In the 2016 NBA Finals, a showdown featuring two league MVPs, the King came to play, and the Chef fell flat. This is why the Cavaliers were able to overcome a 3-1 deficit and bring the city of Cleveland its first professional championship in 52 years. It’s also why the Warriors can no longer stake the claim of the greatest team in NBA history. Stephen Curry knows this, and he explains why it hurts:
I’ll take it on the chin because I know I didn’t play my best. That’s something that I’ll have to deal with. That’s my own expectation and my own kind of self-assessment. I don’t need anybody else to tell me that. My team didn’t win. I didn’t play my best. That’s not going to be the end of the story. That’s just going to be a down chapter in the book.
With the way this Warriors team is constructed, common sense suggests that this recent hiccup will be just, as Curry puts it, “a down chapter.” But what if it’s not? What if faltering on the game’s greatest stage — or not even reaching — becomes the status quo for the back-to-back MVP? This would be a hard pill to swallow. Yet, the way we see it, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
As crazy as this may sound, especially given the offseason addition of a certain former MVP — we could see Curry never winning an NBA championship again. Here’s a look at 10 reasons why.
1. Dubs don’t have a true interior presence
No team in the NBA is better than the Warriors when it comes to a small-ball lineup. The Dubs practically started this revolution, and it’s turned them into the most offensively explosive team in the league. But when you sacrifice size and physicality for smaller players who are more equipped to shoot from the outside, you set yourself up to get bullied on the boards (see the 2016 Finals), exposed at the rim, and controlled in the post. These shortcomings, as we’ve seen, can come back to haunt you in the postseason.
2. Social media distractions
Can refs get fined?
— Ayesha Curry (@ayeshacurry) June 14, 2016
We love the Curry family; we think they are great for the game of basketball. However, anything withs the potential to take the Chef’s attention away from the task at hand, especially during the playoffs, is not a good recipe for his career. Winning a championship is not easy; obviously Curry knows this. But this isn’t about winning just a single title, it’s about raising multiple banners to the rafters. Distractions could easily prevent that from happening.
3. Lacking length
The absence of size hurt the Dubs in the 2016 NBA Finals. However, it was the lack of length that almost cost them the Western Conference. With ferocious perimeter defense, big bodies, and long arms, the Oklahoma City Thunder disrupted the Warriors’ offense, contested practically every shot, and stuffed them to the tune of 43 blocks in the series. Oklahoma City’s length almost won it the series, but more importantly, Golden State’s lack of length almost sent the team home early. Even with Kevin Durant joining the party, this could still be an issue moving forward.
4. Circus shots aren’t as effective in the playoffs
Curry will probably go down as the greatest shooter of all time. In fact, with a portfolio full of incredible — albeit questionable — shots, he’s easily already among the top snipers to ever play the game.
But while Steph tends to make the majority of his circus shots during the regular season — which only intensifies the claim that there is no such thing as a “bad shot” for Curry — when it comes to the playoffs, different rules apply. The competition is tighter, the games are more physical, and every possession counts just a bit more. That being the case, even the best shooters on the planet should think before just “letting it fly.” There is such a thing as a “bad shot” — even for Curry.
5. Not an excellent road team in the playoffs
It’s never a bad thing to get home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to be average on the road. During the 2016 postseason, the Dubs lost once in both Houston and Portland and fell twice while visiting the Thunder and the Cavs. That’s a total of six road losses. This club lost just seven games on the road all season. Just saying.
6. Live by the three, die by the three
During the 2015—16 regular season, the Warriors shot 41.6% as a team from beyond the arc, giving them the best three-point percentage in basketball for the second straight season. During the Finals, however, that number dipped to just 37.3%. When you’re firing on all cylinders from long range, it’s a beautiful thing to behold, and wildly entertaining for the fans. But when those shots stop falling as consistently, and that happens to be a team’s bread and butter, it will be a problem.
7. Cleveland provided the blueprint
There’s only one LeBron James, so it’s not as if every team in the league possesses an all-time great with the ability to singlehandedly (with the help of Kyrie Irving) take over a game (well, series). However, this doesn’t mean they can’t learn from the Cavs’ formula for toppling the champs.
When the Dubs go small, put your head down and take it to the basket. If you’re a pick-and-roll team looking to take advantage of a mismatch, force Curry to switch onto the ball handler. These tactics aren’t guaranteed to be successful all the time. However, as Cleveland showed, they work more often than not.
8. So much for team chemistry
The key to sustained success is chemistry and continuity. Prior to the start of free agency, Curry’s Warriors had both of these things. Now, well, let’s just say it’s complicated. While the Dubs certainly got more talented with the addition of Durant, given how the franchise currently pays its players, they were forced to move on from some key players in order to make the superstar’s contract work. And that sort of “collateral damage” could come back to haunt Golden State in the future.
It’s easy to feel as though losing the likes of Harrison Barnes (far right), Andrew Bogut (second from the right), and Festus Ezeli (far left) is a small price to pay for adding a top-five NBA talent, but make no mistake, this trade-off could, in fact, have dire consequences. Cohesion is a rare commodity in the National Basketball Association, Hopefully the Golden State Warriors didn’t just damage theirs beyond repair.
9. When confidence turns to arrogance
The Warriors have every reason to be excited about the team they put on the floor; they’ve built a great one. Yet, when the organization’s confidence turns to arrogance, then you have a problem. And that’s what we see from majority owner Joe Lacob.
It’s one thing to call your team “light year’s ahead” of the rest of the NBA when you put together a 73-win regular season, but when your squad blows a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, that’s when you should probably show some humility. Instead, Lacob continues to preach how “forward thinking” the franchise is and how it’s already “on to the next idea.” If we could provide him with a small piece of advice: Just stop.
10. Western Conference competition
The competition in the Western Conference is fierce, deep, and full of potential road blocks for the Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
The San Antonio Spurs, led by Kawhi Leonard (who’s only 24 years old), won 67 games this past season and continue to be among the most well-run organizations in all of professional sports (hello, they just added Pau Gasol). The Oklahoma City Thunder, almost (should’ve) knocked out the Dubs in last year’s Western Conference Finals, and while KD has taken his talents to the Bay Area, there are no guarantees in the playoffs. Plus, we’re not about to bet against a ruthlessly determined Russell Westbrook.
These clubs could pose a problem for the Warriors for years to come, making this arguably the greatest obstacle in the Golden State Warriors’ quest to reach the top of the NBA mountain again.