By Adam Hensley
Another NBA season has come and gone. And if we’re being honest, many could have predicted which team would have won the Finals from the season’s tip.
Golden State was the team to beat. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green make up the most cohesive four-man unit in the league. And a team with LeBron James and Kevin Love was never a good matchup, despite James’ heroics.
Who knows, if J.R. Smith could have remembered the score in Game 1, we could be still in the midst of the Finals (side note: Almost everyone forgets that George Hill, an 80 percent free-throw shooter, clanked the go-ahead freebie moments before Smith’s blunder. I love selective memory).
Speaking of selective memory, a series sweep sure does erase memories of a potential Cavalier win at Golden State and a terrible shooting performance in Game 3 by every Warrior not named Durant.
I seriously believe that if Cleveland had stolen a game in Oakland, the series would be completely different. After all, if the Cavaliers had won, James wouldn’t have punched the whiteboard.
If Durant doesn’t go off in Game 3, Cleveland wins, thanks to Curry’s and Thompson’s disastrous shooting.
Then again, the what-if game is a dangerous plaything. Almost as dangerous as a high-powered super team such as Golden State.
I see all these arguments, whether on Twitter or Facebook, about how Durant ruined the NBA by going to Golden State. That’s not true.
People like to forget that Golden State’s core three of Curry, Thompson, and Green are all homegrown talent (Golden State drafted and groomed them into the stars they are today). Golden State lost to James and Cleveland in the NBA Finals before acquiring Durant, so its thought process behind that was to sign a player capable of putting them over the top (some will argue that they already had the pieces, but I’m here to advocate doing what you think is necessary to win a championship).
I’d be a hypocrite if I said Durant leaving Oklahoma City was a bad thing (at first, I was upset about it, but then I realized that was because he didn’t sign with the Boston Celtics. Had he chosen to wear the Celtic Green, I’d be sitting here writing about how it was the best decision in the history of the NBA).
So here we are, patiently waiting for free-agency madness to start after yet another Warrior title. But this year, there will be another team legitimately contending with Golden State for a title — that team will be whichever one James decides to sign with, if he chooses to leave Cleveland.
I’ve gone through plenty of the different scenarios: James teaming up with Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston, a Gregg Popovich-James duo in San Antonio, James and Paul George teaming up in Los Angeles to bring the showtime Lakers back from the dead, and The Process finally reaching completion when James signs with Philadelphia.
Regardless, I believe that the Warriors winning title No. 3 in four years couldn’t have happened at a better time. Because there will be another team that will have a prime shot at taking down the latest NBA dynasty.
Golden State faced its share of troubles against Houston in the Western Conference Finals and even struggled at times against Cleveland in the NBA Finals, demonstrating that the Warriors are in fact beatable. Oh, how an NBA title sure blocks out memories of a 3-2 deficit to the Rockets.
Selective memory tends to overshadow James each year; people call for Harden as the MVP, despite James having better statistics and being the entire reason Cleveland went to the Finals.
This summer will change NBA history. James, for once in his career, won’t be criticized for leaving Cleveland. And the Warriors might want to keep their heads on swivel mode. Big things are coming, especially from wherever James opts to sign. Let’s not forget that.