warriors, the Celtics are not acting in desperation. Danny Ainge is clinically building a championship team while using the Golden State Warriors as his measuring stick.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have a LeBron James problem and so had to act quickly to prevent him from becoming anymore antsy. Rumours swirled all summer that LeBron James was eyeing a move to the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Kyrie Irving was said to be so rankled by the LeBron to the Lakers talk that it brought to the fore his latent desire to be his own man on his own team. All across the NBA bloggoverse bloggers were tripping over themselves trying to explain why Kyrie wanted out of Cleveland. Kyrie’s trade netted Isaiah Thomas an emerging NBA star and Jae Crowder a player known for his blue collar work ethic and hard nosed defence. The other components of the trade Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn unprotected first could be used as future trading chips either to acquire support for LeBron or to replace him. The Cavaliers got badly exposed by the Warriors and it took a record shooting night from behind the arc, for them to win a single game. If they had kept last seasons team intact then they would have great difficulty winning a single game against the Warriors much less a championship. This brings us to Green’s other media frenzy quote from the Skipper article. Green said,
“It pissed me off we didn’t sweep them, though”
Realistically speaking, the Cavaliers team with their anaemic defence wasn’t going to win a game against the Warriors this time around. Trading for Crowder helps their defence and provides a player not named LeBron James to defend Kevin Durant. Isaiah once healthy can replace Kyrie’s offensive production and propensity for clutch shots as the 2016/2017 playoffs Washington Wizards can attest to. Even with all the changes made it is hardly likely that the Cavaliers will be very competitive against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals. The extent to which the Cavaliers are beaten in the NBA this time around (if they get there) will greatly impact James free agency decision. Regardless of James eventual decision, the Cavaliers did what they had to in order to compete with the Golden State Warriors.
The actions of all the other contending teams suggest that the Warriors are Spectre hovering over the rest of the league. The Warriors like the sandman of our childhood nightmares reside in the heads of all NBA title contenders. The Warriors will have defeated these teams long before they set foot on the court and score a single basket. Draymond Green just verbalised what we all knew, the Warriors are a Juggernaut and there is no stopping them this year.