By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
With its clean sweep of Portland, the Golden State Warriors dynasty has officially made it to the NBA Finals for a fifth straight season, something only one other franchise — the Celtics from 1957 to 1966 — have done in NBA history.
The Warriors have clearly put their own unique spin on what makes for continuous success in the NBA and they’ve clearly allowed themselves space within the annals of greatest pro basketball franchises.
But such a long, uninterrupted stretch of great play causes one to wonder you have to wonder which season of recent Warriors could be the peak challengers within this half a decade of dominance? Especially given all the recent talk and comparing of the current Warriors and whether they are better with or without Kevin Durant?
Did the Dubs’ dynasty peak pre-Durant’s arrival in 2016 or has it only gotten better with time? Here are my ranked predictions of the best Warriors teams within the last five years.
5. 2014-15 Warriors – With a 67-15 record, this is the first championship team the Warriors have established since Rick Barry in 1975, and ultimately the beginning of the dynasty we know today. With Steve Kerr serving as the first year head coach, Stephen Curry was the league’s MVP and the main leader that made this team go offensively with Klay Thompson coming right behind him.
They both averaged roughly 22 points a game each and shot 47 percent from the field and 44 percent from three, earning the dynamic duo name the Splash Brothers. Draymond Green was not the best player that we know he can be, but he was very solid in his production. But the bottomline was the team was top 2 in offensive and defensive ratings and no one had answer for Steph defensively. His offensive presence was too much for teams to handle, especially in the playoffs, where he averaged 28 points a game on 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from the three.
Talent wise, the bench was also top notch, and at the time featured players like David Lee, Maurice Speights, Festus Ezili, Leandro Barbosa and young Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston; players that had/have very successful NBA careers and at one point and time were stars on their previous teams. This championship run started the beginning of one of the best rivalries ever created featuring King James himself.
4. 2017-18 Warriors – The Warriors simply went through struggles of playing at a high level during the regular season, and part of it was three consecutive post-season runs that ended in the NBA Finals. They were very up and down, but ultimately locked in when the playoffs started.
This postseason is where we identified the separation of whose team is which between Kevin Durant and Curry and it mainly showed in the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets. The offense became more stagnant in an isolation type of style when KD has the ball, but Steph’s movement and ability to impact the game through his skillset opens up the floor for others to excel, which is what makes the Warriors so hard to guard defensively.
From a talent perspective, KD was by far the best player on the court. However, Steph is the engine that kept this team’s offense running at a high rate. The team finished top 11 in offense and defense, and the bench was not as skilled due to having three players (including two top 5 players and former MVP’s of the league) scoring over 20 points a game and shooting over 45 percent from the field and 42 percent from the three.
Durant also hit that big time three-point shot over LeBron to seal the deal in game 3 of the Finals in Cleveland, the same shot he made in the 2017 Finals.
3. 2015-16 Warriors – This specific Warriors team was legendary. Stephen Curry became the league’s first unanimous MVP and they broke the league’s best record with winning 73 regular season games that season, including a 39-4 record with current Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton leading the way due to Steve Kerr going through medial procedures.
They were only 19th in opponents scoring, but they ended the season with a top 5 defensive rating and the top offensive rating in the league. This team was significant because they had relatively the same bench as the previous season, and they overcame a 3-1 deficit to KD’s Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals to advance to the championship.
This legendary team unfortunately could not seal the deal with adding a championship to this historic season, losing a 3-1 deficit to LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers that featured so many historical highlights (ex: James’ chase down block on Iguodala and Kyrie Irving’s go ahead 3-point shot to seal the deal) and most importantly solidified James as an all-time great, bringing his hometown their only championship in their franchise history. This is the series that made the Warriors go after Durant.
2. 2016-17 Warriors – The 2016-17 Warriors brought dominance from the beginning of the season until the end. With the addition of Durant, the Warriors were truly unstoppable on both ends of the floor. They were top 2 in offensive and defensive ratings, had three guys (Durant, Curry and Thompson) score over 20 points a game while also shooting roughly 40 percent from three and 45 percent from the field.
Come playoff time, Steph and KD elevated their game, averaging close to 30 points a game each. Their bench was not as strong as the previous two seasons, but they had so much start power in the starting lineup that they made up for what their bench lacked.
The Warriors never experienced a Game 6 in any series and finished the playoffs with a 16-1 record, a game that featured Durant’s infamous shot over LeBron James in the 4th quarter of Game 3 in Cleveland.
1. 2018-19 Warriors – This season’s Warriors team may not be the best overall talented team depending on the area of the team you’re talking about, but it is definitely the most impactful, and if they win this championship they can be the best team in Warriors history due to everything they have gone up against all season long.
Between the KD and Draymond Green in-game incident/beef, KD’s free agency rumors and then the ups and downs of DeMarcus Cousins’ injuries, especially in the playoffs, some people questioned whether the Warriors have enough to make it to win the NBA Finals. Although winning in six games, the Warriors struggled more than usual against the Clippers. KD got hurt in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals and both Cousins and Durant missed the Conference Finals.
Through the core players of Steph, Klay and Draymond, they have been able to play at a high level, and the bench play (which is not the best bench the Warriors have had over the dynasty years) stepped up, playing at a rate not many people expected. If these core guys can win a championship, whether Cousins and KD come back to play or not, this will be the sweetest victory they have had in their postseason success.
This championship will show that this team is more than just talented, but a successful system featuring the original core members/creators of the dynamic culture.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media