Warriors are now an NBA dynasty
June 16, 2018
Sports fodder for a Friday morning …
Where do the Golden State Warriors rank among the greatest dynasties in NBA history? The Boston Celtics, which won eight titles in a row from 1959-66 and 17 from 1957-1986, will likely always be the top NBA dynasty. The Minneapolis Lakers were the first NBA dynasty, winning five titles in six years from 1949-54. Those Lakers became the Los Angeles Lakers and won 10 titles from 1972-2010. The Chicago Bulls won six in eight years from 1991-98. The Lakers won three in a row in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles, the Bulls won three in a row twice and the Celtics won eight in a row. Those dynasties are all still ahead of the Warriors and you could argue that the San Antonio Spurs, who won five titles from 1999-2014, are also at least equal to the Warriors. But by winning a third title in four years the Warriors are now officially on the list of NBA dynasties and they are likely not finished as long as Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Steve Kerr are around.
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The Cleveland Cavaliers this year just might have been the dumbest team to ever advance to the NBA Finals. There was J.R. Smith, who dribbled out the clock at the end of regulation in Game 1. And then there was LeBron James, who broke his hand after Game 1 hitting a whiteboard in frustration over Smith's stupidity. The Warriors kept asking to be beaten in the playoffs this year. But the opponents were their own worst enemies. The San Antonio Spurs were running on fumes by the time the playoffs rolled around. The New Orleans Pelicans were missing DeMarcus Cousins. The Houston Rockets missed 27 consecutive 3-pointers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals and the Cavaliers stopped playing with about four seconds to go in regulation in Game 1.
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The Mountain West released its men's basketball conference schedule this week and, well, the Wolf Pack can send a pretty strong message by the middle of January. The Pack's toughest stretch in league play is right at the start when it must play at New Mexico, Fresno State and Boise State within its first five league games. If the Pack is sitting at 5-0 in league play (the Pack also hosts Utah State and San Jose State at home in early January), the rest of the league might be fighting for second place the rest of the way.
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There is no question that the Wolf Pack, which has won the last two conference regular season titles (both outright), is the best of the Mountain West right now. But the Wolf Pack has a chance this year to put itself in the discussion for best Mountain West dynasty in the history (since the league was created in 1999-00) of the league. The Pack could become the first team in Mountain West history to win three consecutive outright regular season titles. BYU won three titles in a row from 2007-09 but had to share the 2009 title with two other teams. San Diego State won three in a row from 2014-16 but had to share its 2015 crown with Boise State. The Pack does not like to share.
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There are a couple other goals that might motivate the Pack this season. No team in the history of the Mountain West has ever turned in a perfect conference season. The closest to perfection was Utah, which went 13-1 in 2004-05. Every other team has lost two or more conference games in every Mountain West season. There is also one other prize at stake if the Pack goes 18-0 in Mountain West lay this year, It would give them 47 victories over the last three seasons, breaking the Mountain West's record of 46 wins over a three-year span by San Diego State (2014-16).
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Musselman has some difficult decisions to make before the season approaches in November. Right now he has about a dozen players who all likely feel they can play a major role this season. But is that even possible or desirable? Is it wise for a coach to use a dozen players all roughly 16.7 minutes a game? Of course not. Seniors Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline, who are all used to playing well over 30 minutes a game, would never be happy with 16 or 17 minutes a game. Junior Josh Hall certainly has earned a bump in minutes played from the 24 he played a year ago. Lindsey Drew, if healthy, definitely warrants at least 25-plus minutes a game. And then there is Freshman All American Jordan Brown, who likely didn't come to Nevada to be an afterthought on the bench. If he is playing less than 20 minutes a game he will likely be the last McDonald's All American to ever consider Nevada. And we haven't even mentioned six other transfers and two other freshmen. You can say there is no such thing as too much depth. But if you say that you never had the task of trying to keep 13 college basketball players happy.
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The gap in talent and on-the-court success between the Wolf Pack and UNLV in men's basketball has never been in the Pack's favor as much as it is right now. Since Musselman came to Nevada three seasons ago, the Wolf Pack has gone 39-15 in Mountain West games and 81-29 overall. UNLV has been 20-34 in league play and 49-49 overall. UNLV hasn't had a winning record in the Mountain West since it was 10-8 in 2013-14 and hasn't won more than 20 games overall since it won 25 in 2012-13. The Rebels haven't made the NCAA tournament since 2013-3. The Pack has won 10 or more Mountain West games and 24 or more games overall in each of the last three seasons and has been to the last two NCAA tournaments.
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If you want some sort of idea of what to expect out of 6-foot-11 Wolf Pack freshman Jordan Brown this season, look no further than what 7-foot freshman Brandon McCoy did for UNLV last year. McCoy was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year and arguably the best freshman to ever play in the conference. He set Mountain West freshman records with 16.9 points and 10.3 rebounds a game and also blocked 1.7 shots a game and shot 54.5 per cent from the floor. Unfortunately for UNLV, McCoy has done what other talented UNLV freshman big men have done in recent years (Stephen Zimmerman, Anthony Bennett) and has bolted for the NBA after just one year. It would be unfair to expect Brown to approach McCoy's numbers this year since Brown is joining a much deeper and talented team at Nevada than McCoy played for at UNLV. But if he does, well, he'll also likely only be in Nevada for a year.
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