Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, the dynasties and the Warriors

After five consecutive and unbeaten finals in the West since 2014, the Warrriors have improved without Durant in these playoffs. Are they better with the forward or without it?


3 May 2014. It was the last time a West team won four games in a best-of-seven series to the Warriors and eliminated them before the Finals. Since then, they have reached the tie corresponding to the fight for the championship five times in a row. An almost unsolvable trajectory and a single slip, in 2016, which meant the only blemish on the curriculum of what is already a historical dynasty.

There are two stages that distinguish these Warriors very clearly. Two stages within a single era. As all the great teams, all construction has a process, and in Golden State they have lived their own. After many years of drought, Mark Jackson took the team, took them to the finals in 2013, and repeated in 2014 before being fired after that May 3, when they lost to the Clippers in the seventh game of the first round of the playoffs.

His departure and the arrival of Steve Kerr marked the advent of that first stage. 67-15 with Curry as MVP, ring in the first year of the former player on the benches, definitive explosions of Thompson and Green, MVP of the Finals for Iguodala ... there was everything. It was not a big surprise. The slump of the Spurs and the final dissolution of the Heat's big three left a vacancy that was occupied by the Oakland franchise after beating LeBron in the fight for the title.

The second year was a before and after. The 73-9 record was a historic milestone for the Warriors. However, the effort to get it took its toll on the qualifiers, where after suffering and being on the verge of elimination with the Thunder, they lost to the Cavaliers. They joined the stars, Draymond Green was not sanctioned in the fifth game, Curry did not put one in the seventh, they went back to a 3-1 ... but they fell. And the alarms went off. At least apparently. The voices prone to classic basketball, those that renegaban of the era of the tiple, rose to say that a record in regular season was worth nothing without the ring.

La franchise seemed to think the same. At this stage they had achieved the best record in the NBA two consecutive years, and in the second year Curry repeated MVP and Steve Kerr won the award for Best Coach of the Year. They had won a total of 140 games in the regular season and had fallen by 24 (85% wins). But the defeat in 2016 caused an earthquake that went out ... with the arrival of Kevin Durant.

The second stage and the confirmation of the dynasty

With the forward, the Warriors became, a priori, one of the best teams of the history. There was much controversy, and many voices against his arrival, although the most vilified was Durant himself, which Oklahoma would renege since then. The reality in this aspect is that the star is fighting for his third ring and that the Thunder do not pass the first round since his departure.

On one way or another, Golden State began a new stage. 67-15 in 2016-17, Green as Best Defender, and MVP of the Finals for Durant, the brand new signing of what was already a dynasty. And all in one of the biggest exhibitions in the history of the playoffs: 16-1. They could only start a match Cavs LeBron, which was in all at a time that is very recent but that seems far away for the current member of the Lakers.

Last year was really the champion team. Not for the regular season (58-24 and surpassed by the Rockets), but because they were no longer favorites. Voices were raised again, this time talking about the difficulty of an implosion of egos in the locker room as there was. The game did not work like yesterday. But they took out strength of weakness in the West finals, and injury to Chris Paul through, they recovered from a 3-2 to reach the Finals and sweep them to the Cavs (again LeBron) with Durant again as MVP.

Are the Warriors better without Durant?

This year it was considered, from the beginning, as the last one of the project. At least Durant's on the team. The forward said he was not going to forgive more money in the middle of a season in which the team seemed more vulnerable than ever. His departure at the end of the campaign, when he would become a free agent (the Kincks?) Seemed more likely than ever. The tension in the dressing room increased, and Green highlighted a reality that many were aware of. "Go away, we do not need you," the player told him, noting that they already won before their arrival. All this after the arrival of Counsins to the team, which generated a new horde of critics.

In playoffs, the feeling that Golden State play better without their best player became palpable. Durant was, until his injury, at 35 points per game and KerrHe came to compare with Jordan. But the team was not working well, had missed two games against the Clippers in the first round and went with the series tied against the Rockets. In his absence, 5-0 for the Warriors (6-0 if we count the match in which he was injured). And his players have improved. Curry, who was at 23 points per game with poor shooting percentages, has gone to 36 without the wing . Green, who was in 13 + 9 + 8, is in 15 + 11 + 8 in these last 5 duels. Thompson averaged 17 points per game. Now 23. They are the essence of the team. The big three with which the project was built and which plays better (apparently) without Durant next.

There are things that must be taken into account. The criticisms that talk about the super team that the NBA has allowed to form are plausible only in part. It can not be forgotten that Curry, Thompson and Green are rounds of the draft that the Warriors selected in their day and through which they have built a winning project. The signing of Durant is within the parameters and the legality of the League, and the NBA has mechanisms to match the competition. In Oakland, players have forgiven money and have adjusted their stats to keep winning. And they have done it perfectly and with great results.

All dynasties have their criticisms. Popovich had to do tanking to choose Duncan and the result was 5 rings. Phil Jackson has won 11, but some say he has trained the best player of all time (Jordan) , one of the best players in history (Kobe) and the most dominant pivot of his generation (Shaq). The big three of the LeBron Heat also had to suffer theirs. In the end, all the great champions have aroused the criticism of the fans at some point.

As to whether Golden State is better with or without Durant, the taste of the fans is ultimately the one that dictates the sentence. With it, the Warriors have dominated less in the regular season (182-64, 69% lower than the 85% they reached in the first two seasons of the Kerr era). But they are unbeaten in playoffs (two rings in two years at the expense of what happens this season) and have had the most successful final phase in history (16-1 in 2017, only comparable to the 15-1 that Kobe and Shaq achieved in 2001). His influence is clear. Since he left the Thunder, they do not raise their heads, and since he arrived in Okland, the franchise has not stopped winning. In the end, the conclusion may be as follows: The Warriors play better without Durant, but they are better with him .

Is the dynasty over?

Only to see what will happen this season. Everything has its end, and the champion teams conclude for different reasons. Secondaries like Iguodala or Livingston are getting older, but the core of the team, which includes Durant, is at the maturity of his career. At the expense of what happens in a final in which they will face Bucks or Raptors, what is clear is that this summer many things will be decided.

Five finishes in a row, three rings in four years that could be four in five, unbeaten in the West since 2014 ... Durant is the only one who can leave the team in summer. If the forward decides to stay, there will be a new chapter to increase a dynasty that, despite the doubts generated, has certified to be in full form and not have lost hunger for titles. What happens if he leaves? Well, we've seen what these Warriors are capable of. That they could keep winning. They have already shown it.



Photos from as.com

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