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Contenders for NBA Crown Reviewed by Momizat on . The Golden State Warriors (35-27) recently rebounded from a tough stretch of their schedule by winning back-to-back games against the Toronto Raptors (24-38) an The Golden State Warriors (35-27) recently rebounded from a tough stretch of their schedule by winning back-to-back games against the Toronto Raptors (24-38) an Rating:
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Contenders for NBA Crown

The Golden State Warriors (35-27) recently rebounded from a tough stretch of their schedule by winning back-to-back games against the Toronto Raptors (24-38) and Sacramento Kings (21-42). Thanks to the consecutive victories, the Hollinger Playoff Odds gives them an 85.3 percent chance of making the postseason.

After looking at the State of the Warriors earlier this week, I figured that looking at how they stack up against the league’s elite would be a good exercise.

So below you will see the tale of the tape for the Dubs in comparison to the best teams in the league. More so than anything though, we want to know just how good the cream of the crop is.

 To help with this exercise, I asked the bloggers of some of these respective teams to answer questions designed to give us an idea of their level of dominance.

Let’s get it started shall we.

San Antonio Spurs (48-14)

The Spurs are the proud owners of the best record in the league and are probably hoping that this season will end far more differently than last year.

Tale of the tape for the Warriors

  • Record versus Spurs: 1-1
  • Offensive efficiency versus Spurs: 95.9 (would be dead last in the NBA)
  • Defensive efficiency versus Spurs: 97.6 (would be 3rd best in the NBA)

I reached out to Jesse Blanchard of 48 Minutes of Hell, the San Antonio Spurs ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog and asked him this simple question: the 2007 Spurs or the 2013 edition?

Jesse Blanchard’s answer:

In 2007 the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were at the end of what turned out to be the height of their powers while Tony Parker was just beginning on the path that would make him a dark horse MVP candidate today.
The 2013 Spurs feature a superior supporting cast, led by second-year forward Kawhi Leonard–who combines not quite Bowenesque defense with a rapidly expanding offensive skill set. Parker is an MVP bronze medal finalist and the second best point guard in the NBA. Duncan is on pace to have one of the best defensive seasons of his career while providing a reasonable facsimile of his 2007 offensive game (or at least he was until suffering a knee injury against the Washington Wizards that sent his post game plummeting into an awful slump). Ginobili remains hyper efficient but a fraction of the force he was even two years ago and unreliable on a night-to-night basis. 

Though the 2013 Spurs are far deeper and more explosive than their 2007 counterparts, they lack the elite-level talent at the top of their roster, where only Parker qualifies today. In 2007 Duncan and Ginobili were franchise-level players (Ginobili was like Harden with better defense) and Parker an All-Star. Today Parker is a franchise point guard, Duncan an All-Star, and Ginobili a quality role player. That downgrade matters significantly against elite teams in the playoffs. 

Give me the 2007 Spurs because Duncan in his prime was every bit the impact that LeBron James and Kevin Durant are today. Because Manu Ginobili had a higher ceiling than Parker in terms of taking over a game. And because Bruce Bowen offered the lockdown defender today’s Spurs find just outside of Kawhi Leonard’s considerable reach. 

Finally, as Popovich said during All-Star weekend when he described meeting LeBron in the finals before his talents were fully realized as “serendipity,” the 2007 Spurs didn’t have to contend with the 2013 LeBron James.

Oklahoma City Thunder (44-16)

Most believe the Thunder will once again represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals given their incredible amount of talent. Durant is playing the best basketball of his young career and might have something legendary in store for us once the postseason starts.

Tale of the tape for the Warriors

  • Record versus Thunder: 1-2
  • Offensive efficiency versus Thunder: 102.8 (would be 13th in the NBA)
  • Defensive efficiency versus Thunder: 111.5 (would be last in the NBA)

I reached out to Royce Young from Daily Thunder, the Oklahoma City Thunder ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog, and asked him to pick the best perimeter duo: Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony, James Harden and Kevin Durant or Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook?

Royce Young’s answer:

Wow, that’s tough.

But in their prime, health be damned, I’m going Vince and McGrady. So much athleticism, so much ability. Though it’s close with Westbrook and Durant. Durant’s the best player of all four, but I think the combo of McGrady and Carter creates a little bit of a gap over Westbrook.

Los Angeles Clippers (44-19)

The Clippers may have stumbled a bit in the absence of Chris Paul but his return has brought them back to elite status and once again makes Lob City a potential championship contender.

Tale of the tape for the Warriors

  • Record versus Clippers: 3-1
  • Offensive efficiency versus Clippers: 108.9 (would be 2nd in NBA)
  • Defensive efficiency versus Clippers: 105.5 (would be 26th in NBA)

Jovan Buha of Clipperblog, the Los Angeles Clippers ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog, had some terrific insights to share when presented with this question: Is Chris Paul the most important Clipper ever?

Jovan Buha’s response:

This may not be a popular answer, but no, Chris Paul is not the most important Clipper ever. He is, however, the best Clipper ever. There’s a difference in the distinction. 

Blake Griffin is the most important Clipper ever. He changed the course of the franchise. Made them relevant. Allowed for Paul and Chauncey Billups, among others, to eventually join the team and turn it into a contender. And he’s homegrown; he wasn’t acquired in a trade or signed over the offseason. For all these reasons, and many more, he’s the most important thing to happen to the Clippers in their history.

With that said, Paul is the best player to ever suit up in a Clipper uniform. The list isn’t especially long or impressive, but Paul’s arguably the best point of the past two decades, so it’s not a knock if he’s your franchise’s best player.

If the Clippers ever win a championship, and Paul is the Finals MVP, things may change and his value may eclipse Griffin’s. But for as good as Paul is, Griffin is probably the more popular player, especially with younger fans. He puts butts in seats. He sells jerseys. He’s the Lob City commander. Paul is better, no doubt, but Griffin probably has more worth to the Clippers.

Remember, there would be no Miami Heat championship if not for Dwyane Wade. LeBron James and Chris Bosh agreed to take their talents to South Beach because Wade was already there. He made that possible. He’s been with the Heat his entire career, will have his jersey retired, and has to be viewed as just as valuable – at least to the Heat – as LeBron.

The same thing can be said about the Clippers. Griffin’s success as a rookie made veterans not as reserved to join the Clippers; if he wasn’t originally there, though, there would be no Lob City or CP3 in L.A. (well, maybe it’d be with the other L.A. team). Griffin made it all possible, and his celebrity is only vaulting the Clippers into a higher, well-known stratosphere. 

Miami Heat (45-14)

The defending champions just flexed their muscles for the entire month of February and served the league with a reminder that their team is more than likely still the one to beat come June.

Tale of the tape for the Warriors

  • Record versus Heat: 1-1
  • Offensive efficiency versus Heat: 89.1 (would be last in NBA)
  • Defensive efficiency versus Heat: 95.2 (would be best in NBA)

After defeating the Orlando Magic (17-45) last night, the defending champions are now the proud owners of a 16-game winning streak. The Heat are positioning themselves to put a stranglehold on the Eastern Conference. Nonetheless, they still have to pay attention to these next teams.

New York Knicks (37-21)

The Knickerbockers opened the season with a 21-9 record but have stumbled a little as of late. They have picked things up in the last week and got back to their winning ways and are now 16-12 since the New Year.

Tale of the tape for the Warriors

  • Record versus Knicks: 0-1
  • Offensive efficiency versus Knicks: 111.4 (would be best in NBA)
  • Defensive efficiency versus Knicks: 114.1 (would be worst in NBA)

Stephen Curry had a ridiculous 54-point eruption at Madison Square Garden last week in a contest the Dubs ultimately lost. The Knicks pulled out a tough contest and showed just why it is that they have a chance to go toe-to-toe with the defending champs in a seven-game series. That reason goes by the name of Carmelo Anthony.

To ensure readers fully grasped the Melo phenomenon, I asked a prominent writer to help me out with the topic.

Jim Cavan of Knickerblogger, the New York Knicks ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog, was kind enough to answer this question: Patrick Ewing or Carmelo Anthony?

Cavan’s answer:

Patrick. I struggled over this one, and probably a lot more than should be expected. Both are / were all-world talents in an era when their specific skill sets just so happened to be the ones most ideal to build around. But Melo has a ways to go — and a playoff series or ten to win — before I’d push him up the ledger and past a guy who first sparked my love of this hardscrabble team. And I genuinely hope that comes to pass; that maybe someday soon it will be Melo striking the scorer’s table victory pose. Until then, Patrick is still my Knick soul’s cause célèbre.

Indiana Pacers (38-23)

Many basketball pundits are off the opinion that the Indiana Pacers are the one team in the Eastern Conference with the ability to challenge the Miami Heat. They have quality size on the interior as well as some solid perimeter players that would make life quite difficult for the defending champions.

Tale of the tape for the Warriors

  • Record versus Pacers: 1-1
  • Offensive efficiency versus Pacers: 107.6 (would be 4th in NBA)
  • Defensive efficiency versus Pacers: 107.7 (would be 29th in NBA)

For the sake of understanding just how good the Pacers have been this season, I went ahead and picked the brain of Jared Wade of 8 points 9 seconds, the Indiana Pacers ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog; by asking him this question: 2004 Detroit Pistons or 2013 Indiana Pacers?

Wade’s response:

The 2004 Pistons. It really does seem very close if you run down the roster. The individual talent level would be very close if you did a head-to-head breakdown. This year’s Pacers might even come out on top considering recency usually wins out in these debates.

Paul George certainly seems more dynamic than any player on Detroit’s title team, and people probably don’t quire remember just how much of a presence Ben Wallace was defensively and on the glass. There is also the fact that that team had incredible length, which was rare then but fairly commonplace now. An athletic front court of defenders like Tayshaun, ‘Sheed and Big Ben was just imposing.

Then again, these Pacers are damn imposing themselves even in 2013 and have size and length (especially on the perimeter) that is just a problem. They also are probably the better three-point shooting team, with George Hill, Paul George, Lance Stephenson and Orlando Johnson (plus potentially Danny Granger on the bench) all hitting at a high rate.

But ultimately the 2004 Pistons played at an incredibly high level when the games mattered most in the playoffs. They were prepared, confident and had enough experience to deal with postseason adversity.

Now, these Pacers may be able to pull off something similar.

It’s just that that Detroit run that started in 2004 was just too long and too dominant for me to really consider putting below a team made mostly of guys who have never made a conference finals.

All six of these teams have a great opportunity to win the NBA title this season. The Golden State Warriors obviously aren’t yet on their level, but the Dubs have still managed to split their 14 games against the league’s elite.

If the playoffs opened today, the Warriors would be seeded sixth and consequently would play the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. Regular season success versus an opponent isn’t always a predictor of future playoff victories, but given that Mark Jackson’s team won the season series versus Lob City, the Dubs as well as their fans would more than likely enter the matchup with a lot of confidence.

This isn’t to suggest that Golden State would defeat the Clips, but it’s certainly an interesting possibility to consider. Right?

The last quarter of the season promises to come with a lot of intrigue.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net.

About The Author

JM.Poulard

J.M. Poulard is the Warriors World editor. He is also a contributor to ESPN TrueHoop sites Forum Blue and Gold (Los Angeles Lakers), Piston Powered (Detroit Pistons) and Raptors Republic (Toronto Raptors). He has a particular fondness for watching Eastern Conference ball games and enjoys the history of the sport. Feel free to reach out to him on Twitter (@ShyneIV).

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