Sitting at 10-1, atop of the Western Conference and heading into a clash against the 8-3 Bulls, who are currently tied for first in the Eastern Conference, the Warriors face what some would consider their first real test since opening night against the Lakers.
Don’t let the skeptics fool you – Golden State is absolutely for real and anyone who isn’t a believer yet, will be sooner rather than later. That’s not to say skeptics don’t have a legitimate reason to be cautious about this Warriors team. It’s no secret that the Warriors have had an easy schedule to start the season, but you can only play who’s on your schedule, and how Golden State has looked is more important than who they have played.
They’ve only played 3 road games and just one of those has come outside the state of California. But they’re doing what they’re supposed to do and then some.
The mantra of the great Bill Belichick is simply, “Do your job”, and from an outsider’s perspective, the Warriors seem to have adopted that mantra.
Every player in the Warriors rotation is bringing something to the table. One thing that was always apparent during the Warriors run of five straight title appearances was that every guy knew their role and they’ve gotten back to that so far this season. Whether it’s Gary Payton II coming in and providing defense and energy or Otto Porter Jr. coming in and knocking down open threes, it’s clear each player has a defined role.
And with that being said, just about everyone is thriving in their respective roles. Golden State has four guys averaging double-digit points per game and seven guys averaging 7+ points per game. What sticks out to me the most is the shot distribution. The Warriors only have 3 players averaging double-digit shots per game – Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins. Those are the Warriors scorers and opposing teams know it but they can’t stop it.
The great thing about the Warriors is that you never know who the 4th and 5th scorers are going to be on any given night. Porter Jr. might come in the game and light it up off the bench. Damion Lee, who’s currently having a career year, is a threat to come in the game and score 10-15 points on any given night. Nemanja Bjelica can come in and put up points in a hurry. These guys aren’t household names by any means but they can make the defense pay if the other team is too focused on Curry or Poole or Wiggins, and that’s a big part of why their offense is so lethal. Opposing defenses have to pick their poison and simply hope for the best more often than not.
But it doesn’t stop at putting the ball in the basket. Draymond Green has really been in a groove to start the season and outside of Curry, he’s probably the Warriors’ most important piece to the puzzle. Make fun of his “triple single” stat line all you want, but what he brings to the table is undeniable. He’s one of the smartest and best passers in the game and he’s putting the ball in the basket about as effectively as he’s ever done it.
We’ve Yet to See Curry’s Best
Don’t get it twisted, Curry’s been really good. He’s averaging 27.4 points per game, 6.5 assists, and a career-high 6.5 rebounds per game. But, his FG% and 3P% are the lowest they’ve ever been in his career, minus the 2019-20 season in which he appeared in just five games.
All things considered, it’s pretty absurd that we haven’t quite seen the Stephen Curry we’ve all become accustomed to seeing, and yet he’s currently the odds on favorite to win the MVP award.
Shooting 43.4% from the field and 38.5% from three isn’t bad at all. Heck, most players in the league would absolutely love to be that efficient on the type of volume that Curry is shooting, but it’s just not quite up to his own standards. And yet the Warriors still have the largest average point differential in the entire league! The Warriors’ average point differential according to nbastatstuffer.com is 13.6, which is 4.3 points larger than the Utah Jazz who are currently 2nd in the league in that category.
Not at Full Strength
Curry hasn’t been playing his best ball, despite a couple of nuclear performances of 45 and 50 points, Klay Thompson and James Wiseman haven’t appeared in a single game yet and the Dubs are STILL dominating.
Integrating both Thompson and Wiseman back into the lineup will create some problems of its own, but to get where Golden State wants to get they’ll likely need both of those guys in the rotation to get there.
It’s anyone’s guess how effective Thompson will be after a two-season absence, but if anyone can come back from two major injuries, it’s Klay Thompson.
With the way the Warriors are playing, I’m not even sure they need Thompson to return to his full former self. He just needs to shoot the ball well, which he’s always done, and still be able to get after it defensively. Thompson used to be regarded as one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders and although he may not quite be the same athletically as he used to be if the Warriors can continue to be one of the top defenses in the league with him back out there? Boy oh boy, watch out!
It Can’t Always Be Sunshine and Rainbows
The good times won’t keep rolling for 82 games straight. The Warriors will inevitably hit adversity, but this veteran-led group is more than prepared for that. After all, a good portion of these guys have experience playing on the absolute highest stage.
It’s still early in the season but the Warriors are legit and assuming they stay healthy, they’ll most certainly be a threat to come out of the Western Conference come playoff time.
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