Whether the NBA is currently in a golden era probably doesn't matter; what does matter is that the league seems to be in a great spot right now. Interest is high, money is flowing and the news cycle doesn't sleep. The last part has never been more evident than at the onset of an already wild offseason.
But beyond a draft day full of surprises and enough veteran movement create new powers in Brooklyn, Houston and Los Angeles (no, not the Lakers), the most shocking development of the offseason might be the Utah Jazz's big favor to the Golden State Warriors. Utah took on $24 million in payroll for the chance to scoop up what's sure to be a late first-round pick in 2014 and another one in 2017.
What the Warriors did to earn such a gracious helping hand from the Jazz remains elusive, but it cleared the way for Golden State to sign free agent Andre Iguodala. It might have also completed the Warriors' transition to becoming the most fun team in the NBA.
The Warriors already had a stake to that title, to be sure. Golden State has always boasted one of the most electric home crowds in the league, and a run to the second round of playoffs keyed by the sharpshooting of Stephen Curry caused flashbacks to the team's first round upset over the Mavericks in 2007.
Golden State turned into everybody's postseason favorite in large part because it stumbled into a small lineup the same way the Heat did a year before. When David Lee went down with a hip injury, the team often played Jarrett Jack and Curry together in the backcourt with Klay Thompson sliding into small forward and Harrison Barnes moving to the four.
Jack has since been pried away with a four-year deal from the Cavaliers, but Golden State's small-ball identify won't be lost. Iguodala only makes it even more enticing.
The Warriors' lineup of Curry, Jack, Barnes, Thompson and Andrew Bogut never played a minute in the regular season because of Bogut's ankle injury, but it blitzed opponents in the playoffs by scoring 107.7 points per 100 possessions while allowing only 96.1 points per 100 in 108 minutes through 12 games. The offensive production would have ranked fourth in the NBA if spread over the course of a full season. Defensively, it would have been the best unit in the league.
And that's precisely what makes the acquisition of Iguodala so intoxicating. Iggy has the playmaking skills of Jack, but brings so much more to the table with his size, elite athleticism and what might be the NBA's most ferocious perimeter defense.
On the surface, Golden State now has the opportunity to space the floor with four players who can shoot, pass and dribble when they choose to go small with Barnes, Thompson, Iguodala and Curry. If Bogut can stay healthy, he'll provide a necessary interior defensive force while Iguodala helps lock down the opposing team's best guard or wing.
Offensively, Golden State may only be limited by its own creativity. This is where Iguodala's playmaking and off-ball cutting comes in. Only five players averaged 13 points, five assists and five rebounds last season: LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo and Iguodala. It's a signing that should make Golden State a terror in the halfcourt on both sides of the ball while adding even more transition athleticism to a team that already had it in droves.
And then there's the less quantifiable and more subjective matter: Is this the coolest team in the league? It seems like the Warriors have all the markings of a League Pass favorite.
Curry has established himself as one of the more likable and watchable stars in the NBA, and his historic three-point assault isn't about to slow down. Barnes had a couple instant-classic YouTube dunks in his rookie season and just recently turned old enough to buy a beer. Kent Bazemore is still around as the league's best hype man, going wild on the bench with every long distance bomb or killer slam. (And he actually may play a lot more this season.)
Yes, injuries could derail everything. Curry's troublesome ankles could bother him again, and Bogut, who has dealt with myriad injuries in the past few seasons, needs to hold up. And even with an improved roster, it's tough to say if the Warriors will be better than the Thunder (pending the development of Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III), the always pristine Spurs, the Grizzlies or the rebuilt Rockets and Clippers.
Regardless, Golden State is going to be a blast. The Warriors aren't the only ones who owe a thank you card to the Jazz; every NBA fan does, too.