- Every team in the NBA is looking up to the Warriors, and as teams realize that, they're swinging for the fences in free agency.
Welcome to the Weapons Race Era of the NBA. We can thank Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for the new name of the current state of affairs in the Association. It was Morey who said after acquiring Chris Paul, “You’re either in the weapons race or you’re on the sidelines,” and so far this off-season, teams are opting in.
When the Warriors throttled the Cavs in five games in the NBA Finals, the league’s worst fears were starting to be realized. If LeBron can’t stop this team, then who can? How many years will Golden State dominate the league? The Dubs are still far and away the favorite to win another championship in 2018, and perhaps the next few after that one. But instead of kicking the can down the road trying to wait out KD and Steph, a number of teams are gearing up for a fight.
Houston has added Chris Paul and P.J. Tucker, and has its eye on Carmelo Anthony. The Wolves have added Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. The Thunder have added Paul George and Patrick Patterson. The Nuggets added Paul Millsap. That’s four All-Stars and four All-NBA caliber players headed West. And after losing Paul, the Clippers kept Blake Griffin and added Danilo Gallinari.
In the East, Boston added Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward to last year’s No. 1 seed. The Raptors are bringing back Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka instead of rebuilding. And the Cavs... okay, the Cavaliers still need a general manager and maybe need to start panicking about LeBron. But they’re still going to be really good!
Let’s be honest. None of the aforementioned teams have suddenly leapt past the Warriors with their summer tinkering. Heck, Golden State’s probably had the best off-season in the league, bringing back Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Kevin Durant, the last of whom on a massive discount.
Still, as frustrating as it may have been to watch the Warriors breeze through the playoffs, their superteam creation has introduced an incredible level of chaos into the NBA, and teams are specifically chasing stars like never before to catch up. Could this entire off-season be futile when it comes to toppling Golden State? Sure. Is it fun as hell to watch every team in the NBA scramble to defeat the same bogeyman? Absolutely.
This off-season is what the league needed after a milquetoast postseason that was soured by an overwhelming feeling of inevitability. The Warriors are probably sitting back and watching everyone play catch-up, but this is the much better outcome of the Durant signing if the alternative was good teams trying to delay their championship window to outlast Golden State.
So as it stands now, which team is best equipped to give the Warriors a fight? The Rockets are going to be a tough out next year. At times, Paul can still be the best point guard in a league where two others at his position have won MVP the last two seasons. Tucker gives them a rugged defender with just enough shooting to stay on the court against high-powered offenses. And with Melo lurking, Houston has a chance to create what would be definitively the second-best starting five in the league.
The Thunder will also be a difficult matchup. OKC is still a worse team than the last year it had Durant, but George will be perhaps the best second option in the league. And with Andre Roberson likely coming back, the Thunder will have two elite perimeter defenders to throw at the Dubs. Patterson won’t make an impact on the level of an All-Star, but don’t underestimate how finally having another shooter on the floor can help the rest of the Thunder’s offense.
Most importantly, teams like the Rockets, Thunder and Wolves (and don’t forget about the Spurs yet!) are offering us a little hope. The Warriors are a juggernaut. They can be extremely fun to watch. But in sports, particularly in basketball, the fall is almost always more captivating than the rise.
The Warriors almost certainly have more championships in them. The Dubs will continue to cement their place as the NBA’s supervillains over the next few seasons. But what we’re seeing this summer, as the league-wide weapons race reaches a fever pitch, is how the rest of the NBA plans to fight back: With full force.