The Golden State Warriors' dominance made last season feel like a long trot toward an inevitable conclusion. But something unexpected happened this offseason. Instead of the rest of the league choosing to wait out the Warriors' dynasty, teams in the West forged ahead and decided to meet Golden State's challenge head on. A significant migration of talent from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference occurred. Teams are not conceding anything to the defending champions. They've decided instead to pursue avenues to aggressively retool their rosters.
In Houston, Daryl Morey took the formula of Mike D'Antoni running an offense led by James Harden at the point, and added another PG in Chris Paul.
In Minnesota, Tom Thibodeau finally parted with two young pieces in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to land Jimmy Butler, who fills multiple areas of needs. The Timberwolves followed that up by adding Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford in free agency.
Oklahoma City's Sam Presti, a general manager who in the past has always straddled the line between contending with an eye towards future flexibility, has decided to take a chance on a Russell Westbrook-Paul George partnership that might only last one season, as both superstars are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.
Add in the Spurs, who have Kawhi Leonard and probably think their Western Conference Finals sweep at the hands of the Warriors would have turned out differently if their No. 1 player were healthy, and suddenly, the West has a handful of teams who can present a different challenge to the Warriors this season.
When the Lakers were winning championships in the early 2000s, two superstars -- Shaq and Kobe -- was the formula. The league evolved, the center position became less important and a three-superstar system sprung up: Boston with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce; Miami with LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Warriors have set a new standard in building a championship team, and other clubs have been forced to rethink their strategy and take chances they otherwise wouldn't have, and it's resulted in a strengthening of talent and roster building for teams chasing the Warriors in the West. The bar has been raised, and while Golden State will be overwhelming favorites heading into next season, the rest of the league has started to work toward closing the gap.
This might be the legacy of this Warriors' super team. In the same way that LeBron's individual greatness in the 2016 Finals spurred Golden State's pursuit of Kevin Durant, the Warriors are now ushering in a new hyper-aggressive strategy among their competitors to keep up.
For all the chatter about how the Warriors' dominance was bad for the league -- and that might be true in the short term -- this team has also completely shifted the dynamics of team building, and the end result means that it will have inadvertently created a much more competitive league in the long run.
The Lakers have opened up cap space for the summer of 2018 to presumably chase two superstars to pair with their young core led by Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. The Pelicans are trying to figure out the DeMarcus Cousins-Anthony Davis experiment. In two or three years, we might see the Western Conference -- more dominant conference for several decades now -- as competitive as it has ever been.
There will come a point when the Warriors' core group will disband, from natural decline, from injury, or from ownership deciding they've paid enough into the luxury tax to keep this group together. But years after Golden State is no longer perched at the top of the league, its impact will still be felt, and we'll look back at the 2017 offseason as the beginning of a better NBA.