The 2015-16 Golden State Warriors had a historic season that established their perennial-winning ways and certified them as one of the best teams in the league. That much is clear, and hardly anybody would dispute it. However, the recent whirlwind of predictions that now sees the Warriors as the unquestionable clear-cut favorites to win the NBA Championship next season as a result of the Kevin Durant acquisition appears to be laced with some overbearing offseason hyperbole.
While these estimations of the Warriors' continued dominance make sense in a handful of scenarios, the proponents of them seem to ignore the other possible outcomes in which the team does not ultimately conquer a title next season. Indeed, there are negatives to Golden State's current situation, and their struggles in the latter half of the playoffs highlighted some harsh realities that need to be addressed if they want to win another championship. Yes, of course they'll be in the playoffs, likely winning multiple series within, but victory over their fellow elite teams in the Finals or Semifinals is hardly a guarantee. This list chooses to offer an alternative to the dogma claiming that the Warriors will be utterly unstoppable with Durant, and inevitably on their way to championship success.
Ranked below are the top 15 reasons the Warriors will not win the NBA championship next season.
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29 Notable Offseason Departures
On the surface, the first noteworthy aspect of the Warriors' offseason thus far has been the loss of key players off the bench. Everyone considered, the team lost Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Marreese Speights and Brandon Rush. That's a lot of production when it comes down to it, and they will be looking to fill the void by giving the sixth man time to newcomers Zaza Pachulia and David West along with incumbents Shaun Livingston and Anderson Varejao. Fun fact; all of those players are 30 years of age or older. While certainly Livingston has proven himself as a competent fill-in player, there's a lot of question marks on the bench, and a lot of departures all at once for the team. The lack of continuity could hurt them late in games, or when the elite starting five gets into foul trouble.
27 Draymond Green's Poor Judgement
It could be argued that Green's one-game suspension in the NBA Finals for throwing a shot at LeBron James, was what cost the Warriors a championship win in the first place. This came after several incidents of apparent cheap shots on Steven Adams of the Thunder, during the Conference Semifinals. The icing on the cake for Green was the recent physical altercation he got into with a Michigan State football player. Simply put, he has established a negative reputation for himself, and this probably isn't the last time he lands himself in hot water. It's one thing when a fringe player keeps engaging in this type of behavior, but when it's one of your core players on the starting five, it's an objective problem. If it isn't addressed and corrected, another suspension on Green's behalf could be a detriment to the Warriors late in the season.
25 They Lack Size In The Front Court
While it isn't the forte of the Warriors to play a low-post, interior style, this is still somewhat a cause for concern. Out of the projected starting five for next season, Kevin Durant is the tallest at a mere 6-9, and that means while their biggest strength of outside shooting is not effected, the ability to score tough points in the paint might be. They do have several bench players around the seven foot mark, but only one, Anderson Varejao, can be confirmed to even be somewhat reliable. Again, this isn't the biggest issue, because the Warriors don't purport to be a team that relies on the inside game. However, when the shots aren't falling, it will be necessary at times, and they'll have to rely solely on their bench for that one style of play. Not a huge concern, but definitely something to keep an eye on.
23 The 73-Win Team Was Likely The Peak Of Their Dominance
This one is the result of quite a bit of speculation, but I can't help but feel that the 73-win season was a bit of an anomaly. Not necessarily for the Warriors' elite play, but just their dominance on that all-time level. It's more likely that their win total hovers in the low-60s, rather than the historic mark they hit last season. Why does that matter in terms of winning an NBA title? Simply, a lower win total that a "regular" elite team would have, would humanize the Warriors a bit, instead of having them adapt the narrative of the unstoppable juggernaut that has no chance of failure. They'll still be in contention for the Finals, but without the expectations that go along with the 73-win team. It may or may not make a difference in the end, but the possibility of the Warriors moving back down to Earth in the regular season, doesn't make them as intimidating a force to deal with.
21 Their Roster Is Starting To Appear Top-Heavy
We've already gone over the losses the Warriors suffered off the bench due to departure in the offseason. Taking this into account, a quick glance at their roster shows an elite starting five in Curry, Durant, Thompson, Green and Iguodala, but really little in the way to count on off of the bench. Honestly, can Anderson Varejao be depended upon to provide consistent play when needed, in a certified sixth man role? Shaun Livingston has had his pluses, but will only see significant time when Curry or Thompson are not on the floor. The rest of the group, David West, Kevon Looney, Ian Clark, Zaza Pachulia, and rookies Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw, hardly inspire much confidence. That is simply not a good bench situation. All in all, this roster as of today, runs about seven deep. It might be enough given the talent of the starters, but is a lackluster insurance policy.
19 LeBron Is Still The League's Top Dog
After proving all of his doubters wrong en route to his third NBA Championship, LeBron has firmly established himself as once again the player to beat in the league, and the best player the game has to offer in general. If the 2016-17 season does yield the Cavaliers and Warriors in the finals for the third straight season, Golden State is going to have to overcome their deficiencies that slowly revealed themselves during this year's Finals. It was there, along with portions of the Semifinals against the Thunder, that cracks in the foundation were finally being able to be seen. Green's suspension, Curry's apparent nagging injury, and a stubborn reliance on the three-point shot all ultimately spelled defeat for them. What's more is, they'll have to go through a player in LeBron who is looking at another chance for back-to-back titles, and will make sure that he has every possible piece on the Cavalier's roster to make that happen.
17 They Were Neutralized Against Elite Competition
To reiterate, the Warriors looked stifled at times against the league's elite in the playoffs. The Thunder and Cavaliers both gave them problems when they were able to shift the game more towards their style of play. To do this, they were able to match the consistency of the Warriors three-point shooting, and then incorporate the post game to wear them down late in the game. It's not a surefire strategy against a team like Golden State that can score so quickly and effectively, but it does establish the fact that there is a way to beat them, despite their revolutionary approach to the three-point shot. We'll see if this continues next season, as even the regular season games between the likes of the Clippers, Spurs and Cavaliers should be entertaining, to discover what strategies the other upper-tier teams employ against the Warriors.
15 It Is Difficult To Consistently Rely On The Outside Shot
While the Warriors shoot the three-ball better than any other team in NBA history, and Curry is truly a phenomenon in the sport, the old basketball adage of "live by the three, die by the three" still rings true. No matter how a good a team is at using as a base part of their strategy, there's no getting around the fact that a three-pointer is still a high-percentage shot. Inevitably, as we saw at times late in the playoffs, the Warriors went cold, and their entire game suffered. It's not as much a detriment against lesser teams, as it is against elite ones that can capitalize on the fast break opportunities on the rebound. Yes, the Warriors should be playing to their strengths and shooting the ball, but this seemed to be the only trick left in their bag when it mattered most.
13 Steph Curry's Injury Concern
Curry's general style of play lends itself to this, and we saw him go down mid-way through the playoffs, and not appear to be 100% in the Finals at times. His small stature doesn't lend itself to longevity, and with as many quick cuts as he makes on the court, there has to be some apprehension about him playing a full season. Without their best player, the Warriors obviously suffer, and are far less dominating as a group compared to when the MVP is on the floor. The reality is, that as his age increases, it's also increasingly a shot in the dark if Curry is able to remain healthy for a full season. The addition of Durant helps the Warriors fill the role of the "star" in the event that this happens, but it undoubtedly effects their bottom line as a championship contender. This season will be telling just how reliable Curry's health is.
11 They Will Have To Successfully Acclimate Durant Into The Offense
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the idea that Durant will just come in and be firing on all cylinders in a new offense from day one, is more than a bit of a leap of faith. It will take at least some of the season to have him playing at a peak capacity. With the presence of Curry, Thompson and Green, Durant will have to carve out a niche for himself on the Warriors roster, and it may not be the right one on the first try. That seems ridiculous to say about a player who's been a perennially great scorer in the NBA for so long, but it is true, especially considering the wealth of talent around him. There's without question a host of scenarios in which Durant is a top player in Golden State, but there's also a few that say he won't be able to co-exist with the established stars on the team. We'll see which one plays out, but there will definitely have to be a "breaking in" period, which will need to figure out the best way to utilize him.
9 Competition Within The Western Conference
Golden State did themselves a huge favor by essentially eliminating the Thunder from a deep playoff run when they acquired Durant, but there are still some worthy competitors the Warriors will have to beat en route to another Finals appearance. If the Clippers can stay healthy, they are a reasonable threat with their own "big three" of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Spurs did lose Tim Duncan to retirement, but at this point that isn't too much in the way of reliable production, and also signed Pau Gasol as a suitable stopgap. Portland is also looking to take the next step in the West, and without the presence of the Thunder as a likely threat, should be able to do so. While the recent trend has been the emergence of the Eastern Conference on the upswing, the West still has enough upper-tier teams to have the Warriors on their toes.
7 They Will Have To Respond To The Failure Of Living Up To Expectations
The last NBA campaign seemed to be the perfect storm for the Warriors. The main issue was, and it turned out to be, that when you win the most regular season games in the history of the league, you are unquestionably expected to win the title. We all know that didn't happen, and now they are going to have to respond to their critics with a strong showing next season, which has to end in at least a Finals appearance to be satisfactory. It's a big difference when a team is playing as underdogs or as a split-favorite, compared to when they are expected from day one to win a title. Can the Warriors live up to those high expectations? It's anyone's guess, but the situation is at least more interesting due to their loss in the Finals this year, and they will need to prove next year that their blown series lead was just an anomaly.
5 Klay Thompson's Role Could Be Unnecessarily Marginalized
On any other team, Thompson would be a surefire, number one, go-to star. On the Warriors, he is one of the top contributors, but the top dog on the team still remains Steph Curry. With the addition of Durant, one of the methods of implementing his talent into the offensive scheme, could be taking away opportunities from Thompson. He's the clear target for Durant to take shot opportunities from, and mitigating the role of a player who was so important to a team that made the NBA Finals for two season in a row, may not be the best idea. Of course, that may not end up being the case, but it is definitely a possibility, particularly if the team feels the need to appease Durant early on in his tenure. It's another "wait and see" event, but something to consider as the regular season inches closer.
3 The Rest Of The League May Have "Cracked The Code"
In the realm of professional sports, there occasionally comes along a team that is so unprecedented, that the rest of the league can't figure them out, and as a result, spend two or three years atop the league's best, before their championship run comes to a crashing halt. Notable examples include the "Bad Boy" era of the Detroit Pistons and the Toronto Blue Jays World Series-winning teams of the early 1990s. These teams were championship caliber, and phenomenons in their respective sports, but ultimately couldn't establish the longevity to spell continued success. While it's highly unlikely the Warriors just completely fall off the map, what is possible is that can't repeat the regular season success of last year, and the postseason success of the 2015 playoffs. No guarantees either way, but there is a precedent for teams being juggernauts for a few years, and then hitting a wall.
1 The Team's Power Structure Is In The Midst Of A Shakeup
Of course, the biggest question is, how will the Warriors manage so many defining personalities and talents in one space? The addition of Durant, while affording them another high-profile player, only further distorts the question of who the real leader on this team is. With Green's increasingly boisterous personality and questionable decision making, Curry's injury risk, the question of Thompson's role, and Durant's entrance as the new hired gun, there's a lot of room for this to go in multiple directions. The current narrative is that Durant's presence won't matter, that this is a roster of team players who just want to win. Possibly so, but every roster also has a breaking point. It's also possible that Durant tipped the scales just enough, that this team will lack an identity, and will have to hash out new roles for four players with big personalities, and high-profile talent. In other word, in the end, the Warriors roster may end up being less than the sum of its parts.
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