Little-known fact: While attending North Carolina, Harrison Barnes was a revisionist history major.
Or so it would appear from his recent comments on the Road Trippin’ Podcast. On it, Barnes suggested the 2015-16 Warriors were not the best team in the Western Conference. The true Best in the West that season, he said, was the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I don’t mean this in any type of offense,” he said. “But my opinion is that OKC was probably the best team in the playoffs that year.”
We’ll say this: Barnes has the chops to speak authoritatively on the subject. He was on the Warriors that season (and the one before that, with the championship ring to prove it). And it’s true the Warriors and Thunder (led then by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) had some bare-knuckle brawls that season. Feb. 27 in Oklahoma City, for instance, when Golden State overcame a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to win in overtime on Steph Curry’s 3-pointer from suburban Enid.
That was merely the antipasto. The real feast came in the conference finals, in which the Warriors rallied from a 3-1 deficit to advance to the NBA Finals. Of particular interest was a win-or-go-home game at Oklahoma City in which Klay Thompson scored 41 points.
We’ll give Barnes this much as well: The man has a level head. While with the Warriors he once asked a reporter who had grown up in Oakland to give him a tour of the city. Barnes wanted to see and feel the surroundings in which he played. If only every athlete was that curious and thoughtful.
And we can’t even disagree with his assertion that, “We didn’t have an answer for them (meaning OKC). If Klay doesn’t have that crazy Game 6, they are winning the Finals. I mean, that team, the way they were built — rebounding, scoring, they were doing it all.”
Barnes’ viewpoint has found an audience. ESPN’s SportsCenter launched his comments into the Twittershpere, where they inspired 9,600 likes and 2,400 retweets.
Left unsaid, however, are a few salient facts. The Warriors won their first 24 games that season — an NBA record. They won 73 games that season — an NBA record. They were five minutes from their second consecutive title when they ran into their own close-out issues, falling to Cleveland in the Finals.
Funny the way things turn out. Had they won that title, they might not have been so aggressive in courting Durant as a free agent. They may not have embarked on such an aggressive re-shaping of their roster. That makeover resulted in Barnes signing with the Dallas Mavericks where he has been given a bigger role with bigger money on a team trying to find its way back to relevance.
But that’s a visit to the alternative reality for another time.
Source: East Bay Former Warrior says Oklahoma City was best in the West in 2016