2018-19 NBA Season preview: High stakes in Golden State

 Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

Well that summer went by fast… Maybe it felt fast because instead of spending the summer months recruiting free agents to add to their already-Murderers Row of All-Stars, the Dubs let the big fish come to them. I guess that’s how things go when you’re on top.

Now the 2018-19 season feels like a countdown to the NBA Finals and an inevitable 3-peat and fourth title in five years… at least, that’s how fans outside of Laker-land feel.

That sense of inevitability runs in the back of the Warriors minds, no doubt. It’s still unclear whether they were mentally checked before Houston pushed them to the brink of elimination in the Conference Finals, but it never felt like the Dubs were being outplayed.

When looking forward to the looming free agency of Kevin Durant, I often think back to that Rocket series, and the front office must too. While Bob Myers and Joe Lacob are more than prepared to give Durant the deal of his choice, they’d much rather sign him long term. Durant, though, has remained steadfast in keeping his options open, as he should. What’s most interesting about the situation is the divide between the franchise and the fanbase. I can’t see fans being angry at a Durant departure, and KD could see it as an opportunity for a cleaner exit than his move from Oklahoma City.

While the front office will spend most of the season convincing Durant to stay, the Warriors are still in the midst of an opportunity to three-peat. LeBron’s departure from Cleveland increases the Dubs’ chance of winning the Finals, but his arrival in Los Angeles, along with other improvements in the West, makes the field tougher than previous years. The only teams sure to miss the postseason: Dallas, Phoenix and Sacramento. The Warriors can’t afford to sleepwalk into the first round.

 Ezra Shaw // NBA

Ezra Shaw // NBA

Without a clear cut starting center until DeMarcus Cousins returns from his achilles injury last season, this season will serve as year-long tryouts for the playoff rotation. Kevon Looney will likely start opening night at the 5 for his low risk, but he boasts high rewards as well. Jordan Bell, on the other hand, has high risk but still aims to be the Dubs’ center of the future. Even Damion Jones will see substantial minutes, as head coach Steve Kerr continues to shoehorn him into a key role.

Cousins will answer to some of those issues upon his return, but more importantly, he’ll keep spirits high. His presence is already being felt, as he’s been in the ears of young big’s during training camp and pre-season. So long as he does and says the right things, the rest of the team is going to battle for him. He can be the fulcrum that keeps the team focused on the mission, and in turn, he can make the other All-Stars lives a lot easier.

If nothing else, the season will be one to appreciate the present and embrace the past. This is a team with the greatest collection of talent in NBA history, and it happened in a place like Oakland.

The city has some credit to take for this too. Here in Oakland you put on for those who put on for you, and the team has always embraced that culture, with the city returning the love right back. Sure, moving to San Francisco is an upgrade in almost every fashion, but there will always be a special feeling in Oakland, and this season will be a proper send off to the town.

It’s hard to really know what to expect this season. Sure the fans expect the Warriors to win another title, but there’s more at stake than in years past. This isn’t just another title; it’s a means of truly becoming a dynasty.

But for this team, it’s just another day at the gym.