As the Golden State Warriors prepare for their 2nd parade since June 2015, it's time to ponder how the last three seasons for the Warriors stack up against some of the greatest NBA dynasties.
Of course if the Warriors had won the title in 2016, many would consider the 2015 - 2017 Warriors to be just as good as (if not better than) the championship Bulls teams from 1991 - 1993 and 1996 - 1998. It is difficult to compare this current Warriors run to the Bulls of the 90's due to the way the game has changed but they are pretty close.
First off, both teams exhibited phenomenal defense. Defense wins championships, period. Even though most of us who saw Michael Jordan play in his prime will quickly recount all of the great offensive plays he had, you still can't ignore his defensive presence. He was after all the Defensive Player of the Year in 1988 and made the NBA All-Defensive First Team 9 times from 1988 - 1993 & 1996 - 1998. It also didn't hurt to have a sidekick like Scottie Pippen who was also a lock-down defender and an enforcer like Horace Grant during the first three-peat and Dennis Rodman during the Bulls second run.
The Warriors definitely asserted themselves on defense while the Cavaliers lackadaisical defense did them in multiple times. Except for Game 4, the Cavaliers did not shoot the ball particularly well as a whole. LeBron James did have a great game in Game 5 but look at how wisely the Warriors let him score near the end of the game while shutting down everyone else. That was very reminiscent of how the 2004 Detroit Pistons upset the mega Lakers dream team by letting Shaq score but preventing anyone else from doing anything.
Secondly, the Warriors showed a killer instinct in this latest title run that can compare to Jordan's uber-competitiveness. They never let the foot off the pedal when they built big leads in the postseason. Case in point would be Game 5 earlier this week. Not once did the Cavaliers take the lead back or come within one possession of tying the game or taking the lead after the Warriors went on an incredible scoring spree in the 2nd period.
Third, the Warriors have shown creativity with player rotation. Everyone knows his role and executes his role really well. One good example is the rotation of the Warriors big men: Zaza, McGee, and West. The Bulls did the same with Cartwright, Wennington, Salley, Dele, Longley, and Perdue. One glaring weakness in last year's NBA Finals for the Warriors was the lack of interior presence. Not the case this year.
Lastly, the Warriors broke the record for most victories in an NBA regular season and tied the record for best postseason run by losing just once. In fact the Warriors won 15 straight games in the postseason. If not for their collapse in Games 5 - 7 in last year's NBA Finals, we would be celebrating a three-peat.
The fact the Warriors did not win the title last year, however, is what makes winning the championship this year so special. Of course acquiring Kevin Durant last summer made a big difference but keep in mind that Durant passed on the opportunity to get a longer term deal elsewhere and signed for less money per year than what he was capable of earning (even though $27+ million per year is not bad!).
As I mentioned in a post last year, not winning the 2016 title after winning 73 regular season games is kind of like letting the "one who got away". It still hurts but it's the body of work we must recognize from this team. Not even Magic Johnson and Larry Bird won every NBA Finals but their legacies are not tarnished by the losses. We remember the victories.
People tend to hate on the Warriors but keep in mind that the Warriors have shown more dedication to winning titles than any other current NBA team by resting key players when they should and playing an unselfish brand of basketball. Also, unlike previous NBA Champions like the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers who built mini-All Star teams via free agency, most of the players on the Warriors were home grown like Curry, Thompson, and Green. Even after the mass exodus of players last year like Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, the Warriors front office still found ways to supplant those players through the developmental league and the draft.
Now that Kevin Durant is a household name, he will most likely stay with Golden State for at least a couple more years. He may even stay when the Chase Center opens in the fall of 2019. Expect the Warriors to keep entertaining us and challenge for more championships for the next few years. Never in my wildest dreams would I think the Warriors would be one of the great sports franchises after decades of futility. Good times like these don't last forever but when we're living it, savor every moment!