- Sean M. Haffey/Getty
The Golden State Warriors seem poised to dominate the NBA for years to come, but that doesn’t mean other teams are willingly taking a backseat.
In light of the Warriors’ incredible 16-1 postseason run to win the NBA championship, teams aren’t wilting in the face of the steep competition – they’re upping the ante.
NBA teams, it seems, are in an arms race to acquire available stars, realizing that any Warriors contender must have at least three bona fide stars to compete.
On Wednesday, the Houston Rockets entered the race, agreeing to a trade that will land them Chris Paul to pair with James Harden. They’re apparently not done, either – they reportedly are still targeting Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, or Paul Millsap.
After the trade, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told USA Today’s Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt the Rockets are indeed “chasing” the Warriors.
“We’re chasing maybe one of the best teams ever in the history of basketball. Nobody wants to go into the season going, ‘OK, if you have a really good year, you can come in third.’ You just don’t want to do that, so we’re all in.”
J.R. Smith of the Cleveland Cavaliers had a similar reaction to the trade:
JR Smith to @washingtonpost on Chris Paul: "It's just the way the league is going. The league is in a frenzy because of the Warriors."
— Aaron Torres (@AaronTorres_) June 28, 2017
The Rockets aren’t alone. The Cavaliers, the team that has dominated the East for three straight seasons but looked wildly outmatched against the Warriors in these Finals, are also looking to improve. The Cavs reportedly chased Jimmy Butler before the draft and have been looking for ways to land George in a trade. They also reportedly have interest in Carmelo Anthony if he was bought out by the Knicks.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe has reported that some teams have considered “waiting out” the Warriors – slowing their rebuilds until the Warriors’ core falls apart. However, after the Rockets traded for Paul, Lowe noted the Warriors haven’t quite had the cooling effect many predicted.
“The ‘Why even try competing with the Warriors?’ chilling effect is real, but it may be limited to Boston and a few bad teams keeping their powder dry. San Antonio wants a true shot against Golden State. Denver is chasing Kevin Love. Minnesota, stuck in a decade-plus playoff drought, just robbed Chicago of Jimmy Butler. Washington, with so much losing in the rearview, is pursuing Paul George, sources say. The league isn’t giving up in the face of the Warriors juggernaut.”
Though the Celtics do appear to be moving slowly on taking the next step, even they appear poised to enter the NBA’s super-team race.
The Celtics are said to be interested in signing Gordon Hayward and have a fairly easy path to signing him in free agency. From there, the Celtics have the assets to land George in a trade, though the asking price is reportedly high. The Celtics have a specific order of operations they need to follow, but the clock is ticking, as several members of their current core, including Isaiah Thomas, will be free agents next season. In other words, they may not be in waiting mode much longer.
The Lakers also seem to be gearing up to enter the race. They’ve cleared the way for future cap space for Paul George and are rumored to be a potential landing spot for LeBron James in 2018. But even if James is not on the radar, the Lakers should have enough cap space to land a second superstar in free agency.
Additionally, there are concerns about the sustainability of the Warriors’ core. Though they have a fairly simple plan to retaining their core six players, it will be expensive. Stephen Curry is eligible for an estimated five-year, $200 million contract this summer. The Warriors also have to re-sign Kevin Durant, who will one day be up for a super max contract, and Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Shams Charania of Yahoo reported on Thursday that the Warriors are concerned with the cost of re-signing Iguodala and the tax punishment it will incur. An historically expensive payroll may be what breaks these Warriors apart.
Will any super-team be enough to beat the Warriors over the next few years? It remains to be seen.
But rather than wait out the Warriors dominance, it seems the rest of the NBA has realized a new reality – one or two superstars won’t get it done anymore.