The Golden State Warriors brought teamwork to a whole new level and won their first NBA title in 40 years. Do the Dubs belong in our basketball picks next year?
When was the last time we saw a team as good as the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors? According to the stat gurus at FiveThirtyEight, it's been 18 years. You have to go back to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls winning 69 games in 1996-97 to find anyone who did better than Golden State's +10.0 SRS (Simple Rating System) during the regular season. The Dubs had the league's most efficient defense and the No. 2-ranked offense, led by MVP Stephen Curry and supported by a bench filled with legitimate NBA talent. Oh, and they went 47-34-1 ATS last year.
That's all water under the bridge now. It'll be difficult enough for Golden State to beat the basketball odds in 2015-16 now that the bar has been raised so high. Will the Warriors even be able to keep the band together? It's going to take money. A whole lot of spending money. Let's see what the offseason holds for the defending champions, and whether or not we should look elsewhere for our NBA picks next season.
The good news for the Warriors is that nearly all their core players are already under contract. Curry (28.0 PER) isn't a free agent until 2016-17. Klay Thompson (20.8 PER) is locked up for another four seasons on a max extension that kicks in next year. There are only four players whose contracts have run out in Golden State, and only one of them is part of the team's core: Draymond Green (16.4 PER).
The bad news is that Green is due for a very healthy raise. Having made just over $900,000 last year, Green could be in line for a max deal after finishing eighth in the league in Real Plus-Minus at +6.85. That's one spot ahead of Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins (+6.12), and 20 spots better than Thompson (+3.82). Is Green worth the money? We'll let other people decide that. The Warriors are apparently going to do what they can to keep Green, so they obviously think very highly of him.
We're All a Little Looney
It's going to cost the Warriors more than just money. In order to fit under the cap, they'll have to move some pieces around and cut some corners. David Lee (17.8 PER) is due $15.5 million on the last year of his contract, so he's already got one foot out the door. The Dubs would probably have to package Lee with a draft pick, or maybe even two, in order for another team to absorb his contract.
Oh well. As happy as we were to see Lee contribute off the bench in the NBA Finals, Green is an upgrade – he essentially took Lee's job this year. And as we go to press, Golden State has drafted PF Kevon Looney out of UCLA with the No. 30 overall pick. Looney was projected to go in the middle of the first round, but a hip injury was enough to scare teams away. Assuming the Warriors keep this pick, and assuming he's healthy, Looney could step right into Lee's reduced role at a fraction of the cost.
Some more wheeling and dealing is expected around the league, so by the time you read this, you might already have a clearer picture of the situation in Oakland. But it's safe to say that the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors will look almost exactly the same as the team that just won the championship. All those team-friendly contracts the Warriors originally signed with Curry, Thompson, Green and others have given them the flexibility they need to add overhead. And with the salary cap set to jump from $67.1 million next year to $108 million in 2017-18, there will be even more room to maneuver going forward. Too bad all that money can't buy what we really need for our NBA picks: a pessimistic betting market.