It’s time to face the facts.
The Golden State Warriors are firing on all cylinders, having won 10 of their last 11 games. During this span, they have won with an average margin of 18 points and failed to eclipse 120 points just twice. In simply looking at the standings, it seems that the league is competitive, especially in the West. The first and eleventh seeded teams are separated by a mere 10 games. However, the standings don’t show the full picture. The Warriors have made a complete mockery of the NBA. If not for a controversial Draymond Green suspension in 2015, they would have won the last four NBA Championships. Come June, barring injuries, we will again see the confetti fall on Golden State whether we like it or not.
This season has been filled with exciting storylines: Jimmy Butler’s Uncle Scrooge-esque attitude in Minnesota and James Harden putting up scoring numbers we haven’t seen since His Airness graced the court. However, the fact of the matter is that professional sports organizations want postseason success. Right now, very few teams in the NBA are able to experience the levels of success they desire. The Golden State Warriors are the reason why. Rather than trying to fight the Warriors, teams should try their best to sit quietly and ride out this hurricane. That being said, there are teams that should try to compete with the Warriors, and teams that should not.
The Suns, Cavaliers, Knicks, Bulls, Hawks, and Magic are struggling mightily this season, and I couldn’t have more respect for them (Well, not Cleveland. The last time there was a team as bad as this season’s Cavs was the lockout year Charlotte Bobcats; the team that finished 9-59). As long as the Warriors roster remains intact, it’s as good a time as any to accumulate assets for the future through young players and draft picks.
Unfortunately, some teams don’t understand this concept.
There are three teams in the NBA right now that are in denial of the state of their franchise if their ultimate goal is to contend for a title. The first, of course, is the Washington Wizards. In the past few seasons, it is hard to find a more dysfunctional franchise than the Wizards. The lack of chemistry in the locker room is clear to see and the payroll is unsustainable. Outside of Bradley Beal, the Wizards have few desirable assets, so the dismantling of this team will be difficult. If the Wizards want to escape this trend of perpetual mediocrity, they need to shake things up their core of Otto Porter Jr, John Wall, and Bradley Beal. They do not have what it takes to lead a successful team and the front office needs to realize this.
Next up is the New Orleans Pelicans. The mismanagement of the Pelicans is criminal. How can a team have a top-5 talent in the NBA and fail to amount to more than a hurdle for contenders to hop over en route to meaningful playoff series? The front office has been hasty in their decision making, overpaying the likes of E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill as well as others in the past such as the Turkish big man Omer Asik. This franchise has shown that it is incapable of surrounding Anthony Davis with the pieces necessary to make a deep run in the playoffs, and Danny Ainge has a treasure chest up in Boston that the Pelicans are surely curious to explore when the offseason rolls around.
Finally, we have the Portland Trail Blazers. Yes, they are currently sitting at number four in the Western Conference. Yes, they boast the likes of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Time and time again we see that the Blazers simply can’t hang with the cream of the crop come playoff time. They’ve reached the postseason in each of the last five seasons only to lose in the first or second round. This backcourt duo is simply not equipped to breakthrough to the next level in the West, and there is realistically no way to make the moves necessary to compete in the near future. Thus, it seems the only way to set a strong foundation for the future is to blow up the roster and start anew.
When a dynasty like the Golden State Warriors rolls around, there is not much hope for the rest of the teams. There is the Daryl Morey approach of doing everything possible to compete, which the Rockets did indeed do last season, or there is the Atlanta Hawks method of stockpiling youth to live to fight another day. If the last four years has taught us anything, it is that the Warriors are not a super team you want to challenge. NBA franchises will continue to take the bait and add short-term talent in the hopes of knocking off Golden State, but the teams playing the long-con have the brightest futures.