The NBA is a copycat league. Once some system, gimmick or ideology shows its power, it is replicated relentlessly. Then, some other styling comes along and the process repeats.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is how the league and the game evolve, and it's really wonderful to watch in real-time. (Advances in technology have made deep study easier for teams, and that has likely led to faster recognition and adoption of trends.)
The Golden State Warriors were the NBA's darlings and monsters all season long. After 67 wins and a championship, it's obvious that others in the league will dissect their system, structure and style and try to mimic elements, if not the whole thing. Just as teams learned from the Spurs' pass-heavy renaissance, they will try to adapt to a more Warriors-like philosophy, one built heavily on three-pointers, defensive agility and comfort with legitimate small ball. (It should be noted that the Warriors were inspired by the Spurs and other predecessors, most notoriously the Mike D'Antoni Suns.)
There are a few surface-level reasons to believe the Warriors are an attainable ideal.
Their draft picks were never very high
At its worst, Golden State was merely mediocre. Following the break-up of the We Believe! Warriors in 2008, the Warriors had a bad four-year run that resulted in picking up Stephen Curry (a No. 7 pick), Ekpe Udoh (No. 6), Klay Thompson (No. 11) and Harrison Barnes (No. 7). Those are not terribly high picks. The Warriors were never as bad as the current Lakers, Knicks or Sixers. The Warriors never even finished last in their division! (What's up, Sacramento?) There was no extravagant rebuild plan here. There was no incredible mash-up of plan-and-luck like the Thunder got with the Presti Plan (resulting in a No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 within three years).
The Warriors were bad for four years, lost the lottery every time and ended up here.
Stephen Curry doesn't look the part of a monster
It's well-accepted that Curry is an absolute aberration in the NBA. He's a glitch, and one of the very brightest superstars. But because of his body and style, he doesn't seem totally irreplaceable. You look at LeBron James at any point in the past decade and teams just know they aren't ever going to be able to draft a guy like that. With Curry? You can trick yourself into thinking there is another Curry in the pipeline and that he'll be available outside of the top pick or two.
Its strength is in its depth
What NBA general manager doesn't think he's smart enough to build a deep unit like Golden State's, even in a salary-restricted environment? It's not as if Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston and Andrew Bogut have been completely off-limits to other teams. This is a team filled with journeymen in key roles.
The Warriors display an easy boldness
Every GM would like to think they'd decline a Thompson-for-Kevin Love deal in 2014. Every coach would like to think they'd bench their high-priced All-Star wing for brash young lightning bolts, or that they'd bench their high-priced veteran center in the middle of the Finals to go small. Every franchisee would like to think they'd be comfortable replacing a seriously popular and successful coach with a rookie.
But consider this a warning: it is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible for any franchise to replicate what the Warriors have done.
Let's take those arguments in reverse order.
The Warriors' audacity is in rare supply
To fire a coach is not bold because it happens constantly. To fire Mark Jackson in 2014 is ballsy as hell. To replace him not with a successful veteran coach or a rising assistant, but a former GM with absolutely zero bench experience? That's an incredible amount of confidence in your ability to recognize talent.
The boldness didn't stop then. GM Bob Myers declined to trade a good starting two-guard for a power forward who averaged 26 and 12 last season. There are incredibly few GMs making that call in 2014. Then, for that new coach, Steve Kerr, to make the decisions he did as a rookie -- from starting Draymond Green and Barnes over David Lee and Iguodala, to dropping DNP-CDs on Bogut in the Finals -- is just crazy. What faith!
No other team but the Spurs exhibits that sort of belief in each other and in the collective. From the top down, the team has faith in what they're doing. That's incredibly rare in the NBA.
Building a deep roster is surprisingly difficult
Look at the Cavaliers, who had to start Matthew Dellavedova in five NBA Finals games and give minutes to James Jones and Mike Miller in 2015. (Yes, injuries did cause a bunch of that. The team was still never deep despite yeoman's work from GM David Griffin.) The Clippers had exactly one good bench player this season. The Hawks, Wizards and Rockets were all to some extent beaten due to their lack of depth. The only contender nearly as deep as Golden State was San Antonio.
The Warriors put together a ridiculous reserve unit led by Iguodala, Livingston, Marreese Speights, Ezeli and Barbosa. The Warriors bench was so well-built that they didn't even need Lee until the Finals! Building a bench like that looks way easier than it actually is given salary restraints high-payroll teams deal with.
Curry is one of a kind
There is no player in the NBA like Steph, and there's little chance there will be another Steph in this generation of NBA stars or the next. He has an impossible combination: one of the world's quickest shooting triggers, uncanny ball-handling skills, incredible court vision, a lithe body that doesn't seem to tire and dead-eye aim.
Other players have some of those skills. Kyle Korver has the trigger and the aim, Kyrie Irving can dribble as deftly, Chris Paul has the vision and J.J. Redick can sprint around screens for 40 minutes without clawing for air. But no one puts all together like Steph.
And without Steph, this Warriors team doesn't come near these heights. The system works so beautifully because of the singular talent it is built around. Just as teams like the Raptors and Grizzlies tried to mimic the Seven Seconds Or Less system but failed because they lacked a Nash, so too will teams try to be Golden State and fail because there is no other Curry.
The Warriors had one incredible draft run
Drafting that much talent in a short time period outside the top five picks isn't unprecedented -- but it's close. The Spurs landed Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the late first and second rounds, respectively, more than a decade ago, and Kawhi Leonard at No. 15 more recently. The Pacers had a strong run with Paul George (No. 10), Roy Hibbert (No. 17) and Lance Stephenson (No. 40) a few years after Danny Granger (No. 17).
But the Warriors' Curry-Klay-Barnes-Dray collection is even better than that, albeit with better picks. To assume that any front office could pick winners as well as Golden State is to ignore the precedent that very few teams have ever picked as well as Golden State given where they've picked.
There are elements of the Warriors that will be adopted, and successfully. More teams will become even more invested in the deep ball. More coaches will experiment with extremely small lineups. The game will indeed continue to evolve in ways expected and otherwise, with a golden tinge due on the next set of basketball mutations.
But to think there can be another Warriors team in the league is to ignore all that makes this Warriors team so exceptional. They can be beaten next year and beyond, but it's highly unlikely they'll be taken out by a team that looks just like them.
SB Nation presents: The 3-pointer has gone from novelty to necessary