LeBron James attributes the difficulty in beating the Golden State Warriors to not just their talent, but their intelligence out on the court.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN has a really interesting story about the praise that James heaped on this Warriors squad and their basketball IQ.
The rest of the league is frantically trying to figure out the formula to defeat the Warriors, and it’s a nearly impossible equation to solve.
James points out that it’s not enough to just accumulate talent, but a team must accumulate talent that is cohesive with one another and possess high basketball IQs.
James also reflected on the journey the Warriors have gone through these last handful of years, and the important factors that had to come together to make this all possible.
Stephen Curry had injury problems early in his career, which caused him to sign what would ultimately become one of the best contracts in the NBA from a team’s perspective.
Klay Thompson was drafted at number 11 in the 2011 NBA Draft. Teams passed him up to select guys like Jan Vesely and Jimmer Fredette.
Draymond Green was selected at number 35 in the 2012 NBA Draft, as many teams around the league incorrectly viewed him a “tweener” who couldn’t translate to the professional game.
The Warriors then squandered a 3-1 NBA Finals series lead in 2016. Had they not lost that series, it’s unlikely they would have pursued Kevin Durant.
They probably would have felt compelled to give Harrison Barnes his max contract and ended up not being as great of a team going forward as they’ve become now.
Barnes is a pivotal player in franchise history. A huge reason they couldn’t seal the deal in 2016 was due to his atrocious play at the end of the NBA Finals.
He went 5-32 from the field in the last three games of the Finals that the Warriors lost, including 3-15 from 3-point range.
Had he played up to his normal standards and hit a few more of those shots, the Warriors probably would have won that series.
The catastrophic loss forced them to make a drastic change, and they ended up going after Durant in free agency that offseason and let Barnes sign a max contract with the Dallas Mavericks.
James always returned to the intelligence the Warriors superstars possess. There are a lot of talented players in the league, but few can truly think through a game and win a championship.
The mental aspects of basketball are as important as the physical aspects at the professional level. It’s something James would know better than nearly anyone who’s ever played the game.