Currently, the Golden State Warriors are far and away the best team in basketball, and heavy favorites for the 2017-2018 NBA title. They’ve won two championships in the last three years, and will likely win a few more in the future.
They’re in a good place to continue their dominance. Their four stars (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green) are all under the age of 30, the general age when athletic decline kicks in. Their cap space has been masterfully managed, and they have a deep, solid supporting cast.
Theoretically, the Warriors could be contenders for ten years or more if they acquire other stars through free agency or the draft. But that’s unlikely, even with an impeccable front office and massive pull among the players. Likely, the Warriors will decline when their stars either leave or grow old.
Eventually, all dynasties fall. Let’s dive into the various ways the Warriors era could end.
One or more of the stars leave
Of the four stars, it’s most likely Stephen Curry is a Warrior for the rest of his career. He’s the face of the franchise, and it seems like only a major disappointment could cause the Warriors and Curry to split. Draymond Green also seems very likely to stay: he’s under contract for three more years, and seems to understand the best fit for his abilities is in Golden State. He’s the star who would do worst as the best player on a team.
Klay Thompson is the easy guess for most likely to leave, given his youth and scoring ability. At age 27, he’s tied for youngest among the four stars, and as the third scorer on the Warriors, maybe he’s yearning for the opportunity to be “the man.” But he’s repeated many times he’d love to stay on the Warriors, even hinting at a hometown discount for future contracts. He’s never shown the desire to be the leader, and is instead content with winning as part of a group.
If anybody leaves the Warriors, it might be Kevin Durant. He’s only been a Warrior for a year, unlike the other stars, who were drafted and groomed by the franchise. If the Warriors win a couple championships in the next few years, Durant might have the confidence and drive to show the world he can win by himself. But even he will be surely on the team for the next couple years.
There might be a time where the Warriors simply don’t have enough money to offer their stars. But Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant have offered to take less money this offseason, and their cap space management has always been solid. It’s always difficult to predict, but I don’t think money will be an issue in keeping these four stars on the Warriors.
The supporting cast doesn’t do enough
The Warriors will likely always be contenders if the four stars play at high levels. They’ll continue to be priority free agent destinations for ring-chasers and other misfits.
But there’s a chance Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston age poorly, and Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell, and Damian Jones either never develop or are too expensive to retain. If that’s the case, the margin for error for Warriors’ championships will be small. But the way things are looking right now, the Warriors’ supporting cast looks more than capable of doing enough for the stars.
The stars age and decline
The most likely end for the Warriors’ dynasty is the eventual aging of their stars. Both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are 29, which means they’ll likely begin their declines in just a few years. For Curry, losing athleticism would hinder his agility and quickness on drives into the paint (think 2016 Finals), and hurt his defensive capabilities. For Durant, aging would take away his explosive first step and possibly his rim protection.
Thompson and Green are younger, but age will affect them too. I think Thompson’s game will age nicely, but if Green loses any speed or quickness, he might be just too small and unathletic to be a defensive force. The Warriors must be careful with playing Green too much at center, which if done excessively, will rough him up and shorten his career.
All things considered, I expect the Warriors’ dynasty to last about four more years. It’s difficult to predict the future, but it seems about 2021 is the year when the stars will begin to seriously decline. We’ve already had three years of the Warriors as an elite team, so seven years total would be terrific. Enjoy it while it lasts.