Throughout the past week, we’ve been unveiling our TOP 75 NBA Teams of All Time list, which is featured in our SLAM’s TOP 75 NBA Teams of All Time special issue. And now, here we are, down to the final two, in our opinion, greatest teams ever. As the Warriors continue to embark on yet another NBA Finals run this season, we’re taking a look at the squad who played major role in solidifying their championship legacy.
To find out who else made it on the list, read here.
2. 2016-2017 Golden State Warriors
Coach: Steve Kerr
Roster: Matt Barnes, Ian Clark, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Damian Jones, Shaun Livingston, Kevon Looney, James Michael McAdoo, Patrick McCaw, JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Klay Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Briante Weber, David West
Talk about an over-correction. The Warriors fall in the 2016 Finals, in a series they might well have won had Draymond Green not been suspended for a game, and what do they do? They decide that a core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Green just isn’t enough to get it done—even though Golden State had won a title in 2015 with the same group and had set the NBA record for regular-season wins in 2015-16 (73).
When most strong teams try to upgrade their cores, they do so with a couple of key, yet hardly overwhelming, additions. Not the Warriors. They went out and signed Kevin Durant to a free-agent deal, adding an elite NBA player who had been a seven-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion to an already-stacked roster. It was almost laughable.
Except the rest of the NBA wasn’t laughing. At all.
When the deal was announced, there was some hand-wringing among analysts about how a high-volume scorer like Durant—he averaged 28.2 ppg the previous season—would fit with Curry, who could pile up the points himself. That seemed like a bit of hopeful thinking among the rest of the League, since the thought of a fully-functional Curry-Durant axis was frightening.
It was even scarier to encounter. Even though Durant missed the final 19 games of the regular season with an MCL sprain, he teamed with Curry to form an overpowering scoring tandem that could torment rivals from long range and off the dribble. The Warriors led the League in points scored, field goal percentage and assists. Golden State had a +11.6 point differential. More importantly, their 67 wins were much better than the NBA’s next total—the Spurs’ 61—and 16 ahead of the Clippers, the Pacific’s second-place team.
Durant (25.1 ppg) and Curry (25.3 ppg) were the clear offensive leaders, and when rivals concentrated on one, the other took charge. But championship teams can’t thrive simply on the efforts of a couple players. Thompson averaged 22.3 ppg and led the team with 41.4 percent accuracy from long range. While Green’s offensive output (10.2 ppg) wasn’t overwhelming, he was stout on the boards and played his customary frenetic defense. Role players like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Zaza Pachulia provided production, defense and steady support. The Warriors had big names at the top of the marquee, but the rest of the rotation was valuable every night, too.
The 67 regular-season wins, while not as legendary as the previous season’s total, were impressive. But the Warriors were super-charged in the playoffs. At some point in the coming years and decades, a team will go 16-0 in the postseason. Until then, the Warriors 16-1 performance will have to be the gold standard.
Golden State dusted away Portland in the first round, with the margin of victory under 10 points just once. The Warriors similarly dispatched the Jazz in the Western Semis, with each triumph at least double digits. And remember those Spurs? After Golden State squeaked past San Antonio in the opening game of the Western Finals, 113-111, behind 40 from Curry, they went on to another sweep and a date with the Cavs in the Finals.
The LeBron James-Kyrie Irving tandem was pretty good, but Durant-Curry was better. Add in Thompson, Green et al, and it wasn’t much of a contest. The Warriors finally surrendered a postseason decision in Game 4. Otherwise, it was all Golden State. Durant was the MVP, and the Warriors had avenged their previous disappointment with a remarkable season.
And one great offseason move.
Photos via Getty Images.