Golden State won their first title in 40 years last summer as MVP Stephen Curry, Finals MVP Andrew Iguodala, and a stellar supporting cast outlasted LeBron James and an injury-depleted Cleveland squad to win in six games.
But the Warriors days as champs are numbered—even though they made few changes to the team. Here’s why they won’t be repeating as champs:
1. The Disease of More
Winning a title is one thing—and it’s an impressive achievement as that. But repeating as champions is another. Former Lakers, Heat, and Knicks coach Pat Riley—who won five NBA titles—knows this. He called it “the disease of more” in his book “Showtime.” Once a team wins a title, everyone wants more money, playing time, and recognition. Subsequently they stop doing all the little things a team needs to do to keep winning.
Not only that, but they no longer have the element of surprise working for them. Instead they have a bulls-eye on their backs. It’s a different mentality. Head coach Steve Kerr knows about this having been on five championship teams himself as player. Which brings us to …
2. Steve Kerr’s Health
Kerr has been a coach for just one season, but he made quite an impact in leading the Warriors to 67 wins and an NBA title last year. He didn’t just come into an already humming juggernaut either—he was the one who made changes to turn the team into that.
His boldest move was convincing All-Star forward Andre Iguodala to come off the bench—to set the team-first approach for everyone else. Then in the Finals, with Cleveland holding an early 2–1 advantage, Kerr re-inserted Iguodala back in the lineup to play small ball and the tactic worked. The Warriors ripped off three straight wins to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy.
But Kerr had back surgery this summer and is still not ready to go as the season tips off. Although you’d rather have him leading the team in the playoffs, the early part of the season is where the tone is set, goals are made, and roles are defined.
3. Still No Dominant Center
The Clippers and Mavericks were in a tug-of-war over DeAndre Jordan for a reason—having a great center is paramount to a team’s success. Save for Michael Jordan’s Bulls teams of the ’90s—which at least had either power forward Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman on the post—few teams win without a dominant big man.
The Warriors have big man Draymond Green to defend the post, but Green is really only 6-foot-7—which was actually Rodman’s height. Yet at great as Curry is, there was only one Jordan. To carry a team without a dominant big man is a tough task.
4. The Spurs, Cavaliers, Clippers, and Thunder
Okay this is really four reasons listed as one, but the competition has tightened.
San Antonio, which has five titles in the Duncan/Popovich era, made a big push for a 2016 title when they signed power forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and David West this summer. The Clippers somehow retained Jordan and added veteran Paul Pierce to the mix. The Cavs re-signed Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson and are just hoping everyone is healthy in the playoffs this time around. Finally, the Thunder have former MVP Kevin Durant back and are hoping a title run convinces him that Oklahoma City is the place to be beyond 2016.
Golden State didn’t get worse in the offseason, but they didn’t exactly get better. Any of those four teams should take them in a best-of-seven series.