As the Golden State Warriors wrapped up the 2017 NBA season in victorious fashion, being crowned NBA champions in 5 games against the Cleveland Cavaliers — 29 other teams are now left with the inevitable task of reconstructing their rosters with intent to stop what appears to be an indestructible dynasty in the Bay Area.
It’s no question where the Warriors rank within the league’s hierarchy — solidified at the pinnacle of the league, perched high above everyone else. They are in the conversation for greatest team of all-time.
The Warriors have accomplished loads of unthinkable success within a three-year span. They became the first franchise in NBA history to win 65 plus games in three consecutive seasons. Within that stretch they appeared in three straight finals, coming out as victors in two of those appearances. They were 73 and freaking 9 last year and didn’t even win the title! They have routinely put together the league’s most efficient team on both ends of the floor. They have all the essential ingredients required to continue to dominate the league.
The team itself is defined by superior talent at the top, a core of four all-stars, two of which Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are arguably two of the top five players in the NBA. Kevin Durant is fresh off his first NBA championship paired with the Finals MVP. After the big 4, they mix and match role players tailored toward their system at cheap affordable contracts. Players seem to buy into the Warriors culture from day one. They play with a rare level of togetherness on both ends of the floor not often seen in the NBA. Thanks to the mastery of one of the league’s best coaches in Steve Kerr, the Warriors play an elegant free flowing brand of basketball. Their forward-thinking front office, staring General Manager Bob Myers, gives their franchise a Spurs-like organizational continuity. Everyone is happy, and everyone is it for one goal, an NBA championship.
So where do the Mavericks relate in all of this? Can they ever become a Golden State Warriors type?
After a lackluster 33–49 season, the Mavs appear to be far off from competing with the top Western Conference powers. The Mavs current roster is tailored around an aging superstar in the twilight of his career. Since winning the title back in 2011, the Mavericks have failed to win a playoff series. As unfortunate as it sounds, surrounding Dirk Nowitzki with solid veterans can only get you so far in today’s game. In the meantime, what can the Mavericks learn from what they’ve witnessed out of the Warriors over these past three seasons?
It is important to note that in order to have success in the NBA, you need a little bit of luck. Each team that has won an NBA title has had some sort of lucky thing transpire along the way. I am not saying the Warriors success is “lucky” I am saying that they needed events like the Minnesota Timberwolves passing on Steph Curry twice1during the 2009 Draft & the player’s union refusing to have a smoothed salary cap after last season’s spike. Both of these events helped shape who the Warriors are as a franchise today.
Moving luck aside, the first order of business in trying to emulate the Warriors is having a firm understanding of who you are as a team. Everyone within the organization needs to be on the same page regarding where the franchise stands. The Mavericks, like the Warriors, are one of the most respected organizations when it comes to culture. You better believe the Mavericks value a positive organizational culture, just ask Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, and Rajon Rondo.
It’s no secret where the positivity within the organization stems from, it all starts from the top with Dirk Nowitzki. As long as Dirk is involved with the franchise, players will want to play and compete in Dallas with one of the league’s all-time greats. As Dirk’s role continues to change and his career starts to wind down, it is important to continue to use him as a productive recruiting tool, to help attract young, hardworking free agents that want one last chance to learn from one of the games best.
It’s pretty obvious the Mavericks are years away from getting back to the championship mountain top, they are currently listed at 100/1 title odds next year. But little incremental steps towards their ultimate goal of a championship counts. Next season could be the first season in over 20 years where the team embarks on a full season of rebuild mode. If that’s the case player development has to be one of the top priorities for the franchise. It’s crucial to find players that can reshape your franchise’s trajectory. The Mavericks have had a franchise cornerstone in Dirk for what’s going on 19 years, do they believe they have any current players they can build around?
Let’s go through some of the players (or assets) they may have identified internally, as players they can build around in order to start the “Warriors emulating process”.
Harrison Barnes knows the Warriors inside and out as he was one of the members of the 2014–2015 title team. After the Warriors nabbed Kevin Durant last summer in free agency, Barnes became expendable.
Barnes appeared to bring over everything he learned from the Warriors and more. He is fresh off a career-best season where he averaged 19.2 points, 5 rebounds off of 46.8% shooting, including 35% from distance. With Dirk sidelined for a large chunk of the season, Barnes took over Dirk’s role as the offensive go-to option. His isolation game sky-rocketed compared to his days in Golden State. While in Golden State as the 4th option, Barnes was involved in an isolation on only 8.1% of possessions— whereas, in Dallas, 24.5% of his possessions resulted in an isolation per, synergy sports. In those isolation’s Barnes was one of the leagues most efficient players.
Barnes serves as the type of player you want to have on your roster when competing against the Warriors. He brings positional flexibility out on the court with his ability to play both the small forward and power forward positions. He can switch multiple positions on the perimeter, and he’s one of the league’s best post defenders, serving as a brick wall thanks to his frame and superior positioning down on the post. Barnes, who recently turned 25, is locked in at the max for the next two seasons2 with a player option for a third. He was worth every penny of his first-year base salary of $22,116,750. If his game continues to trend upward, you’d have to think he will be considered as the #1 option of the post-Dirk era Mavs.
Next in line would Nerlens Noel who is restricted free agent. Multiple reports have indicated that Noel will be seeking and likely land a max contract this offseason.
Noel brings a unique set of skills that translate into the new age NBA. His defensive versatility may be his best skill. He is extremely fast and with active hands on the defensive side of the ball. He is one of the rare players that can average 2 blocks and 2 steals per game. The Mavericks weight training staff may need to look at trying to bulk him up a little bit if he wants to take the rigors of being a 35 minute per game center.
His offensive game may be limited to just a rim-runner and someone who finishes with dunks around the rim, but a player like that surrounded by shooting is a very valuable asset in today’s game. Noel has been active in the Dallas/FW area and will be participating in Dirk’s annual Hero’s Baseball game, the thought is that he is likely to reach a deal with the Mavericks. If the Mavericks can land him below the max it would be a steal.
#9 Overall Pick in the 2017 Draft
One of the hopeful building blocks for the Mavs may lie within the NBA draft. The Mavs, after failing to generate any luck during last May’s lottery are slotted as the ninth to pick in the June 22nd NBA draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. With very little draft success in recent years, it is imperative that the Mavs nail this pick. The draft is one of the few opportunities (drafting, free agency, trades) to grab potential franchise talent that can alter your franchise’s success trajectory. With a loaded 2017 draft, the Mavericks will be presented with an excellent opportunity to grab a player that could help redefine who they become as a franchise.
Teams are going to be left with tough personnel decisions over the next couple of years as long as the Warriors core is intact. If fans thought “The Process” in Philadelphia has taken too much time, they may be in for a rude awakening over the next couple of years. The championship roadmap may be long and bumpy, but having players like Barnes, Noel and a top 10 talent from this year’s draft, may help expedite the Mavs desires to become a Warriors type team.