BOSTON — The Warriors once again sit on top of the NBA’s throne, winning their fourth title in eight years on Thursday night in Boston. It’s an astonishing accomplishment—particularly in an era that’s largely been defined by roster turnover—that only Bill Russell’s Celtics, Magic Johnson’s Lakers, Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Tim Duncan’s Spurs can look down at.
While nothing lasts forever, this miraculous run is clearly not over. Steph Curry (34 years old), Klay Thompson (32) and Draymond Green (32) are all on the back nine of their Hall of Fame careers, but, as Curry said during the Finals, they all still feel like there’s plenty left in the tank. Look at how they played in their finest moments and it’s impossible to argue. On his way to winning Finals MVP and cementing himself as one of the two best point guards ever, Curry had the greatest game of his postseason career in Game 4: 43 points and seven threes in a must-win, on-the-road performance.
For the entire postseason, Curry’s usage rate was 31.8%, topped only by what he did in 2016. He still functions as the fulcrum of basketball’s most aesthetically beautiful offense while withstanding constant pressure on the other end against teams that convince themselves hunting him over and over again will eventually matter.
Green faltered offensively a bit during the playoffs, especially against a Celtics team that was constructed to take away so much of the playmaking he engineers in the halfcourt. But defensively he was as intelligent, adaptable and tone-setting as ever, always lurking, stunting at ball-handlers, dominating cat-and-mouse games in the paint and deterring shots at the rim. “Game 6, I dominated,” Green accurately declared from the podium, early Friday morning.
Thompson was the big question mark heading into these playoffs and, despite a few off-shooting nights (he made only 35.6% of his shots in the Finals), showed up in big spots, with brilliant two-way performances that were reminiscent of what he could do three, four, five years ago.
Where those three go from here, as defending champions yet again, in a conference that may be as competitive as it’s ever been next year, will be fascinating. Golden State has a pipeline of young, intriguing talent still on rookie-scale contracts that can pick up some of the slack over the next few years (either on the court or in a trade). And Andrew Wiggins, who was vital throughout this entire playoff run and still has one more season left on his max contract, is only 27 years old, thriving on his own mid-prime timeline.
They also have a few unrestricted free agents, most notably Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II, key role players who helped turn their defense into a brick wall. There’s a decent chance Golden State holds onto at least one, but, particularly with Looney, it’ll be interesting to see how the organization weighs his elevated market value (board man gets paid) with a possible desire to create minutes for James Wiseman and not let their astronomical luxury tax bill spiral even more than it already will over the next couple offseasons (assuming they re-sign/extend Wiggins/Jordan Poole).
It’s hard to picture this Warriors team still winning it all without Looney’s impact on the glass. He was an absolute monster creating second-chance opportunities and grabbed nine more offensive rebounds than anyone else in these playoffs. To enhance themselves externally, Golden State also has the taxpayer mid-level exception at their disposal, and could use it to keep Otto Porter Jr. should the veteran’s minimum not be enough this summer.
Internal improvement will also matter. Assuming they aren’t dealt for more established complementary pieces, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and Wiseman should all have larger roles. The former two found ways to contribute during the postseason and if either makes a notable leap in year two the effect could be seismic.
As is the case with every team, some of what influences every championship hunt is out of their hands. The following statement is absolutely in no way meant to take anything away from their fourth ring, but thanks to a few major injuries suffered elsewhere, there was no juggernaut boogeyman standing in Golden State’s way on this particular run. That may not be the case next year, when the landscape is expected to change.
The Clippers, with a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, are stacked with two-way players who, on paper, may be able to replicate some of the defensive success Boston had in these Finals. The Nuggets, with two-time MVP Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray, aren’t going anywhere. The Grizzlies will be a year older, believing it’s their time. Luka Dončić and LeBron James still exist. So does Giannis Antetokounmpo and a young Celtics team that will be out for revenge. The 64-win Suns shouldn’t be dismissed just yet.
But so long as their core is healthy, beating the Warriors four times in seven tries requires Herculean mental strength, resilience, depth and a crap ton of talent. Curry, Thompson, Green and Kerr enter every series believing they will win, and why shouldn’t they? As they pace the sport, spearhead change and evolution, nobody has solved what they do on either end. A fifth ring may not be likely, but it’s definitely realistic. And given everything they’ve been through and how far they came to grab the fourth one, wagering against the Warriors in 2023 can’t be called a smart bet.
“I don't like to put a number on things and say, ‘Oh, man, we can get five or we can get six,” Green said at the Game 6 podium. “We going to get them until the wheels fall off. And that's our goal, to compete at this level every year.”
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