Team to Beat: Golden State Warriors?
The Golden State Warriors are starting to look more and more like one of the best teams in league.
Despite playing the third toughest schedule in basketball entering the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs, the Dubs’ winning record is among the 10 best in the NBA.
The Warriors have kept themselves in games with defense and then buried opponents late with their shooting. Front and center in all of this is Stephen Curry.
The sharpshooter is having the best season of his young career and is generating praise from the biggest names in the sport. LeBron James offered this take to ESPN.com’ Tom Haberstroh:
“One of the best shooters that the NBA will ever see,” James said after the game. ”With the way he handles the ball, and the light he has … It’s more than green. It’s fluorescent.”
It’s hard to disagree with the reigning league MVP when Curry is attempting a career-high eight 3-pointers per game, and most agree that they are all good if not great shots. Keep in mind, they are not of the spot-up variety.
In actuality, no one in the league takes more pull up treys than Golden State’s starting point guard according to SportVU data tracking. Here’s the kind of shot Curry makes look easy but that comes with a high degree of difficulty:
His wizardry as a scorer and playmaker gives the Warriors an opportunity at the crown given how proficient the team is with its floor general.
For all of Curry’s gifts though, he is not the sole player contributing to the Dubs’ success. It’s obviously a group effort, but another player is just as responsible for the team’s ascension: Andre Iguodala.
The highflyer was once vilified in the City of Brotherly Love because fans felt as though he was overpaid. However, his reputation as a great team player began gaining traction when he was traded to the Denver Nuggets.
Iguodala simply gave the Nuggets whatever it is the team needed in terms of scoring, defense and playmaking. Now as a member of the Warriors, one could argue that his value has never been more appreciated.
Indeed, the Dubs sputtered earlier in the season when their defensive ace sat out 12 games because of a hamstring injury. Mark Jackson’s group only managed five victories during the stretch.
His return helped stabilize a lineup of players that struggled with added responsibilities. Iguodala is the team’s backup point guard and also its top wing defender. No one else on the roster can replicate what he brings to the table in terms of talent and disposition.
George Karl hinted as much to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News:
“When that deal went down, I said to myself, there’s probably not a better team for Andre than Golden State as far as his personality,” Karl said. “Andre loves the team to play as a team, he is a team guy, he is unselfish. The only thing he has had problems with in his career has been when teams want him to score 20 points a game. Golden State doesn’t need him to score 20 points. They need him to do what he does at a high level.”
His gifts resulted in Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams dubbing him the new Scottie Pippen. The former Chicago Bulls’ forward was a do-it-all Hall of Fame player, which is high praise for Iguodala.
Some might scoff at the notion, but in reality, no team in the Association has been better than Golden State when healthy. ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh goes even further and argues that they are better than the Portland Trail Blazers (insider):
So if you’re looking for a team that plays both ends of the floor, it’s the Warriors, not the Blazers, who should have your attention in the title contention conversation. When it comes to injuries and late-game situations, what’s clear is that the Warriors are the better team, but so far, the Blazers have enjoyed the better luck.
Indeed, with Iguodala in uniform, the Warriors have secured victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat. All three teams have a legitimate shot at making the NBA Finals (although the Clips’ chances just took a huge blow with Chris Paul’s separated shoulder).
Portland has been good, but they have not faced any significant injuries to their rotation players unlike the Dubs. Hence, it’s easy to see why one might be inclined to believe Golden State is a more dangerous opponent. They remained steady through adversity and bounced back thanks in large part to their starters.
The combination of Curry, Iguodala, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Andrew Bogut is outscoring teams by a gaudy 19.9 points per 100 possessions. As a reference point, have a look at how other starters on prominent teams in the league are faring:
- Indiana Pacers outscore opponents by 13.5 points per 100 possessions
- Portland starters outscore opponents by 12.7 points per 100 possessions
- Miami starters outscore opponents by 4.9 points per 100 possessions
The Warriors are climbing the Western Conference standings and may eventually get to the top, especially when the schedule gets much softer for them. When it’s all said and done, Golden State will be heard from.
It’s only a matter of time.
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