Friday night, the Golden State Warriors won a back-and-forth affair against the Chicago Bulls, finally pulling away midway through the fourth quarter to a 106-94 victory. Many claimed this would finally be the night the Warriors were defeated, but as Thursday’s incredible 23-point comeback at the Clippers proved, as long as there’s still time on the clock, the Warriors can’t be counted out. Surviving the brutal back-to-back stretch gave Golden State an improbable 14-0 start to the season, just one game shy of the all-time record set by the 93-94 Houston Rockets. With the team’s next two games coming against the Nuggets and Lakers, both with sub-.500 records, the Warriors have to like their chances of setting yet another record. With the sharpshooting splash brother Stephen Curry leading an impressive roster from top to bottom, many have asked questions like: just how good is this team, are they one of the greatest squads of all-time, and the most popular, will the Warriors break Jordan’s Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season?
When it comes to sports, I don’t like to get ahead of myself. I even wrote a two-part series called Slow Down the Hype Train on this subject, which can be found here: http://toplevelsports.net/slow-down-the-hype-train-a-problem-with-sports-fans-part-1-players/ and here: http://toplevelsports.net/slow-down-the-hype-train-2-teams/. In general, I believe that as sports fans, we get ourselves worked up too easily, always wanting to compare the latest and greatest to the best of all-time. We do this because it’s fun to track current players and teams against history and the record books, even if they rarely live up to the hype. However, this Warriors team feels different to me.
To say the Warriors play an exciting brand of basketball would be an understatement. Their fast paced, high scoring and three point swishing offense is a spectacle to watch, and is great for the game of basketball. They can simply outscore anyone in the league on any given night. Stephen Curry is absolutely unreal. First of all, I believe him to be the best shooter of all-time. What makes Curry special is his ability to create his own shot, and knock down contested and off-balance shots with apparent ease. Most three-point specialists such as Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick rely on coming off of screens to get wide-open looks. However, Curry is the focal point of the Warrior offense, and the guy everyone on opposing teams game plan for. Yet he still manages to shoot near an outrageous 45% from deep. Besides his long-range shooting ability, he is also extremely dangerous driving to the rim, a guy who dribbles so well he can make even the best defenders look silly, and a phenomenal passer who routinely makes jaw-dropping assists. There is no one in the league who can have an immediate impact on a game like Stephen Curry.
However, the Warriors are far from a one-man show, and this unique depth is what separates them from the contenders. Despite a slow start, Klay Thompson remains one of the best shooters in the league, and a guy who can get hot in a heartbeat (37 in a quarter anyone?). He could easily be the leader on several teams in the league. Harrison Barnes has shown great improvement over the course of his career, and is also capable of providing reliable offense. For me, Draymond Green is one of the most underrated players in the entire league. A stat-sheet stuffer supreme, Green is one of the most versatile players in the league, and easily one of the NBA’s top two defenders along with Kawhi Leonard. Small for his power forward position at just 6’7”, Green plays just as big as anyone on the court, and is frequently used as a center in what becomes the NBA’s most devastating small ball lineup with finals MVP sixth man Andre Iguodala, who is having the best shooting season of his career thus far. But back to Green, perhaps the most incredible thing about him is his vision and passing ability. Green averages seven assists per game, for eighth in the league. In fact, he’s the only non-point guard in the top 10. There are no words to describe the power of having a big who can play like a point guard.
In fact, while many people will point to the NBA-leading 40.9% team three point shooting (which is absolutely mind-blowing by the way) it really is the Warriors’ passing which contributes most to their offensive prowess. Sometimes I joke that the Warriors could get any player on the floor to take a wide-open shot from anywhere on the court if they wanted to, and often times it seems that way. The ball handling, team chemistry, and off-ball movement all contribute to offense that fires on all cylinders more frequently than any other. Not only do the Warriors lead the league with 29 assists per game, they also assist on nearly 70 percent of all shots made. The ability and mindset to make the extra pass allows Warriors shooters to get an astonishing amount of open jumpers.
The Warriors are on offensive juggernaut, scoring 117.7 points per 100 offensive possessions, which is five points higher than any team in the league. However, they’ve been almost as dominant on defense this year, with the fifth-best defensive efficiency in the league. They actually led the league in this category last season. While one may be flashier than the other, the Warriors are impeccable on both sides of the ball.
So yes, the Warriors are really good. But it takes more than being really good to best the 72-10 mark. Will the Warriors do it? Only time will tell, but I think it will be very close down the stretch. In an instant, this team can go on a run and blow their opponent out of the building, and are easily one of the most talented and cohesive units I’ve seen in my lifetime, which give them as good a shot as any team since the record was set to break the Bulls’ record. Gun to my head, I say more often than not the Warriors fall short of the all-time mark, but I don’t think it would be unreasonable to project Golden State to hit the 70-win mark this season.