By Brian Brownfield–
It was a season forty years in the making. It was fueled by a roar. It was fueled by a splash. To sum it up, it was golden.
The Golden State Warriors are the reigning champions of the NBA, and with that comes the pressure of having to back it up and repeat. The last time a team was able to win consecutive NBA titles was the LeBron James-led Miami Heat in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. That was part of a dominant run by Miami, where the Heat made the NBA Finals four consecutive years. Miami won two of those trips to the finals, and some say it’s time for the Warriors to make such a run. The odds are stacked against them with a competitive conference However,the core is still intact from last year, giving the Dubs a chance of creating a truly golden dynasty.
One of the major priorities for the reigning NBA Champions was to resign their defensive stopgap and emotional leader, Draymond Green. While there were rumors that the restricted free agent would leave the Warriors, Green decided to remain in blue and gold. It also helps that the Warriors gave him a 5-year, $85 million contract to entice him to stay. Green finished last season second in the voting for the Defensive Player of the Year award and was named 1st-Team All-NBA for Defense. With the entire starting lineup intact (Curry, Thompson, Green, Bogut, and Barnes), familiarity and consistency will be on the Warriors’s side.
The only changes to the roster during the offseason came via the bench. David Lee was a popular player with the Warriors-faithful after his All-Star season in 2013, but it was widely believed he would be traded following their title run. Last season, he was sparingly used off the bench and his salary was that of a superstar. The Warriors traded him to the Boston Celtics, getting Gerald Wallace as the centerpiece of the deal. Not only did the Warriors get a solid power forward in the deal, but they also freed up around $20 million in cap space, This is beneficial for a team with so many rising stars. Four days after this trade, the Warriors shipped Wallace to the Sacramento Kings for Jason Thompson–an up-and-coming power forward who the Warriors believe can be a star in the league. Bench depth was one of the keys to the Warriors title last season and it should wind up being a big strength for the team this season.
Another determining factor about defending the title is the strength of schedule. While every NBA team has a schedule that is similar in difficulty, long road trips and difficult spurts can shift momentum. Every schedule has its quirks and its intriguing moments, and the Warriors schedule certainly is no exception. The Warriors open the 2015-16 season at home as they take on the New Orleans Pelicans, the team the Warriors swept to open up the 2015 playoffs. The quest for a second title doesn’t get any easier from there as the Warriors play several playoff hopefuls to the start the season, including Houston, New Orleans (again), Memphis, the Los Angeles Clippers, and Denver. Other schedule highlights include the Christmas Day showdown at Oracle Arena against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, a rematch of the 2015 NBA Finals. The two teams will meet again in Cleveland on January 18. Starting on January 30, the Warriors begin a stretch where they play 10 of 12 games on the road, taking them through the month of February. David Lee will make his much anticipated return to Oakland on April 1 when the Warriors take on the Celtics. The Warriors wrap up the season at home against the Memphis Grizzlies on April 13, which could be a preview of the first round of the 2016 playoffs.
Defending a title is never easy. However, when you have the Splash Brothers, when you have a fiery defensive leader, and when you have a head coach who the players love to play for, you certainly have a fighting chance. The entire Bay Area will be pulling for the Dubs. With that in mind, they will in fact have strength in numbers.