2022 Orlando Magic Playoff Lessons: Golden State Warriors are the model for everything

Stephen Curry is the driving force of the Golden State Warriors who are once again the model for the league. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen Curry is the driving force of the Golden State Warriors who are once again the model for the league. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Golden State Warriors arrived in Orlando in December 2019, they were a wounded team seemingly falling off the perch of championship contention.

Klay Thompson had torn his ACL in the previous year’s Finals (he was yet to rupture his Achilles and lose anoter season). Stephen Curry had broken his hand a few weeks earlier and would miss much of the remainder of the season.

The team wearing Golden State jerseys was hardly the franchise that had dominated the league throughout much of the previous parts of the decade. All that was left was Draymond Green, seemingly exposed to the elements in a season that was already becoming lost for the Warriors.

Steve Kerr said even at that early stage of the season that he was looking forward to the challenge of working with and developing a young team.

The players were no longer perfectly in place for the Warriors. But they are a championship team and organization. They always had bigger aspirations and the bigger picture in focus. Even when they were struggling and knew they had a long road ahead.

Slowly the pieces got built back up and the hints were clear in that game.

The lesson from the Warriors is not about who played in that game — only two players who played in that game won a title a few months ago (Draymond Green and Jordan Poole, who shot a cool 0 for 8).  It is more about how the team developed from that moment. It is more about how the team’s organizational culture and structure remained intact despite that hard fall from the top.

The Golden State Warriors are the model for the league as they climbed back from the depths to become a championship team again. They are the model franchise for the league.

In the end, Alec Burks missed a wide-open 3-pointer with a chance to win. The Magic held on to win 100-96. It was indeed survival, a sign of trouble for the 2020 version of that team.

But the bottom line is: The Warriors are champions because everything they do turned into gold. Like the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat before them, they are successful because of their whole team and the decisions they make. They are the models for the entire league.

The Warriors team that took the floor on Dec. 1 was scrappy though. Everything that a team in that situation could want. They fell behind early and rallied to give themselves a chance to win.

That is central to who the Warriors are as a team.

Yes, the players matter. Stephen Curry is a transcendent player and one of the greatest players in NBA history. The Warriors have always surrounded him with players that fit their style, spreading the floor with shooters, boosting them with defenders and crafting an offensive and defensive ethos that leans into their players’ uniqueness.

Once the Warriors got championship experience, that confidence seemed to build on itself and permeate through every player and facet of the organization. Everything about that organization screams winning and they have seemingly blessed everything they touch.

Andrew Wiggins was a former top overall pick who was seemingly lost in a wayward organization in Minnesota, came to Golden State and accepted a role as a defender and floor spacer. They mined a solid late-first-round pick in Jordan Poole to give them a scoring burst. They built solid foundations centered around their stars.

The two gap years where the Warriors figured themselves out and recovered from injury served the purpose of helping those role players gain confidence.

That is a credit to coach Steve Kerr and the culture he built and how he empowers the players on his team.

Golden State runs an offense that is very improvisational and read-based. Obviously, it centers around Curry. No one can separate that from this equation. And the Warriors’ offense is built to take advantage of his gravity and how smart he is as a basketball player.

There is never any separating a player from their star. It is still the central part of any team’s identity — both from the leadership and work ethic they provide and the way the team creates a style of play to emphasize what they are good at.

To be sure, the Warriors do not become a championship contender without drafting and embracing Stephen Curry — along with great defensive foundations laid by coach Mark Jackson, smart drafting by general manager Bob Myers and their front office and how coach Steve Kerr elevated the team further from there to unlock their full potential.

Just everything the team has touched is perfect.

Everyone doubted the Warriors throughout the season because of their age. But this turned into a rebirth. They were champions and played like it, getting everyone in line and pulling in the same direction.

That is ultimately their greatest advantage. They have the talent, yes, but they are also constantly working in unison. And when they make mistakes they quickly change directions — acquiring D’Angelo Russell proved to be a luxury but netted them Andrew Wiggins in the end.

Much to the NBA’s chagrin, the Warriors have gotten some good luck too. They used their two down years to restock their talent, drafting James Wiseman second and then adding Jonathan Kuminga with a pick they got from the Wolves in the D’Angelo Russell trade.

Golden State is still very young and while they may not have the star talent quite yet to replace Curry when he does retire, this is a team that is going to be competitive for a long while.

But this is what great organizations are able to do. They set up the next generation while they are still winning titles. And that is why they become the envy of the entire league.

That is why they are the model of the entire league.

Championships are indeed a bit of a stroke of luck. Landing Curry, signing him to a sweetheart deal because of early injuries and striking during an unprecedented cap spike, were all good fortune that made them this decade’s dynasty. But fortune the team was able to take advantage of because of the strong organizational structure and trust they have.

The Magic are only hoping to get to that level. And it still starts at this moment for the team. Even at these beginning stages, the Magic need to build the kind of team they want to be. They need to build their identity and style of play and the organizational decision-making and structure to make good choices and pivot from bad ones.

Jeff Weltman is busy putting this together. The biggest missing piece remains the lack of a definable star. But the team has built some good organizational cultures and the mistakes he has made, he has pivoted quickly.

Of course, the Magic are still trying to get that winning piece together.

It is hard to look at the NBA champions and see something so relatable to a team at the very bottom of the standings. The Magic have a long way to go to sniff the air the Warriors are breathing.

But they have to start putting the building blocks firmly in place. That is what they hope they are doing.

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Everyone wants to be the Warriors in the end. They are the model franchise in the league — even beyond their star power and money to burn.