Twitter and NBA circles have been buzzing the last week after reputable news broke about the NBA considering expansion to 32 teams as a means of helping to cover the financial losses from 2020 and COVID-19. The fun part of the conversations come up first: which cities will get teams, how will the league re-align itself and what does this do to scheduling?
Less than two years ago while pursuing my Master's Degree in Sports Management at Georgetown, I chose this exact topic for my grad school thesis. The paper touched on four topics:
While jumping into questions 3 and 4 provide the most enjoyable casual banter, I quickly found that answering questions 1 and 2 was relevant and necessary before moving to them. What I will do below is give a condensed, more reader-friendly synopsis of my thesis, which hopefully drives conversation moving forward about the realistic nature of each prospective city.
One caveat to be aware of was a qualifier I quickly conceded while doing my research: Seattle is going to be receiving an expansion city. For nostalgic purposes, demands from fans, frequent conversation and market analysis, Seattle was all but a given. That made the rest of the paper about figuring out which city had the best case to host Franchise 32.
If there's one way the Golden State Warriors made the game of basketball look at their peak, it was easy. The effortless, boyish enthusiasm of Stephen Curry propelled him to back-to-back MVPs while carrying the Warriors to five consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Klay Thompson was a smooth shooter with effortless stroke and mild-mannered personality. The nonchalant, quiet Kevin Durant was a silent assassin -- his start in Brooklyn is a reminder just how loud his game can talk when he's the focal point of an offense.
Around the three cheat code teammates were the perfect role players. Draymond Green was a triple-double waiting to happen, content doing the dirty work, quarterbacking the defense and setting the table for others to eat. Andre Iguodala stepped up when he was needed as a veteran presence, physical defender and timely mismatch. Guys like Shaun Livingston, Kevon Looney, Andrew Bogut and David West all learned their roles within a unique, revolutionary offense.
The result was an innovative yet finely tuned machine. The ball zipped side-to-side in Steve Kerr's masterstroke ecosystem. Perimeter relocations of their elite shooters, zig-zagging through the lane, off misdirection screens and towards each other were brutal actions for opposing defenses, and required a level of nuanced IQ for teammates to spot. Their switch everything defense, aided with off-ball trades to blanket Curry, required five men thinking as one. When they were at their peak and all these cylinders were firing, the Warriors looked unstoppable.
And we took them for granted.
Now, Kevin Durant is gone. Klay Thompson is hurt again, done for the year with an Achilles tear. Many of the elder statesmen from those championships have left, either cashing in to secure their own bag or casualties of the insane luxury tax payments procured just to keep the core together.
The replacements have arrived. While there are many with high ceilings and individual talents, the experience and IQ they lack make it so much more apparent how special the Warriors dynasty really was. Andrew Wiggins is a massively talented player, but hasn't appeared comfortable with how to play second-fiddle to a player like Curry. Rookie James Wiseman has flashed peaks of unfathomable athleticism and upside, but he remains greener than a St. Patty's Day in South Boston. Kelly Oubre Jr. has struggled with shot selection and is a ball stop at the most frustrating times. The list goes on.
It's going to be the most difficult season for Dray, Kerr and Curry to tackle together. Teaching these new guys how to fit in the system on the fly, with shortened offseasons and little room for error, is an ambitious task. Doing so while winning games is even harder.
Head Boys Basketball Coach, Boys' Latin School (MD).