The Golden State Warriors made the biggest splash of the 2016 NBA offseason when they convinced Kevin Durant to leave Oklahoma City and come to Oakland. Durant’s decision shocked the entire NBA community and instantly made the Warriors heavy favorites to win their second NBA title in three seasons if they weren’t the favorites already.
With Durant on board, the Warriors’ starting lineup now features three NBA MVP Awards, 13 All-Star appearances, and seven All-NBA First-Team appearances between Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, and Zaza Pachulia. The team is loaded with firepower, but I’m going to tell you why it won’t translate to a championship in 2016-17.
1. Defensive Deficiencies
Although four of five projected starters finished inside the top 40 in NBA defensive rating, losing Andrew Bogut will be a bigger loss than people realize. Bogut orchestrated the defense and was a true rim protector. Pachulia is a great rebounder, but he doesn’t offer the same type of interior defense that Bogut provided which could cause some serious problems.
2. Not As Much Depth
In order to make room for Durant’s contract, the Warriors had to let Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, Brandon Rush, and Festus Ezeli leave via free agency in addition to trading Bogut to the Dallas Mavericks. The team was able to re-sign Shaun Livingston and Anderson Varejao while adding David West via free agency to combine with Andre Iguodala, but the bench is much shorter than it has been the last couple years for the Warriors.
3. Lack Of Chemistry
Most people assume that a team with this much talent should be able to come in and dominate right away. That rarely ever happens because it takes time for everyone to learn to play with each other. If you’ll remember, the Miami Heat struggled right out of the gates after LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in South Beach. In fact, the team didn’t win a championship until their second year together.
With so many new pieces on the roster, it’s going to take awhile for the players to truly gel and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The reason the Warriors were able to win 73 games and nearly win their second straight championship last season was because the entire team remained intact from the season prior. That certainly won’t be the case in 2016-17.
4. Weakness Inside
As mentioned above, Pachulia is a serviceable center, but he doesn’t possess a defensive prowess at the level of Andrew Bogut. The only true rim protector on the roster is rookie Damian Jones from Vanderbilt and it’s unlikely that head coach Steve Kerr will give him much run in his first season. Teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Los Angeles Clippers could give the Warriors problems down low.
5. Loss Of Luke Walton
Walton was Kerr’s right-hand man and had a ridiculous ability to figure out matchups that the Warriors could take advantage of. With Walton now in Los Angeles, Kerr will have to rely more on his own thoughts and those of new top assistant Mike Brown. There will likely be a bit of a transition process with the coaching staff as well, as Brown tries to earn Kerr’s trust.
Everyone wants to anoint the Warriors as 2016-17 NBA Champions, and while they are certainly the most talented team in the NBA, it takes more than talent to win championships in pro sports. Don’t be surprised if the Golden State Warriors and Kevin Durant don’t win the NBA title next season. It’s a much more difficult task than it may seem.
[Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]