COUTURE: NBA Preview, The Warriors’ Flaw in Their Armor
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NBA Preview

Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

Western Conference Playoff Predictions

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For everywhere outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, July 5 was a crushing day for the NBA. In an article posted in The Players’ Tribune, forward Kevin Durant announced his intentions to sign with the Golden State Warriors, a team that just made NBA history with a 73-9 regular season record.

The announcement signaled the beginning of the end for the 2016-17 season. According to Vegas, the Warriors have an “odds-on” chance of winning the title, meaning they have a greater-than-even chance to win. Currently, the odds sit at two-thirds, meaning that a $150 bet would only yield $100 in return. If it seems nonsensical to place a bet just to end up losing money on a win, just remember that the Warriors’ starting five has four of the arguably top 15 players, including two of the top three, and it makes perfect sense.

While praise is well-deserved for this intimidating Warriors squad, the NBA community seems to be reluctant to discuss even the faintest possibility of a weakness for this team. The Warriors might have the best on-paper roster ever assembled, but there are certain traits that all championship-caliber teams must possess to avoid certain 3-1 playoff series collapses.

Admittedly, I was initially with the rest of the community. I saw no flaws with the Warriors’ overpowered roster and did not even think a transition period would be necessary. In a previous column, I predicted the Warriors to get 75 wins in the season and made multiple references to the rest of the NBA competing for second place. Granted, it was a generous prediction, but the fact that it is within the realm of possibility is probably why more people will make the switch to college basketball this year.

Yet, as I watched this star-studded team defend its title odds in Oracle Arena last night, I could not help but notice obvious flaws that left me somewhat unimpressed. In fairness, the opposition was no joke, as the Spurs are led by the NBA’s brightest and most disciplined coach Gregg Popovich, along with a superstar in forward Kawhi Leonard. It also was Durant’s first game with his new team. That said, the Warriors exhibited several flaws they will have to fix to uphold their dominant reputation.

Most noticeably, the team looked careless with the ball. This has nothing to do with Durant just joining the team, as a careless turnover from guard Steph Curry cost the Warriors a repeat title last year. The ball movement at times was spectacular, but this was overshadowed by lacking discipline and a crippling tendency to turn the ball over.

More pertinent to the Durant signing, Golden State might simply have too much talent. I did not think this would be an issue until I watched a game live, but nearly every shot taken suffered from what I call “shot opportunity cost.” This basically means that for almost every shot taken outside of a wide-open Curry three-pointer, there was likely a better shot available, simply due to the amount of star power on this team. For example, for every contested Durant catch-and-shoot, guard Klay Thompson or Curry was likely open somewhere else. The same is true for the reverse.

While this ultimately will not stop the Warriors from landing good shots, it does beg the question of if and how each star will sacrifice his role to help this team. Despite the talent of the team, a lot of the Warriors’ players are one-dimensional, including Thompson and Curry, whose main contribution to the team is perimeter shooting. Unlike forward Draymond Green, who can focus on becoming a defensive stalwart, the sacrifices Thompson and Curry will have to make might not be accounted for elsewhere in their games.

It sounds ridiculous, but Golden State’s largest vulnerability might be itself. The dichotomy between Curry and Durant will be a storyline to follow too, as Durant forfeited the keys to multiple organizations to join a team already championed by the best shooter in league history.

In the end, Golden State will likely still end up winning and will probably finish north of 70 wins too. But it was both refreshing and surprising to see the overly lauded team struggle at home, a place where it was virtually untouchable last year. It remains to be seen whether success against this Golden State team is sustainable, but if last night foreshadowed the true weakness of this team, then we might be faced with the first team ever that is simply too powerful for its own good.

Evan Couture is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. At The Buzzer appears every other Friday.

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