After the long, grueling NBA season, every team, including the champion Golden State Warriors, looked ahead to the next season, and all fans of the NBA were swept up in rumors, transactions, and the absolute chaos of the summer. Now, as July comes to an end and all of the major free agents have signed new contracts, it is finally time to look back and truly appreciate the historical season the Warriors had in 2014-2015.
The emergence of one of the best teams ever may have seemed sudden, but the building of this particular team has been a slow, difficult journey which began in 2009. On June 25 of that year, the Warriors selected a scrawny kid out of Davidson College named Stephen Curry with the 7th overall pick. And thus began the journey towards a championship.
During the following offseason the Warriors made a sign and trade with the Knicks for all-star David Lee, who has since made another all-star team and contributed greatly to the 2015 championship run, playing a pivotal role in the must-win game 4 of the Finals despite losing his starting job.
In the summer of 2011, the Warriors drafted Klay Thompson with the 11th pick and united him with Curry to form the backcourt tandem that is now known as the splash brothers. They also hired a new Head Coach, Mark Jackson, who brought with him a defense-first attitude that hadn't been seen for a long time in the Bay Area. Later that season they traded fan favorite shooting guard Monta Ellis for defensive anchor Andrew Bogut, who, although out with a broken ankle at the time, had the defensive intensity coach Jackson wanted his whole team to model.
In the 2012 Draft the Warriors struck gold as they selected current starting forwards Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green (7th and 35th, respectively) as well as backup center Festus Ezeli (30th overall). In 2012-2013, the Warriors surprised the basketball world and snuck into the playoffs, even pulling off a first round upset before being eliminated by the eventual runner-up San Antonio Spurs. While there was clear progress, it was also evident the team was not quite ready to truly compete against the best teams in the league.
The ensuing offseason, they signed Andre Iguodala, a former all-star and member of the 2012 Olympic team, to replace Harrison Barnes in the starting lineup, creating one of the best starting units in the league. They also added veteran big man Marreese Speights to add depth to the frontcourt rotation. With high expectations for the first time since the early 90's, the 2013-2014 season was a disappointment as Barnes struggled to adapt to his new role, coming off the bench. The rest of the bench was underwhelming as well, constantly giving up leads and losing games.
After a first round playoff defeat to the rival Los Angeles Clippers, Mark Jackson was fired and Steve Kerr, who had never before coached at any level, was hired to replace him and bring a more modern offensive system while still preserving the excellent defense he inherited. They also signed a pair of backup guards in Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa to give Curry and Thompson some much needed rest without giving up too much on court production.
The 2014-2015 season got off to a rough start as starting power forward David Lee was injured in the preseason. Instead of giving up and viewing it as a negative, Steve Kerr instead used it as an opportunity to insert Draymond Green into the starting lineup, instantly improving the defense and providing more spacing offensively.
The adjustments made by Kerr proved to be the next step the Dubs needed as they began the season with a 21-2 record that put them on top of the Western Conference standings for good. They finished with an astounding 67-15 record, the best regular season record since the 2007 Dallas Mavericks, and they were possibly even more impressive than their record indicated. Throughout the season they lead the NBA in points per game, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage, while also holding their opponents to the lowest field goal percentage. In terms of efficiency (points per 100 possessions) they had the league's second best offense and the best defense.
Unsurprisingly, the Warriors dominated the NBA awards. Stephen Curry was named MVP and All-NBA first team, Draymond Green was second in both Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player as well as being named to the All-Defensive first team. Klay Thompson was voted to the All-NBA third team and Andrew Bogut was selected to the All-Defensive second team. Steve Kerr was also second in Coach of the Year voting.
The Warriors then went on to breeze through the postseason without too much trouble, winning their playoff battles in 4, 6, 5, and 6 games, never even having to play an elimination game. Rookie coach Steve Kerr made a few brilliant moves that proved to be the difference makers in the second round and the Finals, proving again that he was the right man for the job.
The win was a great accomplishment and an excellent gift to the loyal Bay Area fans who have stuck with the team during the decades of mediocrity. In baseball and football the Bay has two teams, so loyalties are often split, but not in basketball. With the Golden State Warriors, the entire Bay Area is able to enjoy the NBA together. The championship celebration filled the streets of Oakland with a million fans, including rich web designers from Marin and homeless people living in the streets along the championship parade route. After decades of misery, they were all finally able to together celebrate the Bay’s team. Our team. The 2015 NBA champion Golden State Warriors.