NBA Finals: From possible fourth title to implosion. How will Warriors dynasty be defined?

LOS ANGELES — There are four ways this Golden State Warriors dynasty may be defined in the NBA record books and the next few weeks will reveal the answer.

–It ends with a glorious bang and a fourth title in five years.

–It implodes in a heap thanks to the Raptors, free agency and retirement.

–It defies logic and continues for a few more years.

–It already ended, with the 2018 championship.

Heading into Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), where the Warriors begin the challenge of tackling the Toronto Raptors on their latest rival’s home floor, there is a case to be made for each of the above scenarios.

Most people talk about the Warriors’ glut of recent glory as if it is poised to conclude the moment the final buzzer sounds on the season, a thought process based on several key factors.

That Kevin Durant will leave Golden State in free agency this summer seems certain, and that his destination will be the New York Knicks appears most likely. All-Star Klay Thompson will simultaneously head toward the open market with his intentions unclear; Andre Iguodala, perhaps the league's best sixth man, is hinting at retirement at age 35, DeMarcus Cousins’ pit stop was never likely to stretch more than one year; defensive juggernaut Draymond Green is looking for a payday that may not mesh with upper management’s intentions.

Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. (Photo: Steve Dykes, Getty Images)

Completing a title triumph against the Raptors would need to be done without the services of Durant, at least initially, as he continues to recuperate his troublesome right calf. He has been ruled out for Game 1, and coach Steve Kerr has said the timetable for his possible return is wait-and-see. If the Warriors win without Durant, it might be the most impressive collection of NBA titles – three in a row and four in five years – given the obstacles they have faced.

Not that the Warriors are dwelling too much on those difficulties, or on what comes next.

“It would be nice if everyone could pay more attention to pick-and-roll coverage,” head coach Steve Kerr said earlier this season. “But gossip is more interesting sometimes.” 

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Toronto will provide a challenge fresh and different than any the Warriors have faced before, certainly during this postseason, led by an inspired Kawhi Leonard and backed by the ferocious roar of the Raptors’ national support. For the first time during this run, the Warriors will not see LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals.

“You’re not supposed to go to the Finals four straight years and you’re definitely not, if you’re lucky enough to do that, you’re not supposed to play the same team four straight years," Kerr said Wednesday during media day. "This is more what the Finals normally feel like, where you’re going against a team you frankly don’t know that well.”

A parting gift of defeat, followed by the break-up of a super team, is not how anyone at Golden State wants to imagine this ride ending. While the eyes stay firmly on the prize, there is a sense of pride in maintaining a level of excellence for so long.

“It is just a special time to be a Warrior,” Thompson said.

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