NBA 2016-17: It's championship or bust for new-look Warriors
Over the past two years, the Golden State Warriors have put on a show that their fans, and the basketball world at large, will not soon forget.
From the incredible shooting exploits of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to the emergence of fiery Draymond Green and the resurrection of Andre Iguodala's career as a do-it-all sixth man, it has been one heck of a ride.
But as great as the Warriors were in the regular season last term, there is as good of a chance they will be remembered by the three games in a row Golden State lost in the NBA Finals instead of the 73 out of 82 they won prior to the playoffs. Losing a 3-1 playoff lead is always devastating. Doing it in on the championship stage could be catastrophic.
The Warriors wasted little time picking themselves back up and making a splash, reeling in prized free agent Kevin Durant and getting him to agree to a two-year deal. The two-fold move not only established a quadruple All-Star lineup for the Warriors, it essentially robbed their biggest challenger for Western Conference supremacy, the Oklahoma City Thunder, of one of the top scorers of all time.
It also means the Warriors have two men, Curry and Durant, who have combined to win the last three NBA MVP awards.
As soon as it was announced that Durant was planning on signing with his one-time rivals, many fans and prognosticators essentially began to "crown" the Warriors as the favourites to win the title, despite the fact that they could not win it with a two-game lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers in June.
Curry tried to downplay that during the team's media day prior to the start of training camp.
"There's no more pressure than there was last year," Curry said. "Coming off trying to defend the regular season that we had, getting to Game 7 of the finals, that was so much fun. It's what you live for. It's what you play for."
It is far from outlandish to assume a team that won more regular-season games than anyone in history could win it all again, but this is not the same Warriors team.
Seven players from last season's team are no longer there, including starters Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. Both ended up on the Dallas Mavericks, with Barnes leaving via free agency and the Warriors trading Bogut in order to help pay Durant's new salary. Bench spark plug Leandro Barbosa and valuable contributor Marreese Speights are also out of the picture this year.
So how deeply will the losses of role players affect the Warriors? There is a good chance we will know sooner rather than later. One of the things that made them so good over the past couple of seasons was its deep bench. And we saw what LeBron James and company were able to do last year without Bogut to guard the rim.
While the Warriors have the potential to win 70-plus games, they may be better off not doing so.
"This year we're as confident as we were last year," Curry said. "But it will be a different journey."
And we will all be here to watch it.
Whatever happens, the Warriors will likely continue to give us must-see basketball theatre, but unless they finish what they could not last year, it may be another disappointment.