It’s been a pretty strange year for your Golden State Warriors. Over the last 12 months, the Dubs have emerged from a lockout with a new coach, made playoff guarantees, traded a beloved “star”, imported an Australian, tanked a season, gained a new identity and knocked off the NBA champs.
Other than that, it’s been a little dull in Oakland.
The Dubs are in the midst of the best start anyone can remember, and for the first time in a long while, the successes feel real. Even sustainable. Somehow, over the past year or so, the most mismanaged, inexplicably fan-supported franchise in the NBA went from embarrassment to example.
In 10 important moments during 2012, the Warriors laid the groundwork for the most impressive franchise overhaul we’ve ever seen.
If you missed it, here’s Part 1, featuring moments 10-6. Now, on to the top five.
No. 5: The Coin Toss
Sometimes, everything really does come down to chance. None of the Warriors’ draft successes would have been possible if the team hadn’t won a coin toss against the Toronto Raptors to retain its No. 7 spot in the draft lottery. The coin didn’t guarantee the No. 7 pick, but it did give the Dubs a 72.4 percent chance of keeping their selection.
Of course, had the Warriors not spent the second half of the season aggressively tanking, the coin flip wouldn’t have ever happened, so in a backward way, the Dubs made their own luck here.
No. 4: Warriors Land Jarrett Jack
At first, the Warriors were only supposed to get some dude named Edin Bavcic for Dorell Wright, but at the last minute, the New Orleans Hornets got involved. The salary-conscious Hornets tossed Jarrett Jack into what became a three-team deal, which ended up paying huge dividends for the Dubs.
Jack has been one of the Warriors’ most critical players this season. His presence in the lineup allows Stephen Curry to play off the ball for long stretches and he provides the veteran toughness and savvy that most good teams have at the point guard spot.
In the locker room, he’s adopted Draymond Green and provides a great role model (as if the choir-boy Warriors needed one) for all of the young players.
Acquiring Jack may not have been splashy, but it has easily been the second-most important personnel move the Warriors have made in 2012.
No. 3: The Curry Extension
Good franchises avoid overpaying, and the Warriors did that when they inked Stephen Curry to a four-year, $44 million deal on the eve of the season-opener.
Throughout the offseason, there was a sense that Curry and the Warriors would reach an agreement. The only question was the terms. Curry could very easily have commanded a max deal, but lingering concerns over the health of his surgically repaired ankle allowed the Warriors to save a few million bucks on their franchise cornerstone.
Now that Curry is showing clear signs of being worth max dollars, the Warriors look particularly smart for buying low when they had the chance.
No. 2: The Heat Defeat
Anytime you knock off the defending NBA champs, it’s a good win. But if you do it during a season-long road trip by drawing up a fantastic play that yields a backdoor layup for a second-round pick, even better.
When the Warriors defeated the Heat on Dec. 12, it felt like validation. The much-discussed trades, the tanking, the talk of culture change all became part of a suddenly crystalized picture when Draymond Green quickly dropped in a layup with 0.9 seconds remaining in Miami.
The Heat hadn’t taken the night off. The Warriors hadn’t shot 80 percent from three. This was a win that was earned—against a great opponent that wasn’t sleepwalking.
Easily the most important regular-season victory in years, the Warriors’ triumph over the Heat ranks as the second-biggest moment of 2012.
No. 1: The Trade
The most important moment of 2012 was when the Warriors dealt Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. The significance of the trade cannot be understated.
Without it, there wouldn’t have been any tanking.
Without it, the saved lottery pick is long gone.
Without it, there’s no Harrison Barnes.
Without it, there’s no Festus Ezeli (the Dubs moved Jackson for Richard Jefferson and the pick they used to draft the Vanderbilt center).
Without it, Jarrett Jack isn’t a Warrior (Ellis’ departure created a need for another ball-handler).
Without it, the Warriors don’t suddenly start defending this year.
But with it, the Warriors dumped the franchise-killing Ellis, sent a message to the league that they understood the importance of defense and rebounding and shifted the course of the organization in an entirely positive direction.
Now that’s a big moment.