It’s been a couple of weeks since Dub Nation closed out the Boston Celtics, so let’s take some time to really understand what this Warriors team accomplished this season.
Like many fans and skeptics, Draymond Green was wary of the Warriors’ plan coming into the season, “Historically, we have not seen that work”, said Green in regards to the Warriors trying to simultaneously build for the future while also competing for a title in the now.
Well, Golden State made it work. The Warriors vets embraced the challenge and now they’re back on top.
Of the Warriors’ four championships with this core, this one seems to mean the most. Most everyone had them written off after the last few seasons and from the minute this season tipped off, there was a clear vengeance within this team. They weren’t just gunning for a championship, they were earning back the respect that they never deserved to lose.
Stephen Curry, The All-Time Great
All-time lists are mostly for barbershops, headlines, and conversations with the homies, but when certain players achieve certain accomplishments, these types of topics almost become a de facto part of the conversation. Stephen Curry has reached that level of greatness.
The interesting thing is, that bar is set in a different place for each individual. Curry was a 3x NBA champion coming into this season yet many were reluctant to seriously give him top-10 all-time consideration.
There are all-timers like Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird, who had similar career accomplishments to that of Curry that are cemented into those conversations, but Curry’s bar was a little higher than just being an 8x time all-star, 3x NBA champion, and back-to-back MVP.
For some reason, Curry needed a “signature” big moment to solidify himself in some people’s eyes, and boy did he come through.
This isn’t to tell you whether Curry is or isn’t top-10 all time, but he sure as heck deserved to be in that conversation before the season started and there’s absolutely no way to keep him out of those conversations now.
So let’s take a moment to understand what Stephen Curry accomplished, specifically in the NBA Finals.
Curry scored 29+ points in all but one game, he made 5+ three-pointers in all but one game, and in four of those five games he shot 50% or better from beyond the arc. On the biggest stage in the game, the #1 defense in the NBA had absolutely zero answers for Curry. Zero.
Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart, was supposed to give him fits. All the fits that were had were from Boston’s defenders. Curry put on a scoring masterclass versus the defense that was supposedly perfectly built to contain him. Five switchable, lengthy and athletic defenders in the starting lineup? Didn’t matter.
Down 1-0, down 2-1 – Curry never flinched. His confidence which often borders cockiness, seeped through every single moment of the Finals. Even in his worst NBA Finals shooting performance EVER, that confidence didn’t waver. The baby-faced assassin was pulling up from 30 feet whether he hit four in a row or missed seven in a row.
But this level of play wasn’t anything new from Curry. He’s been draining threes from different area codes for eight or nine seasons now. He played a tremendous Finals in 2015 and played stellar in 2017 and 2018 but got overshadowed by Kevin Durant. He even had a 43-point game in 2019 against Toronto. Curry is the only player to ever average at least 25/5/5 on the winning team in the NBA Finals to not win Finals MVP and he did that three times!
Curry needed this stage again to remind people just how incredible he is and that’s exactly what he did.
In the wise words of Curry himself, what are they going to say now?
Back in November, I wrote about how Andrew Wiggins deserved his recognition but not even I could have envisioned Wiggins doing what he did this postseason.
The 27-year-old wing has blossomed into one of the more coveted two-way players in the league. He’s quite literally the perfect complimentary player in today’s NBA.
Wiggins doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective – when the Warriors are at their best, Wiggins is an off-ball slasher who can knock down catch and shoot threes with the best of ’em.
What sets him apart from most every other complimentary “3 and D” player in the league is that while he’s embraced the lower usage of that role, he can also create his own shot when you need him to. Wiggins isn’t playing the 3 and D role because he can’t create off the bounce, his role is just a result of the system he’s playing in and who he’s sharing the floor with.
There were times in the NBA Finals when the Warriors needed Wiggins to play that go-to scoring role for periods of time and Wiggins came through.
Defensively, Wiggins rose to the occasion in every opportunity he had this postseason.
In round two, he was tasked with Ja Morant until he went down. In the Western Conference Finals he got tasked with possibly the best young star in the game in Luka Doncic and then on the biggest stage there is, his job was to slow the first team all-NBAer Jayson Tatum.
Wiggins’ length and athleticism make him the best matchup for just about every premier scorer in the league, aside from bigs like Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.
Personally, I was skeptical of his ability to stay disciplined against the likes of Doncic and Tatum, but he did as good of a job as you can do against those guys.
Wiggins is finally getting his flowers and he deserves every single bit of them.
The Rest of the Supporting Cast
The group of guys the Warriors had this season was truly special, and that’s probably underselling them.
From Green to Klay Thompson to Kevon Looney and all the way down the bench, every single guy on this team played a part in getting that Larry O’Brien.
Looney had two games in the playoffs with 18+ rebounds. Wiggins led the Finals in total rebounds. GPII had 15 points and 3 steals in game five of the NBA Finals. Whatever the team needed from each individual player, they found a way to provide.
Curry is the straw that stirs the drink in Golden State but just like the rest of these guys rely on him, he leans on them too.
Steve Kerr is possibly the best ever at getting his players to buy into their roles, and maybe he’s just gotten lucky with the players the front office has brought in but this can’t just be some sort of coincidence.
What other team has multiple guys working their butts off to set screens for 48 minutes? And whether it’s Looney working to set screens, defend and rebound or Gary Payton II coming in and being a guard version of Draymond Green, they’re all just looking to do their job. And that just isn’t the case on most teams, at any level. But that’s why they were the last man standing this season.
And I’ve got a feeling these guys aren’t done yet. Their two rookies, Jonathon Kuminga and Moses Moody had promising seasons and they’ve still got James Wiseman in their back pocket if he can ever stay healthy. I’d also imagine Thompson looks a little more like his pre-injury self next season and Jordan Poole is also only going to get better.
We’ll see how the offseason plays out, but the Warriors are set up to perfectly transition from their longtime core that’s brought home four rings to the young guys on the roster while competing for more championships.
And that my friends, is a scary sight for the rest of the league.
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