Welcome to another Warriors Weekly after the most unusual seven days of the season so far.
The Week that Was:
Considering the context, this may have been Golden State’s most impressive week of the 2015-16 campaign.
The Dubs played all four games without Barnes and Barbosa as well as three without Ezeli but Curry’s lower leg issues were (justifiably) the more pressing hurdle. The MVP looked limited on Monday vs. Sacramento but still cobbled together a triple double in a truly wild win that peaked with a Curry / Omri Casspi three point shootout to end the first half.
All four players sat out the Texas trip and the team’s disappointing performance against Dallas set the stage for a great win against the Rockets. While Houston’s defensive effort and instincts are often lacking, the Warriors did a great job squeezing everything they could out of those advantages in the second most impressive win of the season so far (#1 is the Clippers comeback in LA).
They finished the week by blowing the doors off the Nuggets then allowing them to get all the way back before pulling it out in overtime.
This week crystallized a few important things: the Warriors would struggle without Curry for extended stretches (no surprise) but they have the talent and motor to pull out enough games to make the lofty win total aspirations a more realistic opportunity as long as the time missed stays low.
Draymond was unquestionably the MVP of the week. He had monster performances in the three wins including triple doubles in consecutive games. His ability to initiate offense took some of the playmaking onus off Andre Iguodala and helped make some other lineups work without Curry’s presence.
Stephen Curry Above the Break Three Update: Stephen Curry has made 120 above the break three pointers this year, more than one team (Memphis and Miami passed him this week…barely). Curry’s 44.3% shooting from there is better than every NBA team from mid-range and all but four teams in the paint (non-restricted area) not even accounting for the fact that 3 > 2.
Despite having a rougher week from three, only two players in the top 30 in above the break threes taken have made a higher percentage of them: Khris Middleton and JJ Redick, both in less than half as many tries.
The Soapbox: 2015 in Review
On January 1, 2015, the Golden State Warriors were the NBA’s early surprise with a 1.5 game lead on Portland for the best record in the league. They were coming off a strong season with a somewhat disappointing result having lost their first round series to the Clippers and firing their head coach.
By January 1, 2016, the Warriors became the face of the NBA and the greatest show in professional sports. Beyond winning the championship without ever playing an elimination game, they began the following season on a tear without Mark Jackson’s replacement, winning their first 24 games and finishing the year outscoring opponents by an average of 12.1 points per game.
With shockingly few exceptions, every player on this team had the best calendar year of their career in 2015. Stephen Curry became the league’s biggest star by both winning the MVP and leading in All-Star voting for both the 2015 game and the early returns for 2016 (Non-Kobe Edition). Klay Thompson dropped 37 points in a quarter and played in his first All-Star Game while Draymond Green looks poised to get his first nod next month. Andre Iguodala came off the bench nearly the whole year but still picked up a Finals MVP with his first ring. Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli are staring down big contracts in July.
The best way to exemplify the change in perception may be that this team has reached the point where everything they do is news, likely the first non-LeBron team since the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to reach that level and the first in this era of social media. As someone who has covered this team for years, the amount of “outside” interest has become somewhat staggering. In twelve months, the team that could never keep success going became something entirely different.
While the year construct can be somewhat strange for a sport with seasons that run from October to June, it works pretty well here to mark the remarkable transformation of this franchise.
The Week to Come:
After a challenging stretch in terms of opponents and travel, the Warriors will only face one of those two this week.
They start against the Hornets on Monday at Oracle. Charlotte has been strong this season but will play without big man Al Jefferson. Kemba Walker and company can still keep it close (especially if the Warriors are less than healthy) but it should still be a Golden State win.
From there, the Dubs go on the road for three games without leaving the Pacific time zone. They start with the tail end of a back-to-back against the Lakers, then head to Portland to face the Blazers and end another back-to-back in Sac against the Kings.
Even at under 100%, the Warriors should be substantial favorites in all four games and take each one, though a 3-1 week would be totally fine.