I really don’t think we quite understand the dominance we’re witnessing.
The Warriors rode into the Finals with not only an unscathed 12-0 record in the playoffs, but also the highest average margin of victory of any Finals team ever, at 16.3 points per game. And in Games 1 and 2, against the guy currently wearing the belt that says “Best Player Alive” across his waist, the Warriors have pushed that margin farther into the stratosphere — winning the first two by an average of 20.5 points.
And whether or not it’s boring to watch one team pummel another in what’s supposed to be the pinnacle of competition, or whether it’s “good” or “bad” for the NBA to have a squad so good that its main concern during the NBA Finals is whether anyone can find Zaza a goddamned hat, the run has been impressive.
And as astounding the Warriors have been on the hardwood, they’ve been equally as devastating in the front office. The huge cap spike last summer was the financial ammunition they needed to sign Kevin Durant, but that deal still doesn’t work if the current roster wasn’t cheap in the first place.
Games 1 and 2 answered the question on everyone’s mind heading into the Finals — what happens when two of the top three players in the league, coupled with two others in the top 25, play on the same team? But it also left one one wide open.
Where the hell do we go from here?
I, personally, see two avenues that the league is likely to follow in the coming months and years. The NBA stands at a crossroads. On one route, the Era of the Superteam reigns. On the other lies an Era of Apathy.
In the Era of the Superteam, the game’s best players oftentimes bid “¡Adios!” to the teams that draft them — despite the increasingly significant financial incentive to stay. Hey, these stars are making more than enough as it is with the endorsements anyway. Plus, who can really complain about more than $10 million a year?
Along this timeline, Gordon Hayward goes to the Celtics in free agency this summer; Boston then makes the moves necessary to bring in someone like Jimmy Butler via trade; and Chris Paul takes a paycut to play for the Spurs. All of a sudden, we’ve doubled the amount of legitimately competitive teams in the league. To four.
In the Era of Apathy, Boston decides to wait out the fall of LeBron just before Hayward decides it’s not worth it to give up the money, the fanbase and the glamorous nightlife in Salt Lake City for a shot to maybe go five games against the Cavs.
CP3 realizes that this is his last shot at a huge contract, and that the cap just jumped again, so he takes more money than his grandkids’ grandkids will ever spend to play for the second-most popular team in his own gym. Would the Clippers even make it out of the first round next year?
The Lakers — no, wait. The Lakers are going to be one of the best teams in the league in two years anyway; they’re absolved from this timeline. They have their own.
The league has to self-correct eventually, just as it always has. Remember when we thought we’d never see the end of LeBron’s Heat or Kobe’s Lakers? This Warriors team is bound to fall eventually, but the steps taken by the league’s 29 remaining teams over this summer will forecast the game’s next half-decade.
And while I foresee the former future being our own — a future where the league’s best players control their own destiny, decide who to play with and try to rupture the burgeoning Warriors dynasty — I have indeed been hugely disappointed in the amount of competitive spirit within the game’s elite before. Maybe this is our dystopia after all.