They only won the championship because they didn’t face the top players. They set all those records because no one plays defense. They won 73 games because they’re facing a shallow talent pool.
Since the Golden State Warriors’ improbable championship run of a season ago, the inner naysayer of fans, players, coaches and pundits have searched high and low for proof of luck.
Many have taken to the old “you make your own luck” or “luck has no place in sports,” or any of the other countless stand-by clichés, in response. That is simply not true, though, as the Warriors have certainly relied on luck in building this recent run of success.
They weren’t lucky in being the first team ever to have an All-NBA First-Teamer, and face the other four in their 2015 playoff run.
They weren’t lucky in having to face the Western Conference’s No. 2 Houston Rockets seed and MVP runner-up James Harden instead of the three-seeded Los Angeles Clippers or six-seeded San Antonio Spurs. And make no mistake, today’s is a talent and defense rich league.
The Dubs are lucky to have the team that they do.
In 2009, an undersized, frail guard from Davidson College entered the NBA draft displaying excellent talent and the ability to perform under the most clutch of situations. The son of the Charlotte Hornets all-time franchise leading scorer, Stephen Curry even boasted an NBA lineage.
Despite leading an unknown college to a hard-fought loss against the eventual national champion Kansas Jayhawks in an epic Elite Eight battle the year prior, he fell to the seventh pick.
Sure, the prospects of 7-foot-3 shot-blocking center made Thabeet a promising selection. But Flynn is another case entirely.
Ask any Minnesota Timberwolves fan, it was the opposite of luck that brought them a point guard who has been out of the league for four years one pick before the soon-to-be back-to-back MVP.
It was exactly that – luck – that brought the best shooter ever to dawn the blue and gold (blue and orange, at the time).
Like Curry, fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson was a two-time all-conference performer – in a much more prestigious Pac-10 – and boasts the NBA heritage of his father.
A career 18 point per game scorer in college, Thompson went into the draft with far less expectations than Curry two years prior.
Now one of the game’s best two-way off guards, the 2011 No. 11 pick now plays in Washington DC and Charlotte offering each fan base a glimpse at what could have been.
And, undoubtedly, Sacramento fans were cursing Fredette – and his No. 10 selection – as Thompson scored an NBA-record 37 points in one quarter of a Warrior win over the Kings a year ago.
NBA All-Defensive First Teamer and All-Star power forward Draymond Green has perhaps been Golden State’s greatest strike of glistening luck.
A 2012 All-American and a National Association of Basketball Coaches National Player of the Year, Green boasted nearly unfathomable NCAA accolades. Like his time thus far in the NBA, “Day-Day” drastically improved with each season of collegiate basketball.
He finished his amateur career with four trips to the NCAA Tournament, two Final Fours and one title runner-up (freshman year). Recording multiple triple-doubles in the tournament, he accounts for two of the eight “official” (assists, blocks and steal became tracked stats in 1984) such performances in the tourney’s history.
Despite his great success in Tom Izzo’s school of basketball, and receiving the Antonio Smith Glue and Guts Award, tweener size and a perceived lack of athleticism Green dropped to the second round of the draft.
What was seen as weaknesses have become his strengths. “He isn’t great at any one thing” – he’s now among the game’s best at doing everything. “His size is not ideal for the small forward or power forward” – his versatility bred a Warrior small lineup that has been tough to stop.
One thing that has stood up has been his “glue and guts.” Having been an NBA starter for less than two full seasons, Green is still the emotional leader of the game’s best team.
One word that can be used to describe Green’s falling to Golden State at pick No. 35 is luck.
Luck has also come disguised as un-luck. As Curry suffered ankle injuries throughout the first four seasons of his professional career, he was limited to just 26 games (23 starts) in 2011-12. Because his playing time was limited by injury, he signed a four-year extension for a less-than-expected $44 million that year.
Over the past two seasons – in which he will have won a pair of MVP Awards – Curry has made just less than $23.5 million. Or, $1.5 million less than Kobe Bryant made this season alone.
The incredibly discounted rate also allowed the Warriors brass to build a substantial support system around “The Baby-Faced Assassin.”
The additions of guys like 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala and 2006-07 Sixth Man of the Year Leandro Barbosa, as well as the retention of both Green and Thompson were made possible by Curry’s reduced rate.
The final bit of good fortune came in the form of ultimate leadership.
In the 2014 offseason, after the Dubs were bounced from the playoffs by the SoCal rival Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, then-coach Mark Jackson was sent packing.
Engaged in conversations with several coaching prospects, former champion player Steve Kerr fell into the collective lap of the entire Bay Area.
The anticipated front-runner, and likely Kerr favorite, New York Knicks were unwilling to match the Golden State offer of $25 million over five years. Instead, a three-year $13 million offer was submitted.
The Knicks ended up with former-Warrior Derek Fisher, who was fired after going 40-96 in less than two years.
Kurt Rambis was brought in to finish the 2015-16 season (9-19 over the final 28 games), and they appear poised to move on from the former Laker this offseason.
So, yes, the Golden State Warriors have gotten lucky along the road to history. They’ve been blessed by the poor decisions of other teams.
By exemplary talent evaluation and an award-winning analytics department, in forming an unstoppable roster and un-matchable coaching staff.