Is this the end of the Warriors?
For the last five years, the Warriors have ruled over the NBA. From blowing out teams in the third quarter to winning championships, they have been on a whole other level while the rest of the NBA struggles to keep up. While they have faced some challenges over this run, they might be facing their biggest obstacle yet: free agency.
Two of the Warriors five starters, Demarcus Cousins and Klay Thompson, will be unrestricted free agents this summer. Kevin Durant has a player option, which he is expected to turn down.
Thompson is expected to receive a max contract of five years, $190 million from Golden State. Durant can sign a five-year, $219 million contract this summer if he opts out of his contract. Golden State will be very far over the luxury tax.
Another problem is rumors that Durant might leave.
It’s well known that Draymond Green and Durant got into it with each other in a game against the Clippers back in November. According to reports, the argument was about Durant’s impending free agency this summer. While that might mean little, since sports are filled with a lot of heated arguments between teammates, this might be a big deal when it comes to Durant’s legacy.
Ever since he signed with the Golden State Warriors back in 2016, people have questioned whether or not he win a title without Steph Curry. Even though he has been arguably the best player on the warriors since he came there, the team doesn’t play that well when Curry isn’t on the court.
In fact, without Curry in the lineup and Durant in, the Warriors are 5-6 this season. Their offensive numbers are noticeably lower when Steph is off the court, which shows that he’s the engine for the Warriors offense.
Another reason that Durant might want to leave is to prove that he can beat Lebron without having such a stacked team. Before he joined the Warriors, Durant was 4-17 against Lebron, including a 4-1 series loss in the 2012 NBA finals against the Heat. Since Durant joined the Warriors, however, he has a 10-2 lead over Lebron, ironically with back-to-back championship wins against the Cavaliers.
When Durant didn’t have an overwhelmingly better team than Lebron, the records in their head-to-head matchups were not close. Most people view Lebron as the better player, but Durant on the better team.
Durant has made it well known that he not only believes that he’s the best player in the world, but he wants other people to believe that as well. In order to prove that he is, he will have to leave Golden State and show that he can win championships and beat Lebron without a team that won 73 games backing him up.
Steve Kerr said that he doesn’t expect Cousins to be back next season because he will be worth too much money this summer. Prior to tearing his achilles against the Rockets last year, Cousins was averaging 47 percent shooting from the field. He would have had a max contract last offseason if he was healthy.
Since teams weren’t sure about his health, the Warriors were able to sign Cousins for a one year, $5.3 million contract. Cousins is showing that he’s basically the same player he was before, outside of some conditioning issues. One thing is for sure, he won’t sign this offseason for $5 million. If Cousins chases the max contract, which he would have had last year, the Warriors won’t be able afford him.
Thompson has already said that he won’t take a hometown discount and rightfully so. He’s contributed a great deal to this Warriors dynasty, even if he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
Whether it’s splashing 3-pointers, defending the other teams best guard or bailing out the Warriors when needed, there are plenty of examples of Thompson coming in clutch in game six situations. He has been a consistent option who’s always been there whenever he’s been needed.
The Warriors haven’t been challenged much over the past five years. Part of that is injuries on other teams, such as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in 2015, Kawhi Leonard in 2017 and Chris Paul in 2018. The biggest reason, however, is that the Warriors have simply just been better than every team they have faced in the last five years.
This, however, might be one challenge that they can’t overcome though.
Zachary Smith is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.