Warriors

Warriors lost psychological edge, rest of NBA pouncing at title shot

Warriors lost psychological edge, rest of NBA pouncing at title shot

OAKLAND – Sixteen days shy of three years ago, the Warriors were charged with ruining the NBA. Upon adding Kevin Durant, you’d swear they committed a felony. They were littered with scorn.

The Warriors didn’t care. They’d lost the 2016 NBA Finals in most ignominious way, but they were holding the biggest NBA lottery jackpot since Miami won LeBron James in 2010.

In luring KD out of Oklahoma City and becoming prohibitive favorites for 2017 -- even posing with silver balloons spelling out “Super Villains” -- the Warriors had a message for the rest of the league: Try your slingshots against our heavy artillery.

"Just to be absolutely clear, I do not think that's ideal from the league standpoint," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said a few days after Durant signed with the Warriors.

Those were the days, eh? They are as gone as Anderson Varejao.

The rest of the NBA has been gaining a little bit at a time, eventually eliminating the awe factor that once allowed the Warriors to win merely by stepping onto the floor with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Durant and the minimum-salary center du jour.

Asked the other day if he thinks the rest of the NBA has gotten better over the past few seasons, Warriors CEO Joe Lacob didn’t hesitate.

“It did. I do believe that,” he said. “There are 29 other ownership groups and management teams and players that are all working to make themselves better. It gets harder every year.

“But that’s fun. That’s what the fun of it all is. It’s not meant to be. I don’t think we’re going to go out and win every year, although I’d like to and we will try to. But there are a lot of good teams, good players, good organizations and the chess pieces get moved around a little bit when you have the draft and free agency. And that’s all the exciting next few weeks.”

Lacob, who says he doesn’t do retrospection, knows what’s coming not only in 2019-20 -- when injured current Warriors Durant and Thompson will play little, if at all -- but beyond.

The Raptors, having dethroned the Warriors last week, will enter next season as favorite -- if they re-sign Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. If they lose Leonard, the Western Conference team that signs him -- Toronto is the only Eastern Conference team believed to have a chance -- will be, at worst, a title contender.

The Bucks are legitimate and will be better after dipping their toes into deep postseason waters. The 76ers are serious, as are the Celtics. Assuming none of the top four teams in the East undergoes dramatic retooling, they’ll all be threats.

And then there is the West, which is not as top-heavy as the East but surely is deeper. The young Nuggets will be better next April. The Trail Blazers are a quality forward away from being imposing. The Rockets will be back, even after the presumed remodel.

Care to imagine Kawhi and another star joining the Clippers, who went nose-to-nose with the Warriors in the playoffs?

The Lakers are committed to giving themselves more of a chance next season. After spending last summer renting veteran rejects and role players, surrounding LeBron James with young talent and cardboard cutouts, LA will add Anthony Davis. That’s threatening.

Most of the aforementioned opponents have experienced the joy of walloping the Warriors by 20 or more points over the past two seasons. They believed and they succeeded.

The past five years have taken a toll on the Warriors, particularly the 105 postseason games. They’ve averaged 103 games per season. That, combined with serious injuries to Durant and Thompson, is enough to embolden teams that once figured they had no reasonable chance.

[RELATED: Draymond denies report that he visited KD in New York]

When the Warriors take the court next season, they’ll do so with the wind in their faces instead of at their backs. The psychological edge is completely gone. They’re weakened, and everybody will believe they can get a piece.

When the Warriors last season often claimed to get “everybody’s best shot,” there was some truth to that. Not nearly as much as there will be next season.

Seven records Warriors stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green could break

Seven records Warriors stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green could break

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The juggernaut Warriors of the last five years are no longer, but some key star holdovers have a chance to reach some NBA records this season.

With the departures of Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and the injury to Klay Thompson, the playmaking and scoring for the Warriors will mostly fall on the shoulders of Steph Curry, Draymond Green and newly acquired D'Angelo Russell. So as the construction of the team changed dramatically, the Warriors now potentially face a struggle to play the same suffocating defense most have come accustomed to.

Instead, they will rely on a high-powered offense and individual key defensive players to lead the charge. Here are some records that they could break this season.

Most 3-pointers in a regular season: Steph Curry 402 (2015-16)

The biggest key to Curry toppling his own historic 3-point season will be staying healthy and in the lineup. Curry has not played over 70 games in a season since 2016-17, and played 79 games when he shattered the season record.

Since the Warriors might have to outscore teams in shootouts with their defense less reliable, Curry will be able to fire away with abandon. Curry hit 354 3-pointers in just 69 games last season. If he played 10 extra games and maintained his average 3-point rate, he would have broken his record.

So what else could help Curry break 402? Well, just keep reading ...

3-point attempts per game: James Harden 13.2 (2018-19)

When Curry made 402 3-pointers, he averaged 11.2 attempts per game. Last season, he averaged a career-high 11.7 3-point attempts per game. Shooting two more 3s per game is within reason, and definitely a welcome proposition for all Warriors fans. 

Most consecutive games with 5+ 3-pointers made: James Harden 12 (2018-19)

The more Steph shoots, the more he makes. Harden might be watching a few of his milestones surpassed this season.

Most 3-pointers attempted in a game: Klay Thompson 24 (Oct. 29, 2018)

Most 3-pointers made in a game: Klay Thompson 14 (Oct. 29, 2018)

Curry already jokingly (probably) proclaimed that he would shoot 22 3-pointers on opening night against the Clippers. So would you be surprised if he had a few games this season in which he launched endlessly from long range? Unfortunately for Klay, he will have to sit idly on the bench for most of the season while Curry goes after his record.

[RELATED: Steph Curry primed for another MVP season]

Most steals in a game: Larry Kenon 11 (Dec. 26, 1976), Kendall Gill 11 (April 3, 1999)

The defensive category belongs to Draymond Green, and after signing a $100 million extension and getting into the best shape of his life, he is primed for a breakout season. If last playoffs are any indicator of how he will play next season, then there are several defensive records and milestones that can be within his sights.

On Feb. 10, 2017, Green recorded a triple-double in Memphis. But it was not just any triple-double, it included 10 steals, one away from the single-game record. There will be many games next season that he will carry the team defensively, so perhaps he approaches the record again.

200 steals plus 100 blocks in one season: Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen

In 2016-17, Green set a career-high 154 steals and blocked 106 shots -- down from his previous career-high of 113 the year prior. Remaining healthy and in the lineup for most of the season will be imperative for Green to even have a chance at approaching a 200-100 season.

It still is a long shot for Draymond to reach those totals, but when he is in shape, motivated and playing with fire, there's always a chance. 

Kevin Durant rocks Nets jersey for first time since leaving Warriors

Kevin Durant rocks Nets jersey for first time since leaving Warriors

Slowly but surely, Kevin Durant is moving on from the Warriors. 

After electing to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency. Durant expressed his feelings on his time in the Bay, including the elation of winning the NBA Finals and the belief that he never would be accepted in the same way Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala were.

The next step in Durant's quest to move on from the Warriors came Thursday when he donned the black and white of Brooklyn for the first time in a promotional shoot.

Seeing KD rocking a No. 7 Nets jersey is ... a little weird.

Those jerseys are clean, though,

Durant won't see the floor this season as he continues to rehab from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Once Durant is back to 100 percent, he'll join Kyrie Irving and a band of young Nets trying to take over the Eastern Conference.

[RELATED: Steph fires back at KD after criticism of Warriors offense]

As for the Warriors, they remade their roster after Durant's exit and will be looking to go back to their roots with a ball-movement centric attack that lets Curry, new addition D'Angelo Russell and Thompson -- when he returns from his torn ACL -- torment opposing defenses.