“They’ve been the best team all season long statistically,” stated Mark Jackson, who coached the Warriors for three seasons (2011-2014) before becoming a full-time NBA analyst for ESPN. He has called more league Finals (nine) on television than any other Black NBA analyst.
The new champions didn’t become this ‘super’ team overnight, despite last off-season’s acquisition of Kevin Durant, added Turner Sports’ Kenny Smith. “The Warriors got good a couple of years ago,” he pointed out, reminding folks that the team won it all in 2015. “People thought they were pretty good, but they became the best team. Klay [Thompson] wasn’t a child prodigy. Steph Curry was not a child prodigy. These guys have developed into that and won 73 games [last season] without Kevin Durant. There are teams that can do what Golden State have done — develop players into this system we see today.”
Chris Webber, also of Turner Sports, adds that Draymond Green is the undisputed emotional heart of Golden State. “Everybody gets caught up in how he yells at the refs, but they never see how when he yells at the refs, two plays later, he’ll get a charge,” explained Webber, who like Green is a native Michigander. “I’d say [Durant’s] defensive improvement is owed to being around Draymond Green.
“Knowing Draymond Green and his family as long as I’ve known him, I think the best thing that he has to offer is his heart,” continued Webber. “It’s not talking or anything like that. It’s really hard to find a glue guy like that. That’s him really playing, really coming through, showing the team that they can depend on him to do his job every day of being defensive-minded.”
Both Jackson and fellow analyst Jeff Van Gundy were asked if the Warriors are the template on how the game has changed.
“The Warriors are the template for any period of time when you want to be great on offense and great on defense and have a huge talent differential,” assessed Van Gundy. “I think the way the game is being played at the lower levels, the three-point shot is obviously a huge weapon. I don’t think a lot of guys want to take the time, nor do teams want to take the time, to learn about how to effectively use a post player.
“I used to love back in the ‘90s, watching teams play differently,” he continued. “From the Phoenix Suns pushing it up, quick pick-and-rolls with all their great point guards, Kevin Johnson, etc. The Bulls were a mid-tempo team running the triangle. You had Utah with their 1-4 offense. You had Hakeem Olajuwon [and] three-point shooting Rockets. So there were varying styles. I found that more enjoyable to watch when there were different styles.”
“One thing that you realize is the [NBA is a] copycat league, and that’s an unfortunate thing,” surmised Jackson. “Because teams are trying to duplicate what the Warriors are doing without the same cast. I’m talking about three all-time great shooters in Curry, Durant and Thompson in their starting lineup.
“I’m talking about on the defensive end — three great defenders in Durant, Green and Thompson. [Zaza] Pachulia [is] a very good defender. And Steph Curry is very good competitor that understands schemes defensively.
“So you’re trying to copy them when you don’t have the same cast, and it’s not going to bring the same result,” he concluded.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.