The Warriors Are Entering Their Toughest Season Yet

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 3: Stephen Curry
OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 3: Stephen Curry /

Beginning the fourth season of their dynastic run, the Golden State Warriors are about to face their toughest competition in the Western Conference since they became title contenders.

Finally, the NBA is back! After a summer dominated by politics and controversy, the NBA’s preseason has arrived and the Golden State Warriors are gearing up for another season as defending champions. Once again, they are the favorites to win the title.

After a delightful romp through the playoffs, they brought back all of their core pieces. Steve Kerr is on pace to be one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. Their star players all complement each other perfectly, fueled by arguably the most valuable player in the league. A strong crop of young players mix with intriguing new signings to fill out the bench.

If the Warriors are stressed, they aren’t showing it. Their summer was one of celebrity, filled with joyous escapades around the globe. While other teams fretted about trades and signings and draft picks, we witnessed the glorious birth of #ChinaKlay.

Even with the preseason officially in progress, the Dubs still act like they’re on vacation. The Warriors are huge celebrities in Shanghai, where they played their last two games against the Minnesota Timberwolves. So far, the team is 1-2 – their lone win came last thanks to a vintage Curry Flurry.

Yet all of this preseason fun belies the fact that the Golden State Warriors are staring down their hardest season yet. Going to the finals four years in a row is not easy. Doing so by getting past a Western Conference that’s upgraded almost every team makes it even more difficult. If the Warriors want to repeat as champs, it will require a level of focus worthy of a dynasty.

The Internal Obstacles

The Warriors have thankfully not been susceptible to the drama that plagues other super-teams. The organization has prioritized a selfless culture that doesn’t inhibit new players from fitting in. However, four years is a long time to be a title contender. This is around the time when players start wanting more: more shots, more money, more of anything.

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Will Andre Iguodala’s contract negotiations loom over the rest of the bench? What about Javale McGee’s desire for a bigger role? Will Klay Thompson and Draymond Green stay satiated with their smaller roles, knowing that they will be free agents soon? These are vital questions that Steve Kerr and Steph Curry will have to manage.

This doesn’t even mention the wear and tear of being a dynasty. Steph, Klay, Draymond, and the rest of the team have experienced the full playoff ringer three years in a row. All of those extra miles add up – especially for the older veterans like Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. The Warriors will have to manage the physical and mental attrition during the regular season. They need to stay engaged during the season but also stay primed and healthy for the postseason.

The Wild Wild West

Even without dealing with the tolls of previous years, the Golden State Warriors are going to face their toughest competition ever. The Dubs have been the best team in the league three years running – even when they were assimilating Kevin Durant last year, they remained a cut above their competition.

That’s all changed. There will be no more waltzing into easy victories behind a Splash Brothers three point barrage. The Western Conference is an ocean teeming with sharks and piranhas. Almost every team has gotten better this offseason, and all sites are locked on the Warriors.

The Houston Rockets solved their main issues by adding another ball handler in Chris Paul and increasing their defensive versatility to match their three point firepower. Oklahoma City has given reigning MVP Russell Westbrook terrifying co-stars in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The San Antonio Spurs remain the Spurs; the same team that went toe to toe with the Warriors last Western Conference Finals before Kawhi Leonard left with an injury.

That’s just the top tier! The rest of the conference contains sneaky threats and young gunners. Every night will be a game against the athletic Timberwolves, or the passing virtuosity of the Denver Nuggets, or the defensive behemoths in Utah or Memphis. Even the bad teams are scary! If they take a breath, they’ll see the pass-happy, mini-showtime Los Angeles Lakers or the young, freakishly athletic Phoenix Suns.

A Golden Dynasty

The Warriors don’t need to worry – they are the best team in the league still, by a good margin. Now is the time for what Coach Kerr calls “appropriate fear.” Being a dynasty requires more than greatness. A dynasty requires leadership, patience, and a culture that can weather the storms of time and attrition. The Warriors have their biggest challenge awaiting them, but also their best opportunity to cement themselves as one of the great teams of all time. I have a feeling that they’ll pull it off.

The Warriors have their biggest challenge awaiting them, but also their best opportunity to cement themselves as one of the great teams of all time. I have a feeling that they’ll pull it off.