In the wake of the Golden State Warriors regaining their NBA title with a 4-1 Finals win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, there will be plenty of people trying to put an asterisk next to it because of the Kevin Durant signing.
Those people should be ignored.
A long and tiresome debate over fairness and parity in the NBA has raged ever since Durant announced his decision to join Golden State last July.
But, while Durant – who won the Finals MVP award for his astonishing performances throughout the series – has been an evident difference-maker, the Warriors’ second title in three seasons should be looked at as a triumph of organic team-building.
Lost in the uproar that greeted Durant’s move to a Golden State team that won a record-breaking 73 games in the regular season and beat his previous employers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the Western Conference Finals last year, is that the core of this team has been built by the draft.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were all drafted by the Warriors and were the heart and soul of a championship team well before Durant’s arrival in the Bay Area.
The Warriors have also done an extremely good job of utilising free agency to fill out their bench, signing key contributors in Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, whose comeback from a devastating knee injury suffered in 2007 is one of the better stories in the modern NBA, and David West
Iguodala, winner of Finals MVP in 2015 for his efforts in keeping LeBron James in check, again rose to the occasion when it counted and was extremely impressive on both ends of the court in the decisive game five, showing a spring in his step belying that of a 33-year-old as he racked up 20 of the Warriors’ 129 points.
Further evidence of the Warriors’ ability to draft well came in the form of 2016 second-round draft pick Patrick McCaw, who played 11 minutes in game five and looked like he belonged on the big stage in adding six points, but it was Iguodala’s stunning showing and Green’s ability to haul in late decisive rebounds to quell any hope of a Cavaliers comeback that perhaps best illustrated just how well this team has been put together.
The way the Warriors have assembled their roster, in hitting on draft picks in two-time MVP Curry, Thompson and likely Defensive Player of the Year Green, while adding free agents on team-friendly deals, put the Warriors in position to be able to launch an ultimately successful pursuit of Durant.
Durant’s incredible efforts in topping 30 points in every game of the Finals enabled the Warriors to avenge a heart-breaking game seven loss to the Cavs at the same stage last year but, when the rest of the league looks at Golden State with envy, they should not study their star free-agent acquisition, but the way in which they have drafted and found affordable gems on the open market.
With a second title in three years, the Warriors are primed to establish themselves as an NBA dynasty, but they will be one not built on Durant, but on a foundation of excellent drafting and a manipulation of the free agency market that rivals across the league will surely be desperately trying to replicate.