The Golden State Warriors continue to throw a wrench in our abilities to properly label the legacies of some of this generation’s greatest NBA stars.
That’s usually what happens when an era is defined by a superteam or a dynasty, or whatever you want to call them.
A team that has featured Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green as its centerpiece for five years now was going to be good enough to be a force in the Western Conference for years.
The addition of Kevin Durant simply made them a juggernaut. Three championships in the past four years, a fifth coming
Their presence at the upper echelon of the NBA has forced us to play an enormous game of “what if?” however. Just like we’ve had to do during dynasties attained by the Boston Celtics in the ’60s or the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s.
Parity in basketball is pretty rare, isn’t it?
Golden State’s dominance has already cast a shadow over Durant’s career. There will always be a faction of detractors that claim he had to join a loaded team to win a championship after unsuccessful attempts with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But now their dominance is starting to raise questions about Houston Rockets superstar James Harden, who once again failed to find a way through the Warriors in the playoffs.
Harden and the Rockets went down in six games to Golden State, a frustrating follow-up to a seven-game thriller in the Western Conference Finals in which the Warriors were clearly on the ropes. Though they were apparently bailed out by the absence of Chris Paul for Game 7.
This year, a healthy Houston side was supposed to provide Golden State with its toughest challenge prior to the Finals. Those chances jumped exponentially when Durant exited Game 5 with a calf injury that held him out for the remainder of the second round.
Down one with eight minutes remaining in that game, Harden — who led the NBA with 36.1 points per game this season — took just one shot.
With no Durant for Game 6 in Houston, it was expected that the Rockets would at least push the series to the brink with a win at home.
But Harden’s 35 points on 11-of-25 shooting, along with five missed free throws, wasn’t enough in a five-point loss as Curry and Thompson lifted the dynastic Warriors to the Western Conference Finals.
It was the fourth playoff loss to the Warriors in the past five years for Harden as the first 10 seasons of his Hall-of-Fame career has been accentuated by playoff failures to Curry and Co.
Just another player that can’t win a title by himself?
That could be an unfair assessment given the sheer power of the Warriors. But those questions are emerging after this postseason and the golden chance that Harden let slip through his fingers.
It would be a shock if Harden went his entire NBA career without winning a title and his odds are only going to increase starting next year.
The Warriors are on the verge of breaking up as Durant and Thompson could be heading to new teams in free agency this summer. Those moves could blow the Western Conference wide-open and thus get Harden a ring while in a Rockets uniform.
It will provide the seven-time All-Star with a mountain-top moment for his career, but there will always be the notion that he had to wait for the superteam to break up in order to do so.