The Boston Celtics, Superteams and Fallout Shelters
The most prominent, prolific and potent aspect of a nuclear bomb isn’t the explosion, it’s the nuclear fallout that lingers in the earths atmosphere for decades, making the surface inhospitable to human life and creating twisted mutations in it’s place. This distinction is what separates the regular bomb from the horrors of the Fat Man; the true threat lies in how dangerous the effects on the landscape will be long term.
Do you begin to see how the Golden State Warriors are a lot like the atom bomb?
A team so utterly certain in it’s destruction that it draws the ire of an entire nation. It’s existence fills people with dread and feelings of futility, a very loud and ever growing majority of people deciding that such a thing should never exist for it would be too powerful.
But again, the immediate detonation (Whether you believe that occurred with the formation of the team or when they won their first championship together) is momentous enough, the long lasting and truly significant impact is what comes after; the twisted creatures that rise from the ashes that only faintly resemble the figures we once knew and understood.
In the days leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, the Boston Celtics traded the number one overall pick to move back and acquire more assets down the line, passing on a presumed star in Markelle Fultz.
A few days later, Paul George, one of the five best SF’s in the game of basketball announced from he plans to make a bee line straight for the Lakers in Los Angeles once his contract is up. Nobody would make the case George is trying to form a superteam (Unless you really believe Lebron James is soon to follow. Except this time, it’s real, promise) so the only explanation is him wanting to go home to southern California and enjoy his time in the NBA even at the cost of being competitive (at least one of the major players in the NBA)
That same day the reigning Eastern Conference Champions and vessel to the greatest player in the world in Lebron James who averaged a triple double against the Warriors in the finals while at the same time same time never stood a chance fired their General Manager
The league is on fire.
For better or worse, the NBA right now has been all out blitzed. Suddenly, Lebron James is going into next year for the first time in a very long time with low odds to win a championship. And that’s the clear cut second best team in the league. 28 other teams in the league might view these next few years one gigantic punt on their season.
Quick, what’s the purpose of tanking?
If you said something along the lines of “To acquire the best players” you’d be on the money.
More so than the three other major sports, Basketball to this point has been a game ruled by dynasties. For as much as we love to tout our scrappiest of underdogs, the champions of the NBA world are almost exclusively those who carry a high pedigree enter the league and bless a franchise.
The league has always been run by transcendent talent. Lebron James has largely had a vice grip on the eastern conference since his arrival, and only one team had a chance to draft him. The 80’s were dominated by the Showtime Lakers tag team of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar , a pair of #1 overall picks. They did battle with Larry Bird (6th overall pick), Kevin McHale (#3) and Robert Parish (#8).
The Warriors are no exception, largely built through the lottery and spearheaded by a #2 overall pick (albeit acquired through free agency)
So why did the Celtics decide to pass up on a potential Star in Fultz and keep rolling this pile of assets Katamari Damacy style down the line?
In order to survive, they must mutate and build their team unconventionally.
Let’s say the Celtics had taken Fultz, the lineup they’d like likely put out at full strength might look something like: Markelle Fultz, Isiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford. Good enough for probably at least a top 3 seed in the east, maybe even the first like they captured this year.
That’s just not good enough to take down the Warriors in a four game series. Fultz and Brown will likely be too inexperienced (If Fultz is even starting in a playoff game, which is doubtful), Thomas is still a problem on defense and Horford, while not over the hill yet is at least starting to look down a very steep slope. They don’t have the star power or the depth to compete with this Warriors squad as it presently stands. And you’d have a tough time saying otherwise.
Obviously the games have to be played and there’s the ever present caveat of injuries that could derail the Warriors and leave the door open for another team, but right now this Warriors team is impossible. Impossible to stop, impossible to replicate, and at times impossible to comprehend.
Fallout shelters are bunkers built and buried below earths surface, reinforced with special metals and then stockpiled with enough supplies to hopefully outlive the apocalypse.
The entire premise of this suped up basement is to outlast the effects of the bomb. You can only hope to stay underground until it’s safe to survive again. Just keep your head down and wait out the wreck.
But the most potent element to an NBA blast isn’t radiation or shrapnel, but Wojnarowski
This tweet when paired with Durant’s endlessly photoshopped Players Tribune statement sent waves throughout the sports world. The idea of “superteams” was once again cast a light on. People wondered if the league should do something to block it from happening or call for rules to make sure it could never happen again.
These issues (Even though Durant exercised his god given right to review his options and choose his own destiny and did nothing wrong) are for another conversation entirely. How or why the Warriors superteam came to be is no mystery: Durant landed in the bay area in pursuit of a ring, the exchange rate for legacy being quite high for each and every chip.
The Warriors tour of destruction ended with a postseason run that featured a single loss on the way to their second championship in three years. The 2001 Los Angeles Lakers and the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers stand as the only other teams to drop only a single game in their postseason in NBA history.
For the foreseeable future, we must make peace with the idea that on some level, most moves are futile. Just keep your head down and wait out the wreck.
Of course, some teams have different goals in mind than others. The Sixers can make a move to acquire Fultz because they’re trying to turn “The Process” into “The Solution”. Philadelphia's front office is trying to save their skins and give fans and ownership something to get behind. Some teams like the Sacramento Kings are just looking to get out of the Western Conference cellar and make the playoffs. The already successful teams have a much more depressing fate. For even though they’ve made great strides to built a contender and made all the right moves, no other team can keep up with Golden State.
All the doom and gloom surrounding the state of the NBA is at least worth talking about and not outright worthy of dismissal. The playoffs this year were almost without exception a gigantic snooze-fest, no more so than when either conference champion were involved.
If there’s any reason for optimism, it’s that nothing gold can stay. We’re lucky this Warriors team formed late in their key members careers, or at least at the mid point.
By 2020, the Warriors starting 5 will all be into their 30’s excluding of course whomever is playing center, as the likelihood of Zaza Pachulia still playing the 5 by then is slim. While this Warriors team features some of the greatest players of all time, it’s not a stretch to say they’re enjoying their prime this second and could start to see their abilities dampen by that time.
If there’s a team that can afford to have a few “wasted” years and then strike then the time is right, it’s in Boston.
The Celtics, with a chance to draft a star this year decided to kick their can a little farther down the road in hopes of being the first in line once the Warriors half life starts to dissipate in the atmosphere. With a few more high lottery picks on the way, the Celtics could boast a young core with exceptional depth around the time when Golden State starts getting long in the tooth.
Boston only owes three future picks, all second rounders in the next few years. In addition to all their own picks, they have incoming assets as a result of the Sixers trade until 2019. No o other team can come close to this kind of stockpile. While at times underwhelming (amazing to think of a one seed this way), the Boston Celtics are a sleeping giant.
In a league that can only be one by having the brightest stars, the Celtics made a play to extend their pile of assets, as mysterious and archaic as any, in attempt to play the waiting game better than anyone has before.
Is this a noble cause? No, punting away seasons is no fun for anyone. Is it guaranteed to work? Not even a little. The draft can be as cruel as anything else on this earth with no real silver bullet to improving. But the league as it sits right now doesn’t have a legitimate contender against Golden State right now. If there’s any consolation, is that no half life lasts forever.