It didn’t take long for the talk of next year to take over conversations about the Warriors, but before we all become consumed with discussions of whether James Wiseman should be traded, who should be drafted and how much Klay Thompson can be counted on, it’s worthwhile to look back on what was really a pretty amazing season.
39-33? Amazing? Two turnover-plagued losses in the play-in? Amazing?
Of course, Steph Curry was amazing, putting on a dazzling show the entire season, but aside from Curry, there weren’t that many SportsCenter highlights. Draymond Green is spectacular to basketball geeks like me, and Andrew Wiggins is, according to the advanced stats, an average NBA player, and neither makes fans jump off their couch and spill their beer.
And after those two, what do you have? The heart-warming story of Juan Toscano-Anderson (I won’t bore you with it again) who averaged a robust 5.3 points per game? The improvement of Jordan Poole (aside from the inexplicable turnover at the end of the Memphis game)? Kelly Oubre’s shaky shooting and shakier ballhandling? Kevon Looney’s 4.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game?
And yet, despite all that, the Warriors were not only a fun team to watch, but an overachieving one as well. Consider the names listed above, and compare them to the names on the Lakers’ roster (a team that finished with three more regular season wins)? Or the Boston Celtics (36-36)? Or even New Orleans (31-41)?
I get that the sporting world is focused on rings and titles and postseason parades. I understand that a lot of people think second place means first loser. I know that many feel this Warriors’ season wasted one of the great individual performances in league history and its ending in frustration and disappointment was a sad exclamation point.
But let’s go back to that list of names – Toscano-Anderson, Oubre, Poole, Looney and so on down the line – and think a little longer. Who would have expected that group to win 39 games in a 72-game season? Who could have anticipated that only a long three-pointer by LeBron James and an unlikely three-pointer from Xavier Tillman, both with the shot clock expiring, kept the Warriors from moving on?
And really, what would they have moved on to? The Warriors’ chances of winning a seven-game series with Mychal Mulder in the rotation were minuscule, though of course it would have been fun to see some more Curry magic and Green legerdemain.
But let’s go back to two names: Juan Toscano-Anderson and Mychal Mulder. How many teams in the NBA would have gone as far as the Warriors did with those two playing important minutes? Again, Toscano-Anderson is a great story and so, in his own way, is Mulder, but we’re talking professional sports, and feel-good narratives don’t put points on the board.
But somehow, this Warriors’ team managed to put more points on the board than its opponents. Somehow, it managed to take the star-laden Lakers to the final seconds, and the younger, deeper, bigger, stronger Grizzlies to overtime. If you’re talking titles, of course, it doesn’t matter much, but if you’re talking exceeding expectations, then this is Grade A material.
Which brings us, at long last, to Steve Kerr. In general, at every level, coaches are as good as their talent, and Kerr could no more magic up a title run out of this group than he could have turned his limited skills into a Hall of Fame playing career. But what Kerr can do that many coaches can’t is not only get the most out of talented teams (witness the rings) but also out of marginal teams. For these undermanned Warriors to get as far as they did, and as close as they did, is as much a tribute to Kerr and his staff as it is to the grittiness and competitiveness of the players.
So before we move on to criticizing James Wiseman, or demanding that Kelly Oubre be re-signed (or dealt), or coming up with trades that wouldn’t even fly in fantasy leagues, let’s take a moment to look back on this season, on Curry’s brilliance, on all that went wrong and all that went right.
Take that moment. Take a sip of whatever’s in front of you. Think about who the Warriors ran out there every night. Think about how much fun they were to watch.
So yes, “amazing” is the word.