By Tyler Lashbrook (@lashy)
We’re back this week to take a look at some of the biggest sports websites’ power rankings in relation to the Golden State Warriors. Remember: lists like these aren’t the end of the world. They simply provide a vehicle for intelligent banter and discussion. With that, let’s begin.
This week, ESPN and Sports Illustrated both have the Warriors ranked at no. 8 and CBS sports has them at no. 6. ESPN’s ranking and CBS sports’ ranking seems fair, yet the SI list is unfair. Wait, ESPN and SI both have Golden State at no. 8, how can one be fair and the other be unfair?
These lists, essentially, compare one team against another—that’s where we find side-by-side comparisons and arguments of these teams. In ESPN’s ranking, the Warriors are one spot ahead of the Phoenix Suns, but in SI’s, the Warriors are still a spot behind the Suns, who Golden State promptly demolished Friday night. Putting the Suns ahead of the Warriors—teams with very similar records, though Golden State’s ceiling is presumably higher—is unfair after a Warriors five-game win streak that included a manhandling of the aforementioned Suns.
The Warriors are climbing in each list, making the largest jump in the CBS sports rankings, in which they made a three-spot leap. But that is to be expected with the team’s recent five-game win streak. It seems, after all, that all they really needed was their #FullSquad.
When Marc Jackson has the entire team at his disposal, the Warriors are 15-3. Without the #FullSquad, the Warriors are 4-8. This isn’t too damning of a development. In fact, it should be encouraging. The team is 6-1 since Andre Iguodala’s return, beating the Los Angles Clippers and Suns, both presently playoff teams.
It does, however, note the important of Golden State’s health. Losing Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry shortened the team’s bench, meaning it can ill-afford to lose any of its first six players for any long period of time. But, as we’ve seen, a healthy Warriors squad is dangerous—one capable of making a deep run in the playoffs, even in a loaded Western Conference.
On the surface, it seems like Golden State survived a tough three-game stretch with offense, but the #FullSquad—the healthy squad—has thrived on defense, giving up just 91.4 points per game in its five-game winning streak.
Jackson’s favorite starting lineup—Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee and Bogut—has registered a defensive rating of 97.6, which would be the third best defense in the league. The offense of that group is blowing teams away, scoring 116.3 points per 100 possessions, a hair over six points better than the Trail Blazers’ no. 1 offense.
Taking that #FullSquad on the road, the Warriors started a seven-game Eastern Conference road trip with an overtime win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. Tonight, that road swing continues with a game against the Magic. The team will finish a Florida trip with a game against the Miami Heat Thursday, before hitting the upper coast.
Road trips are usually tough, especially ones across the entire map, but the Eastern Conference is woeful, setting up a nice little stretch for the Warriors. The real test comes against the two-time defending champs, in which the Warriors will play as underdogs. Other than that, every game is winnable and provides a nice opportunity to climb even further in the rankings.