When people think of Golden State's success, they think of the splash brothers, guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They think of the grit and sometimes out of control intensity of forward Draymond Green. Perhaps most of all this season, they thought of the greatness of the suddenly controversial figure Kevin Durant. But what the average fan doesn't consider is how this team got put together from NBA obscurity.
Just five years ago, the Warriors finished a strike-shortened season with a record of 23-43, missing the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season and for the 17th time in 18 years. In short, Golden State was not far off from being the NBA's version of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Warriors were rebuilding. This was evident in March of 2012, when Golden State traded it's best player, guard Monte Ellis, to the Millawkue Bucks in exchange for center Andrew Bogut. Things got so bad in Oakland that Warriors legend Chirs Mullen's jersey retirement ceremony featured a chorus of boos directed at owner Joe Lacob, which led to fellow legend Rick Barry intervening. After that tumultuous season had ended, Bob Meyers took over as general manager. The losing was about to be over.
Golden State already had a fair amount of talent at the start of the 2012-13 season. Curry and Thompson were coming into their own in the backcourt, and trading for Bogut gave the Warriors a defensive stalwart at center. Where the foundation for the next five years of success began in the eyes of most fans and experts, however, was in that June's draft.
In 2012, the Warriors draft class consisted of Harrison Branes (RD 1, Pick 7), Festus Ezili (RD 1, Pick 30) and Draymond Green (RD 2, Pick 35). Although only Barnes received significant playing time right away, all three of these players would play major roles in the resurrection of Warriors basketball.
With Curry, Thompson and Barnes all playing significant minutes, Golden State won 47 games and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2007.
As the sixth seed in the Western Conference, the Warriors upset the third-ranked Denver Nuggets in the first round before falling to the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals. It was a year that saw Golden State move in the right direction, but nobody could have envisioned what the next four seasons would bring.
That offseason, the Warriors needed another piece to continue to build their dream. Enter, Andre Iguodala. Although his All-Star days were behind him, AI still had plenty to give, and he would play a huge role in the coming glory years, even winning Finals MVP in 2015. Iguodala played a significant role right away, and the Warriors won 51 games to again qualify for the postseason.
Once again, Golden State entered the playoffs as the sixth seed. This time, the Warriors did not make it out of the first round, as the LA Clippers got the best of them in seven games (Spoiler Alert: This would not become a pattern). The first round exit led to the dismissal of head coach Mark Jackson. Jackson's replacement would be a TNT commentator who not only had no head coaching experience at the pro or college level; he didn't have any experience anywhere. That man was Steve Kerr, and the move would pay off big time.
2014-15 was the year that the dynasty as we know it began. Led by Curry, who had firmly established himself as a superstar, the Dubs won a league- best 67 games and rolled through the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets on their way to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1975.
The rest is pretty well known. Golden State won a championship, lost one, and then won another one. Love em or hate em, the fact that the Golden State Warriors are one of the most dominant franchises in American sports is because they have one of the best front offices in professional sports.
It's so easy to forget how bad a state the Warriors were in just five years ago. But through drafting, coaching, and smart free agent signings, a franchise that was once among the NBA's worst is now it's very best.