Golden State Warriors: Is Their Success More Than Just A Feel Good Story?


May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (10) celebrates at the end of the game against the Denver Nuggets, winning game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Denver Nuggets 92-88 to win the series. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We all know how great the Golden State Warriors were under their former ownership, the “Chris Cohan Era,” which yielded two winning seasons, and one (exciting and improbable) playoff run.

Those teams were built with the owner’s pockets in mind. This 2012-13 team was built to compete for the Western Conference title. This current Golden State Warriors roster was meticulously crafted to be a real playoff contender. Granted, they have outplayed any preseason predictions, and achieved much higher success than anyone saw coming, this current Warriors success can be attributed to finally having good upper management that cares about the product on the court.

When Joe Lacob introduced Bob Myers as the Golden State Warriors’ general manager, making him one of the youngest executives in any professional sport, it marked a new day for this tortured franchise.

In Lacob’s first real test, the 2012 draft, he passed with flying colors. No other team in the NBA has played four rookies in a playoff game since the 1990 Portland Trailblazers. The 2012-12 Warriors are giving legitimate minutes to Harrison Barnes, drafted No. 7 overall, Festus Ezeli, drafted 31st overall, Draymond Green, drafted 35th overall and Kent Bazemore, undrafted. This team will be set at the wing for the next few years and could have a budding talent at the center position (the hardest position to draft). New ownership and a new draft mentality addressed the team’s needs.

The current Warriors roster is built for success now, and they are achieving it. There may be “feel good” type players on the team, such as David Lee, a constant underachiever on defense finally committing on both ends, Stephen Curry bouncing back from an injury marred 2012, Andrew Bogut hobbling his way into the playoffs, Harrison Barnes starting all year as a rookie after ‘falling’ to the seventh spot in the draft. But the 2012-13 Warriors are not just a feel good story.

The list of reasons about why this team is succeeding goes on and on, but the one underlying factor that drives this team is that every last player is sick of being constantly underestimated. Most of the members of this team had glaring flaws coming into the NBA, but didn’t let that prevent them from having success filling out a role, or just flat-out proving the doubters wrong.

April 24, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob (left) shakes hands with new general manager Bob Myers (right) during a press conference before the game against the New Orleans Hornets at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The dreaded “Cohan Era” did leave Lacob and his ownership group with a few great and not so great gifts, though. If there was one thing Larry Riley was great at, it was screwing up in almost every draft. Some of his most notorious picks being Anthony Randolph and Ekpe Udoh. But on one hot June evening in 2009, all the right pieces fell into place (including a few baffling picks by then Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn). The streaky shooter from the little known school of Davidson dropped right into Larry Riley’s lap, and the Warriors had finally found their franchise player, they just didn’t know it yet.

Cohan also sold the team with a few strings attached. One of them being the monstrous contract they just gave to David Lee in the summer of 2010. While he instantly became the best player on the roster the day he signed, the new ownership group knew they had a great player who they had to pay like a star through 2016.

Another issue the previous ownership group left for Lacob to figure out was the Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis extension situations. In 2008, Riley locked up both Biedrins and Ellis to six year entensions. At the time, the thinking was sound enough: two young guys who could blossom into great players and possibly outplay their contracts, making upper management look like geniuses and everyone around the league would be saying how underpaid the pair had become.

Apr 25, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Monta Ellis leaves the court after the Bucks lost to the Miami Heat during game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

This only sort of happened with Ellis and the absolute worst case scenario happened with Biedrins. One trade and one failed amnesty later, the Warriors are stuck with one of the worst contracts in the NBA.

The point is, this team has slowly been formulated over the last several years, really beginning with the drafting of Curry. Cohan and Myers therefore had both a head start and some detriments to deal with to get the roster to where it is today.

The new ownership had to make a big splash type move and decided to ultimately trade Ellis and Udoh for Andrew Bogut and Richard Jefferson’s contract. While controversial at the time, the deal showed the team’s willingness to make a big deal, and it essentially locked the Warriors into having this squad through 2014.

There was only one thing left to do: decide whether to extend Curry, or let him test the market. After inking Curry to the controversial (at the time) extension in the summer of 2012, he has now played himself into the number three spot on Bill Simmons’ annual Trade Value column, only trailing Kevin Durant and LeBron James. That’s an elite franchise player if I’ve ever heard of one.

The final piece the Warriors had to have in place to achieve success was a coach that could change the culture for them, one who could transform the team from being notoriously care free on defense. In stepped former player and analyst, Mark Jackson. While many were initially skeptical of how much success a first time coach could have, his supporters likened him to Doc Rivers and the great success he eventually had after a few awful seasons, when the Boston Celtics pulled off the two mega-deals to acquire Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

The first mistake Jackson made, however, was guaranteeing the Warriors would be in the playoffs in 2012. He learned his lesson the hard way, never make any guarantees Vegas can’t insure. He came back with a much more grizzled approach in 2012-13, brought the team together with an “us against the world” mentality, and has had more success as a coach in two years than many thought he would ever have.

May 12, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson (left) instructs small forward Harrison Barnes (40) against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter in game four of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Spurs 97-87 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Lacob put the right people in the right situations, and he did it with a little help. Signing Jerry West on as a consultant was a boon to Lacob. No one really knows the full extent of West’ decision-making powers, but I assure you Myers is in his ear as much as West is willing to listen. One suggestion West may have made could have been the under the radar signings of quality veterans Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. Both guys have provided huge minutes off the bench, with Jack finishing third in the Sixth Man of the Year voting. Their leadership has helped the team maintain composure throughout these hectic playoffs.

The success this Warriors team has achieved has been a few years ahead of schedule, yes, but it doesn’t detract from them as a group this year. In fact, they expected to be here. They are much more than just a feel good story, the building blocks for success were laid long before 2013. It just so happened that Myers and Jackson needed the right four guys in the 2012 rookie class to bring it all together.

This roster was built from the top down, with Joe Lacob putting smart and resourceful guys in key roles.