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David Robinson Cautions

Durant and Warriors have short title window

Despite the recent break provided by the Olympics, the bulk of this NBA offseason has been occupied by discussion and emotion regarding Kevin Durant’s move to the Golden State Warriors. Like LeBron James before him, Durant has helped create a new overwhelming title favorite. It just happens to be the same overwhelming title favorite we had last season.

However, the most sober analysts have argued that the acquisiton of Durant guarantees nothing for Golden State. After all, LeBron and the Miami Heat only one two titles in their four seasons together. There’s no telling how star players will age, which role players will step up to help, and how other teams will reload and grow to become serious challengers.

In fact, one two-time champion thinks that the Warriors actually have a short window to win their championships. Here’s what San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson told Zach Frydenlund of Complex.com:

Of course, with the Golden State Warriors signing Kevin Durant in July, the team in Oakland will be heavy favorites to come out of the West, but that’s not stopping “The Admiral” from believing in the team that he won two titles with. “It takes time, you look at what happened with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. It took them a year or two to get their legs underneath them and figure things out and even then that run was relatively short,” he mentioned. “So if you’re able to put together a team like this, you’re generally going to have a short window because you can’t pay all those guys to keep them together. There’s the short window that’s going to end relatively quickly and it’s not as easy as going out to play.”

In particular, Robinson brought up the Warriors losing a few key role players this summer in the pursuit of Durant, which might mess with chemistry early on. “It’s not that easy and people can say what they want to say, but it’s still up in the air,” he said. “Nobody thought Cleveland would win the championship this year. There were four teams in the West they said they couldn’t beat and they were down 3-1 and they came back and won so you just never know. You can’t write the script.”

It is easy enough to pick apart Robinson’s argument. The Warriors are unlike the Heat in that they did not remake their roster this offseason — Durant could slide into the role occupied by Harrison Barnes in 2016-17 and thrive. The fact that head coach Steve Kerr can optimize the system to fit Durant’s specific talents should only make the Warriors and their new superstar better. For that matter, Golden State’s preexisting culture should make it easier to solve the unavoidable issues regarding how often each star gets his share of the spotlight. Durant picked the Warriors in part because he knew what he was getting into. He felt comfortable with what already existed in Oakland.

But the Admiral isn’t wrong, because the modern NBA is all about change. The Heat are an instructive example here in that they won the 2012 and 2013 titles and then looked substantially more vulnerable just one year later, when the Spurs rebounded to win their fifth and most recent title. Many of the things that worked so well for the Heat previously were suddenly issues — role players like Mike Miller were too old or hobbled to contribute, Dwyane Wade lost a step, LeBron had to everything, etc. There was no special evidence to suggest that the Heat would look so much less formidable even as they made the NBA Finals for a fourth straight season. The Spurs were better, had a burgeoning star in Kawhi Leonard, and had figured out how to beat them.

History suggests that the Warriors will immediately contend for a title and have to reload sooner rather than later. Golden State is fortunate to have Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green all younger than 29 years old and seemingly committed to the franchise for the foreseeable future, but they still have to fill out the roster with role players. What if aging ring-chasers like David West can’t contribute? What if Durant or Curry sees a recurrence of the injury issues that have derailed past seasons? What if the league figures out how to defend Green in a way that renders his versatility less effective?

The answers to those questions do not exist right now. I ask them only as a reminder that the Warriors will eventually have to adjust to their answers. As the Spurs have proven for many years, a team only creates a long championship window by evolving. All we know for sure is that this version of the Warriors does not have many seasons to win a title. That’s true for no other reason than that no one does until they create new opportunities.

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