Death to the Superteam! Warriors Craft New Model in Winning NBA Championship

Howard Beck@@HowardBeckNBA Senior WriterJune 17, 2015

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

CLEVELAND — It was nearly 1 a.m. ET when Joe Lacob emerged from a Champagne-soaked room, full of Champagne-soaked revelers and stepped into a Champagne-soaked hallway at the arena they call the Q following the Warriors' Game 6 title-clinching 105-97 win over the Cavaliers.

His gray shirt and blue jeans were soaked. The cap on his head said "Champions." Across the hall, the newly crowned Warriors were still whooping and dancing and dousing one another, but the team's owner at this moment was not thinking of Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala.

"Bob Myers, right there!" Lacob exclaimed, pointing to the Warriors general manager. "The architect! The architect!"

In the next few minutes, Lacob, the majority owner, would praise the Warriors players, coaches, the front office and the folks who sell tickets. "So many people that don't even get credit," he said.

A few minutes later, Myers would add scouts, video guys and the equipment manager to the list.

Down the hallway, Iguodala took the postgame podium—a sixth man just crowned as the Finals MVP—and pointed to the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th men: Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, David Lee, Festus Ezeli.

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CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Bill Russell and Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors shake hands after he receives the 2015 NBA Finals MVP award following their win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Six of the 2015 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Aren
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

"That's the ultimate thing," Iguodala said. "Different guys won games in different ways."

This is an era of superteams and superstar collusion, of microwaved rosters built on "max" free agents and blockbuster trades. The NBA's new champions are none of this. From top to bottom, they are a model of collaboration, an egalitarian ensemble of co-equals.

The Warriors just throttled the NBA's preeminent star, LeBron James, taking him down in six games even as he compiled one of the most incredible stat lines in Finals history: 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game.

They did it by deploying one of the deepest and most versatile rosters in recent memory. Yes, Curry led the way by averaging 26 points in the series, but the Warriors won because someone new stepped into the spotlight each night—Iguodala in Game 4 (22 points), David Lee in Game 3 (11 points), Harrison Barnes in Game 4 (14 points), Draymond Green in Game 5 (16 points) and then Iguodala again in the finale (25 points).

All told, nine different Warriors scored in double digits at least once in the series, including Livingston and Ezeli with 10 points apiece in Game 6.

"We were a deep team, man," Lacob enthused. "And when we got here, we beat the greatest player in the world. And I think we beat him soundly."

The Warriors are, as associate head coach Alvin Gentry put it, "The epitome of what synergy is."

They are, as well, the antidote to the modern superteam, to the notion that the only way to win is to stockpile as many marquee names as possible—whether by poaching, trading or tanking.

The Warriors seized the title, their first in 40 years, without ever stripping the roster down to the studs, without cravenly plotting for the No. 1 pick, without ever pilfering another team's disgruntled All-Star.

This was a champion built, as Myers put it, "organically"through a series of shrewd moves, and mostly through the draft.

Four of the Warriors starters were their own draft picks, none taken in the top five: Curry (seventh in 2009), Thompson (11th in 2011), Barnes (seventh in 2012) and Green (35th in 2012). Ezeli, the backup center, was drafted 30th by the Warriors in 2012.

The only No. 1 pick on the roster is center Andrew Bogut, who was acquired in a 2012 tradea controversial trade at thatfor fan-favorite Monta Ellis. The priciest player is Lee, who was acquired (by a previous administration) in a sign-and-trade with the Knicks in 2010, when the Warriors were simply endeavoring to be relevant. He made $15,012,000 in 2014-15 and will make $15,493,680 next season before becoming a free agent.

Drafting Curry, now the reigning MVP, could be seen in hindsight as the pivotal moment, but the Warriors' rise is so much more interesting and complex. They are not here without any of the aforementioned moves, and certainly not without Iguodala, who just became one of the most unlikely MVPs in Finals history after averaging 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the series.

Two years ago, the Warriors were an unexceptional 47-win team with no clear path forward and no salary-cap room. They made a perfunctory run at Dwight Howard, but they locked in first on Iguodalaa defensive-minded, multiskilled veteran with a high IQ and high character.

"Andre," Lacob said, "was really the key guy to add to that mix."

July 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Andre Iguodala (left) poses for a photo with Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers (right) in a press conference after a sign-and-trade deal for Iguodala to become a Golden State Warriors player at the Warriors P
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Getting Iguodala required extreme cap contortions and the sacrifice of two first-round picks, to Utah, in order to dump the contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson.

Iguodala had more lucrative offers from Sacramento and Denver, his team at the time. But he wanted the Warriors, and the Warriors took extreme measures to get him.

"We saw the young core there, the way they played," said Iguodala's agent, Rob Pelinka. "He said, 'I think I can go there and compete for a championship.'"

It was Iguodala who helped set the tone for the season back in October, when he acceded to coach Steve Kerr's decision to move him to the bench, after a long career as a starter. Iguodala's sacrifice, of ego and stature, became a signature trait of this team. Lee followed suit, after it became clear that Green was the Warriors' best starter at power forward.

Iguodala played his bench role, willingly and to great effect, for the entire regular season and three rounds of playoffs—and then answered the call when Kerr needed him back in the starting lineup in Game 4 of the Finals. The Warriors were trailing 2-1 at the time. The shift to a small lineup, with Iguodala as the linchpin and primary defender against James, turned the series around. The Warriors did not lose again.

It reminded Myers, who played collegiately at UCLA, of his favorite John Wooden quote: "It's amazing what you can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit."

"I think that epitomizes our group," Myers said.

It was a concept referenced in one form or another by just about everyone associated with the Warriors this year, from Lacob to Myers to Kerr to the last man on the bench. It was evident when Warriors coaches immediately and eagerly credited Nick U'Ren, the 28-year-old manager of advanced scouting, with the idea to start Iguodala.

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors goes up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter during Game Six of the 2015 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User exp
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

"It's a collection of great work by a lot of people," Lacob said.

And it's sustainable, with every major player under contract for next season, other than Greena restricted free agent who the Warriors almost absolutely will retain.

Like the San Antonio Spurs a year ago, the Warriors took down a LeBron James-led team with superior depth, brilliant passing and an ethos of selflessness. They played a beautiful game.

The Cavaliers, a team built on three superstarsJames, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irvingnever was at full strength in this series, having lost the latter two stars to injuries. But injuries and misfortune color every NBA postseason, and none of that diminishes what the Warriors just accomplished. James was spectacular enough on his own to make this a six-game series, and no one would have been surprised had he alone somehow forced a Game 7.

"If you watched our game tonight, you see how it takes a team," Myers said. "It takes more than one person. And they had the best one person in the world. We needed a group of people to win this championship."

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Stephen Curry #30 and the Golden State Warriors celebrate their 105 to 97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Six of the 2015 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressl
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Every NBA franchise is searching for a championship formula, a way to get a LeBron or a Kobe Bryant or a Shaquille O'Neal, a Kevin Durant, a Tim Duncan. Some will tear down their rosters and play the lottery odds. Some will hoard their cap room, waiting to pounce on the next disillusioned All-Star.

But Lacob and Myers, and all of their assorted executives and scouts and video guys, have their own path: Draft smartly, spend prudently, build slowly. There is another way forward: the Warriors way.

Howard Beck covers the NBA for Bleacher Report and is a co-host of NBA Sunday Tip, 9-11 a.m. ET on SiriusXM Bleacher Report Radio. Follow him on Twitter, @HowardBeck.


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