The 2017 offseason was the wildest in NBA history. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are now Eastern Conference rivals. Out West, Chris Paul joined James Harden, while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony united with Russell Westbrook. Ten recent All–Stars changed uniforms, and we haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s strange summer, so let’s get to previewing. The 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us.
2016-17 finish: 67-15, NBA champions
• Offensive rating: 113.2 (1st)
• Defensive rating: 101.1 (2nd)
Did the summer help at all?
The Warriors celebrated their 2017 NBA championship by re-signing two-time Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, the guy whose willingness to create space for Kevin Durant made last year’s run to the title possible. They got Durant, fresh off a brilliant postseason performance en route to NBA Finals MVP honors, to re-sign at a “remarkable” discount that made it more palatable to ownership to re-sign key veteran reserves Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
They brought back last year’s three-man center rotation — Zaza Pachulia, David West and the redeemed JaVale McGee — for a shade under $8 million. They added two more sniping wings — the immortal Swaggy P and the perpetually underrated Casspi — for another $7.5 million. They took advantage of a Chicago Bulls team looking for cash to defray buyout costs, shipping $3.5 million to Illinois to score the rights to second-round draft pick Jordan Bell, who’s earned praise all summer as a perfect-fit Draymond Green-in-training for his ability to slot in as a small-ball five.
Oh, right, Draymond! Yeah, they still have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, who remains arguably Golden State’s most important player for the way he unlocks their positional and lineup versatility. Klay Thompson, too: Golden State still has one of the best perimeter defenders and deadliest shooters in the league, a guy capable of going supernova in a heartbeat who is also totally at home as the No. 3 option and No. 4 attention-getter on the best team in the world. So that’s cool!
The Warriors brought back all of the most important parts of the team that won 67 games and went 16-1 in the postseason, added two hand-in-glove reserve shooters and an intriguing prospect for their deadly downsized style, and have their head coach back healthy, in fine form and spoiling for a fight. They are deeper now. They are whole.
And while they watched the rest of the NBA’s would-be elite aim to rise to meet them — LeBron James and Kevin Love bringing in Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade in Cleveland, Chris Paul joining James Harden in Houston, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward siding with Al Horford and coach Brad Stevens in Boston, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony linking up with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler teaming with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota — to a man, they expect to be better this time around. After all, they figured out last season how to navigate the potentially tricky problem of integrating Durant into the existing framework of the best team in the NBA. Now, they’ll know exactly who they are and how it all works from the opening tip.
So, yeah. Decent summer. How was yours?
Best-case scenario: After falling just shy of the mark last year, the Warriors lead the NBA in points scored and allowed per possession as Steve Kerr and his brand of merry pranksters continue to find new and interesting ways to unleash hell on opposing defenses. The Warriors win 70-plus games for the second time in three years, obliterate all comers in the postseason — much to the delight of Draymond, natch — and win their third championship in four years, adding support for the argument that we’re witnessing one of the greatest runs of any team in NBA history.
If everything falls apart: At least two of the Curry-Durant-Green-Thompson contingent misses significant time to injury, putting an outsized burden on the remaining All-Stars and making it impossible for Kerr to deploy the sort of regular rest that helped keep his top guns fresh throughout last season. West and Iguodala start showing their age and fall off. Up front, the Bell/Kevon Looney/Damian Jones group isn’t equipped to play at a high level behind the veteran bigs, leaving Golden State susceptible to teams capable of bullying the Dubs on the interior. Young and Casspi struggle to get acclimated, and Patrick McCaw takes a step back on the wing, resulting in Golden State looking thinner on the wing than we anticipated.
The Warriors aren’t healthy come May, and get picked off before the conference finals by Houston, Oklahoma City or San Antonio. We remember that nobody’s unbeatable, that anything can happen in sports, and that empires fall, because that’s what they do.
Best guess at a record: 68-14
Read all of Ball Don’t Lie’s 2017-18 NBA Season Previews:
Atlanta Hawks • Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Charlotte Hornets • Chicago Bulls • Cleveland Cavaliers • Detroit Pistons • Indiana Pacers • Miami Heat • Milwaukee Bucks • New York Knicks • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Toronto Raptors • Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Golden State Warriors • Houston Rockets • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Minnesota Timberwolves • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Utah Jazz