Because of the style they play, the Golden State Warriors sometimes look like a fatally flawed team. The Warriors shoot as many three-pointers as anyone, often play loose on offense and gamble constantly. They get up and down the floor, have little collective conscience and evoke memories of the most reckless, entertaining version of Golden State's squad. If you squint, you can see the ghosts of Run TMC and We Believe.
That's one of the interesting things about Golden State lore: the bad Warriors teams are anonymous and forgettable, but the good teams are so wonderfully unglued that we only remember the latter. Now that we have a third generation of exciting Warriors basketball, we carry forward the associations of eras past. The strongest association is that Golden State is entertaining as hell. After that, nearly as powerful, is the belief that the Warriors aren't really championship material due to some foundational crack. When they are good, the Warriors are always a lot of fun. But they aren't normal enough to win a title.
The NBA, however, is no longer run by the laws of normalcy. In some ways, every champion since the Mavericks in 2011 has flouted the extant laws of how to win in basketball. In an age of super teams, Dallas rode Dirk Nowitzki and a brilliant defense to glory. The Heat went back-to-back with a bizarre menage of stars and old dudes. The 2013-14 Spurs are the heroes of oddity, with a wunderkind wing incapable of smiling (Kawhi), an ancient oak around which everything revolves (Duncan), a bevy of crafty and quick guards (Parker, Manu, Danny Green) and the single most idiosyncratic player in the league.
No worries pop only one glass of wine and daily workouts!
Weird can win in the NBA, so Golden State doesn't need to worry about that.
What's striking about this edition of the Warriors, however, is how solid they are at their core. There's elite scoring in the backcourt (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson), a wing stopper (Andre Iguodala), a shot-blocking center (Andrew Bogut), a workman power forward (David Lee) and a handful of solid role players (Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli, Harrison Barnes in theory). So much worry has been spent about the team's cap sheet and coach drama that we've lost sight of the fact that this roster has been built as well as any.
Sure, Lee is overpriced and Bogut is a major injury risk without much backup. Thompson on a max deal is a potential problem down the line, and Iguodala's contract could be trouble if he doesn't age gracefully. Curry's ankles deserve their own Popemobiles. And more nerve-rattling than anything: the new coach, Steve Kerr, is a rookie with no sideline experience. All those worries are real.
But when you look past them, you see the potential magic in this squad. Mark Jackson caught a tough rap in that he never got credit for the Warriors' elite defense last season. Even though he had Bogut, Thompson and Iguodala, Jackson deserves acclaim for leading a team starting David Lee and Stephen Curry to the No. 4 defensive rating in the NBA. That is, however, just one side of the ball.
We think of the Warriors as a speedy, gunning outfit built on the sweet shooting of Curry and Thompson. On offense, that's exactly what the team was: a collection of very good shooters. No team passed less than Golden State last season. Bogut, one of the best 7-foot passers of his generation, was treated like Andris Biedrins: just play defense and try not to touch the ball, please. Curry racked up assists as Jackson implemented a traditional PG-heavy pick-and-roll offense, the kind Jackson himself thrived in as a player. But that negated Curry's considerable off-ball talents, as well as the passing ability of Iguodala, Bogut and Lee. Kerr has said he intends to change the formula and get everyone moving the ball.
That's the final step for this wonderfully strange collection to break the Golden State mold and challenge for a championship. If Kerr can unlock the offense while keeping the defense top-shelf, the Warriors will be as good as any team in the NBA without giving up their weird identity. In the context of the league these days, it's only fitting that Golden State's breakthrough would come as the Larry O'Brien embraces the odd.