This year’s NBA Finals has been compelling but not great. There have been key moments and clutch shots but in contrast there has been many minutes of viewing time spent watching poor offense and 10-15 point leads. What has been truly interesting about this Finals is what it reveals about the current dynasty, it’s key players, and the issues with a super team.
Steph Curry – What He Is and Isn’t
Steph Curry is a Hall of Famer. He has changed the game of basketball with his shooting. He is the greatest shooter the game has ever seen. That much is obvious. His off-the-ball play is unique and refreshing. He took what Reggie Miller and Rip Hamilton started to a whole new level. Steph gives hope to all of the undersized guards who are coming up. His handles are exciting and play right into his shooting. He is an under-appreciated inside scorer and rebounder. Most importantly, he is the reason for the current dynasty. Steph Curry is the heartbeat of the Warriors and has been since the beginning. His selflessness in playing alongside of other great players is exemplary. Steph makes the Warriors. He will go down as an all-time PG (top-5) and will be celebrated as a revolutionary. Steph Curry is tremendous.
We all know what he is. But this Finals has shown what he is not. When Steph was limited by injury, who carried this Warriors team through key games and series’? Kevin Durant. Until he went down, Durant was even outshining the greatness of Kawhi Leonard during the playoffs because of his own incredible numbers. Durant carried this team in many places. But, KD got hurt. Powering through, Steph, Klay & company won some key games against Houston and cruised through an outgunned Portland team to the Finals. So what happened since Portland? Everything has changed.
Toronto is not Portaland. Toronto is much better. Toronto and a host of injuries has revealed the limitations of Steph Curry. Steph and the Warriors are down 3-1 now, with almost no hope of a comeback. Lebron did it against the Warriors recently, so why can’t Steph? Because Steph can’t carry a team like Lerbon can. Steph can’t carry a team like Kevin Durant can. What do we see now that makes Steph unable to make up for the losses of other players?
A few observations. Steph does not isolate well, nor can he break out of double-teams. Steph cannot dominate on the interior or get to the free throw line on a regular basis. His defense does not change games (though it is not as bad as they all say). Steph is not made to be ball dominant and because of that during some possessions he may not even touch the ball.
Steph was supposed to get his Finals MVP this year. Durant was out, and Steph was going to get that Finals MVP. But then Iguodala got hurt and has been limited. Looney, who has played key roles and minutes this year has been limited by injury. Durant hasn’t been able to play. They have no bench and no scoring on the interior and no guard scoring outside of Steph and Klay. Klay even went down for a game which almost never happens. Steph, scoring 47 and playing his guts out, still couldn’t get the win. That wasn’t his fault and they just need to get one game back to even it up. Now, they will likely not get the series. Steph got Klay back but between the suffocating defense of Toronto, their multi-featured scoring offense, and Steph being off they lost again. They didn’t have the offensive punch because they have very little depth and because Steph could not impact the game in enough ways.
As much as a I enjoy Steph we must all admit that he is limited. He is not limited by shooting range, ball skills, or selfishness. He is limited by the amount of ways he can impact a game.
The Cost of a Super Team
Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors after they won 73 games and lost to LBJ and the Cavaliers after going up 3-1 in the NBA Finals. That Warriors team should not have lost, but they did. So, they went out and got KD. Fans everywhere screamed and were outraged. The Warriors went on to the Finals two years in a row and beat the Cavaliers, soundly each time. This is all wonderful for Warriors fans, but there is a cost. What is the cost?
The cost is that the Warriors are now a team where injuries are their biggest enemy. As noted above, injuries have plagued this Warriors team in the Finals. The Warriors traded their bench and key role players to get Kevin Durant. A good move in most regards, except when looking at their depth. This is unavoidable and true of all super teams. They have no depth. If KD gets hurt they have no one to make up the difference.
Draymond Green is an example of this. As great as he is at multiple things, he is not someone that can score. It is not that he chooses not to score under normal circumstances and then turns it on when others go down. No, he literally cannot score in bunches. Livingston and Iguodala are not big scorers. Cousins, another former all-star added this year, has been largely disappointing and ineffective coming off of an injury. Guys like Jordan Bell and Quinn Cook are asked to fill in the gap and simply cannot. This team is now built to have Kevin Durant in the lineup and without him the team struggles to score.
“Strength in Numbers”, the Warriors team motto and culture went from meaning guys 1-10 on the roster to meaning guys 1-5. When one of those guys goes down everything changes because guys 6-10 are not really going to contribute, especially on offense. This is the cost of a super team. Toronto on the other hand, ironically examples true “Strength in Numbers.”
This does not mean getting Kevin Durant was a poor decision. This does not mean Steph Curry isn’t spectacular. This doesn’t mean that the Warriors are done, though they probably are. It simply means that there is always a cost in building a super team.