The NBA season is just the right amount of games. Eighty-two games is just enough to figure out where everyone stands. Realistically it could probably be capped around around 60, but it will have to do. Unfortunately, the season doesn’t stop there and the grind of stretched playoff series (especially early on) to make more money has screwed the teams struggling with one big injury or another.
Last year Stephen Curry’s injury really slowed down the freight train that won an NBA regular season record 73 games. But the reason this team got to such a lofty number (though it almost didn’t happen) was because of all of the interchangeable parts. Guys like Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes are now gone.
And while role players may not seem like such a monumental loss, they had a role and that is now taken on by different players with different skill sets or physical capabilities. Kevin Durant is ten times the player Harrison Barnes will ever be. Sure, Barnes has the talent to be a fringe-All Star type guy (not that he ever will be in the ASG). But Barnes sacrificed and fit a particular role.
While Durant provides another proven game-changing scorer with efficiency and the defensive potential to keep the Warriors on top. What they may lose in team defense, Golden State will definitely gain in individual length and ability from KD. And more to the point, Bogut’s defensive presence can be mitigated (but to a much lesser extent) with David West slotted it alongside the smaller lineups. Anderson Varejao will have to play a more prominent role at age 33 to spell the even older West (35).
Can rookie Damian Jones unlock his considerable potential and start for the Warriors right away? Having an athletic 7-footer will some range is nice but not necessary with all the other shooters on the floor. Or can a guy like Ian Clark step up into a Kent Bazemore-level role and provide the spark that Leandro Barbosa once was able to (assuming he’s even still on the roster).
Even in a new NBA where positions aren’t defined at all, there’s something to be said about having big bodies that can defend. Losing guys like Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut might not be the difference in the NBA Finals, but they will be the difference in a regular season. The 2015-16 Warriors won’t defined solely on their unprecedented regular season but more so on their failure to repeat in the playoffs.
The ceiling of expectation is high and the idea that Golden State has somehow improved with these offseason moves isn’t ridiculous. However, when you think of improvement, you think of win-shares. If Kevin Durant is worth 6 or 7 more wins, then is it realistic to expect an 80-2 record? Look who’s set up for failure.