The Golden State Warriors Have NBA Dynasty Potential

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 17, 2015

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If the thought of the Golden State Warriors as NBA champions feels a bit foreign, that's because it should.

Prior to Tuesday's 105-97 Finals-clinching win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Dubs hadn't celebrated a world title since 1975. Four decades is an agonizingly long stretch for sports fans, particularly when it includes as many empty campaigns as this one did.

But the Warriors finally find themselves at basketball's apex again. As sweet as this feels for the long-suffering franchise, the real excitement lies in what potentially comes next.

Talented, Improving Core

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 15: Klay Thompson #11, Harrison Barnes #40, Stephen Curry #30, and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors sit on the sideline during a game against the Denver Nuggets on April 15, 2015 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. N
Noah Graham/Getty Images

This nucleus is young.

Reigning MVP Stephen Curry just turned 27 in March. All-Star swingman Klay Thompson and Swiss army knife Draymond Green—this season's runner-up in both Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player voting—are both 25. Harrison Barnes, who started all 82 regular-season games, celebrated his 23rd birthday last month.

And all four of these players have ample room for growth.

Curry, who coughed up the eighth-most turnovers, can improve his decision-making. Thompson can continue to expand his off-the-dribble offense. Green, a career 41.2 percent shooter, could be more discerning with his shot selection. Barnes is still barely tapping into his massive potential.

What does that mean for the rest of the NBA? Nothing good, unfortunately. Those four played 1,274 minutes together this season—and bulldozed opponents by 18.8 points per 100 possessions.

The Dubs were historically dominant, and in all likelihood, we haven't seen their best basketball yet.

There are no guarantees that everything will come together again like it did this season, but there are reasons to believe this team isn't a one-hit wonder.

"The Warriors are set for years of potential dominance in the Western Conference, behind reigning Kia MVP Curry, an All-Star in Thompson, [Steve] Kerr's brainpower and solid player acquisition from GM Bob Myers," NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Golden State's roster is masterfully built to usher in basketball's future.

The Warriors have an abundance of long, athletic players to plug in anywhere along the perimeter. Keeping five offensive threats around the arc spreads out a defense and makes it vulnerable against pick-and-roll attacks. Having five players capable of handling multiple defensive assignments allows Golden State to disrupt an offense's rhythm by seamlessly switching almost everything.

The Warriors took the title by relying on things that aren't supposed to win in June: high velocity, position-less lineups, quick-strike jump shots.

"It's a little different," Green said of Golden State's approach, per ESPN.com's J.A. Adande. "But we've played that way all year."

If teams scramble to replicate this recipe, the Warriors will already have a head start. If not, their next-generation style will continue presenting problems to traditionally built teams, like when Golden State handed the interior-focused Memphis Grizzlies a six-game defeat in the conference semis.

But for the Warriors to build a true powerhouse, they'll need three dominoes to fall in their favor: health, cohesion and financial flexibility.

Health, Chemistry and Economic Hurdles

Ben Margot/Associated Press

The injury bug is an unpredictable beast that can bring even the most powerful forces to a screeching halt. If the Dubs hadn't ducked it like Floyd Mayweather dancing around an incoming punch, they wouldn't be clearing space in the Oracle Arena rafters for a championship banner.

But all NBA champions need similarly good fortune in this area to capture the crown. And any team hoping to dethrone the Dubs would have to have their own favorable health report.

As for chemistry, it's already one of the strongest weapons in Golden State's arsenal.

"Chemistry is not something you can fake," Warriors forward David Lee said, via Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal. "You either have it or you don't."

The Dubs play like they have it.

They were the regular-season leaders in both assists per game and secondary assists (passes that set up an assist). Their switch-happy scheme required sharp rotations, constant communication and a willingness to step outside of comfort zones.

Blending the right personalities together is a pivotal step toward breeding this solidarity. The Warriors appear to have not only done that, but also given this group a chance to grow.

Between 2009 and 2012, the Warriors drafted Curry, Thompson, Green, Barnes and Ezeli. They traded for Andrew Bogut in March 2012. Andre Iguodala inked his four-year deal in July 2013.

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 2: Harrison Barnes #40, Festus Ezeli #31 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors poses for a photo at the Warriors draft pick press conference on July 2, 2012 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Longevity can be a crucial—though often overlooked—ingredient in a successful roster.

"Some of the good teams out there, like Dallas a few years ago, their core groups have been together a number of years. That's what we're seeing now," Bogut told Grantland's Andrew Sharp. "We're in that third year together, and guys are just more comfortable."

Keeping everyone comfortable could be Golden State's greatest challenge. At the very least, it's sure to be the most expensive one.

Green is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer, and he seemed to secure a max-contract raise a while ago. But there's quite a bit of money on Golden State's books for both next season and the following campaign already.

Golden State's Major Financial Commitments
Klay Thompson$15,501,000$16,663,575
David Lee$15,493,680N/A
Andrew Bogut$12,000,000$11,027,027
Andre Iguodala$11,710,456$11,131,368
Stephen Curry$11,370,786$12,112,359
Source: Basketball Insiders

Green could receive an external offer giving him a starting salary of approximately $15 million per season. But even if he does, Golden State seems prepared to pay that amount.

"Unless Warriors execs are misleading me, they are prepared to match any offer Green gets, no matter the number," wrote Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. Myers also expressed as much confidence in keeping Green as league rules will allow, saying Warriors fans "shouldn't worry" about Green's impending free agency, via Bay Area News Group's Jeff Faraudo.

If the Warriors can't shed Lee's salary before that happens, they'll almost certainly need to foot a luxury-tax bill next season. But that's a price worth paying to keep a champion together.

Barnes is eligible for a contract extension this offseason. If he gets a new deal, it wouldn't kick in until the 2016-17 season. As ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss noted, Golden State's financial future after this summer sees older players coming off the books anytime a younger one needs to be paid:

When Harrison Barnes is a free agent in 2016, David Lee's deal expires. When Stephen Curry is ready for a well-earned max in 2017, the Andrew Bogut and Iguodala deals come off the books. That's also when the NBA's TV money should blast the cap upward like a burst water main. The ideal 2017 scenario features Curry, Barnes, Thompson and Green all signed, with room to spare.

To quickly recap, the Warriors were the best team throughout this season, should continue getting better and don't appear too pricey to keep together. Those are ideal conditions for a dynasty to grow.

Looking outside the organization doesn't eliminate that possibility.

King of the NBA Hill

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 4: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors shoots against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game One of the 2015 NBA Finals on June 4, 2015 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ack
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Golden State's path back to the championship podium is littered with potential roadblocks. But as challenging as those obstacles will be, none appear insurmountable.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have to integrate a new coach next season (Billy Donovan), then hope they don't lose either Kevin Durant to free agency in 2016 or Russell Westbrook the following year (or both). The San Antonio Spurs are another year older and are in need of some pretty substantial reshuffling. The Los Angeles Clippers are so desperate for depth, they just gambled on the polarizing Lance Stephenson.

The Houston Rockets need more pieces, and 29-year-old Dwight Howard isn't getting any younger. The Memphis Grizzlies may have already peaked. The New Orleans Pelicans have a soaring superstar in Anthony Davis, but a horde of question marks surround him.

Out East, there's nothing worth fearing outside of LeBron James. And the Warriors just sent him to his third Finals loss in five years.

The Cleveland Cavaliers should be healthier next time around. But if Father Time starts advancing on the 30-year-old James, they'll need Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to pick up the slack—provided the latter two don't leave in free agency.

There isn't another NBA team capable of matching Golden State's combination of proven success and unrealized potential. That may not lead to more Warriors' titles, but the stars are aligning for the rise of basketball's next dynasty.

Get used to the idea of the world-champion Golden State Warriors. This may not be the last time it becomes a reality.

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com. Salary information obtained via Basketball Insiders.


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