In the wake of the Golden State Warriors second NBA title in the past three seasons, the Mothership just posted an article titled, “The NFL will never have a team like the Warriors.” The Warriors are “leaps and bounds better than the NBA’s second-best team,” according to Harry Lyles Jr., and that separation is “something we’ll never see in the NFL.”
“The New England Patriots are the closest thing the NFL has had to a team that talented,” Lyles says in reference to the Warriors. “They’ve won five Super Bowls in the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era dating back to 2001, and there’s no question that’s an impressive feat. But with the Warriors, we’re talking about a season of utter dominance, a team that destroyed everybody in its path and has shown no signs of slowing down in the near future.”
Lyles notes that part of the Warriors strength is that “we know the end result of the season before it starts,” pointing towards the sense of inevitability about the entire season. The Warriors had reached two-straight championship games in 2014-15 and 2015-16 before they added one of the five best players in the league and 2014 league MVP Kevin Durant to the roster.
Anything less than a dominant run at a title would be viewed as a failure.
Lyles lists the reasons why the Warriors accomplished something that NFL teams cannot.
- The NBA is dominated by individuals so “superteams” can be created. This cannot happen in the NFL.
- The Warriors drafted Steph Curry (2009, 7th overall), Klay Thompson (2011, 11th overall), and Draymond Green (2012, 35th overall) and all three rank in the top 20 players of the league based on their recent All-NBA distinctions. With just five players on the court at any given time, this would be like an NFL team drafting 13 All Pros (offense and defense) at various positions over a span of four seasons.
- The NBA allows teams to exceed the salary cap to retain players with three seasons of service to a single team with something called the “Larry Bird exception”, allowing the Warriors to keep their core together. The NFL doesn’t allow teams to go over the salary cap.
- The NFL is more physically demanding where injuries can sink a season because of the importance of individual games, whereas NBA teams have taken to resting their aging veterans for stretches of the season to ensure they’re fresh and healthy for the playoffs.
- The NBA postseason are best-of-seven series, while the NFL features winner-take-all rounds, meaning that the better team in the NBA will usually move on, while there is always a chance that the lesser NFL team could just have a better night.
These are all interesting and valid points when comparing the two leagues, with the NBA giving a clear long-term advantage towards teams that draft and develop their own talent.
NFL franchises don’t create real superteams because the only position with the same level of impact as an individual NBA player is quarterback and they’re rarely allowed to leave. The Warriors were already one of the best two teams in the league and then they added Durant to put distance between themselves and the second-best team.
NFL teams that do a great job of drafting will only get a four-year window of time to convert players into a championship before the players start requiring new contracts. If the Warriors were in the NFL, Curry, Thompson, and Green would be playing on their second contracts by the time they were looking to add Durant and there would be no salary cap exceptions.
And the length of the NBA season and structure of the postseason really benefits the Warriors where they can rest players and have a bad night and still win the championship.
All of these are reasons why the Patriots stretch of dominance- five titles in 16 years, two additional appearances, endless final four showings- is much, much more impressive than what the Warriors have done.
Don’t get me wrong, the Warriors have done an amazing thing. Reaching three straight finals is impressive and should not be taken for granted.
But when you look at how the deck is stacked to benefit teams in the NBA and how the NFL does everything in its power to break up dominant teams, there’s no question that the Patriots feat of winning two of three titles is far more impressive than the Warriors winning two of three.
Lyles isn’t trying to make the counterpoint that the Warriors are more impressive; he’s simply saying that the NBA allows teams to do what the NFL does not, which is why the Warriors are so much more dominant and should be for the foreseeable future.
Both Thompson and Green are under contract, and while Curry and Durant are looking for new contracts, the Warriors are expected to retain both to keep their core-four together. This is the equivalent of fielding 18 All Pro players on an NFL team; even if the rest of the team is made up of players on minimum deals, this squad is still going to wreck the rest of the league.
The Patriots and the Warriors head into their 2017-18 seasons with a goal of defending their titles. Both are expected to succeed. But it’s pretty clear that Golden State will once again stand head-and-shoulders above the competition, while the Patriots will have to face a more challenging field.