It’s a debated word in the sports world, but it seems clear the recent run for the Golden State Warriors — winners of three of the last four NBA Finals, with the only miss coming after leading 3-1 and being overtaken by the world’s best player — qualifies for most definitions of the word.
But just when it seems the Warriors’ stranglehold on the NBA could never be stronger, change could be on its way.
Dub Dynasty: Warriors smash Cavs to cap NBA Finals sweep
First, consider Golden State’s salary situation. If Kevin Durant opts in to his $26.25 million player option next season, which I’m sure he will, the Warriors will have about nine players under contract and are already over the salary cap. Add five players to fill a 14-man roster and they’ll easily rocket into expensive salary tax territory.
Role players who contributed — Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney, JaVale McGee and David West, all of whom but West started games this season — are all free agents.
If Durant opts in, both he and Klay Thompson will be unrestricted free agents after next season, further pressuring the team’s pocketbook.
But that’s just the beginning. Chris Paul is a free agent, and LeBron James and Paul George both have player options to return to their teams or hit free agency. A possibly discontent Kawhi Leonard may find a new team.
Consider LeBron’s decision. Despite playing in his 15th season and eight straight Finals trips at age 33, he’s never looked better. But the Cavs were the fourth-best team in the East and needed LeBron’s broad shoulders to carry them to the Finals again. Their entire, flawed rotation outside of Jeff Green and Rodney Hood is under contract next year.
It seems clear he’ll leave Cleveland again, and he’s earned that luxury.
Much talk around LeBron revolves around Philadelphia. If he joins Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the young, talented 76ers who won 52 games this year, they could unseat Boston as the favorites in the East. The Sixers add a healthy Markelle Fultz and this year’s No. 10 draft pick as well.
Even more compelling is if he chooses Houston, joining forces with James Harden and Paul, the latter seeming smart to sign and return at that point. The Rockets had Golden State on the ropes with a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals and likely would have won the series if not for Paul suffering a hamstring injury.
George has long been linked to his native Los Angeles. He and LeBron could decide to come together on the Lakers, a franchise with lots of money to spend while still having young talent — Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram — to round out the rotation. Would Paul look to L.A. at that point, too?
And if The Decision 3.0 takes LeBron out of Cleveland again, do the Cavs enter a full rebuild and take trade offers for Kevin Love? Love’s addition to a fringe contender, say a team like the Utah Jazz, could make waves.
Maybe none of it matters. Durant, Thompson, Steph Curry and Draymond Green may be able to win titles no matter who else is around them.
But we’re not long from watching the possible shakeups unfold. The NBA Draft comes June 21 and free agency begins July 1.
As usual, the most interesting offseason in professional sports will be entertaining once again.