You’ve heard the complaints: the Golden State Warriors — winners of the 2017 title and owners of the winningest three-year record in NBA history (254-54) — are bad for the NBA.
There’s no competition. There’s no drama. It’s that competitive balance that’s makes games great, right? I’m not here to convince you that’s not the case.
If you’re a fan of one-off NBA games — a super-casual watcher of the league — then yes, the Warriors are bad for the Association and bad for basketball. While they might play an exciting, engaging brand of ball, they are — to steal a phrase from Warriors owner Joe Lacob — “light years ahead” of the competition.
We joke, but what else would you call Golden State at this point? The Cleveland Cavaliers were an elite team with the greatest player in the world, and the Warriors dispatched them in five games in the 2017 Finals.
I can see how you’d have a negative reaction to that.
But if you’re willing to look at the big picture — willing to take stock of the league as a whole and the state of basketball in the year 2017 and beyond — then the Warriors are not just good for the game, they’re one of the best things that has ever happened to the league and the sport.
The Warriors are the standard bearer, and the rest of the league will have to catch up. That might not mean immediate competition, but, as the axiom goes, a rising tide raises all ships.
The Warriors have significantly raised the tide.
The Cavaliers – a team more than worthy of winning a title in any other year — cannot go into the 2017-18 season thinking that they can stay the course and win a championship next year or the year after. They’re going to have to find a way to up their game this offseason.
Other teams — teams that aren’t the favorites to play for the title next year — they’re going to have to get creative, and quick.
Innovation is sparked by challenge, and the Warriors are presenting a massive challenge to the NBA. The innovation should be incredible.
Will teams try to beat the Warriors at their own game going forward? If so, we’re about to see beautiful basketball night in, night out, all across the league — a wonderful showcase of aesthetically pleasing hoops.
Or perhaps teams — knowing that they cannot put as many great shooters and defenders on the court as Golden State — will try to be a counterweight: instead of trying to beat Golden State and the Warriors’ clones on the perimeter, let’s pound them in the paint. That will be equally enjoyable to watch. Diversity makes everyone better.
No matter how teams build themselves to compete against Golden State over the next few years, it’s going to take some bold, enterprising thoughts to beat the new champs. That, intrinsically, is great for the league, even if you know the Warriors are going to win the title again next year.
It’s going to take something spectacular to beat them. Let’s see how the rest of the league responds.
This story originally appreared on FOX US.