As the Golden State Warriors continue their dominance, the possibility of a 72-10 record only grows more distinct.
It’s only 16 games into the season, but it’s already starting to feel like we’ve said everything there is to say about the Golden State Warriors.
Their 16-0 start hasn’t just been record-breaking; it’s been a message to the rest of the league that until someone proves otherwise, the Warriors are going to be team that everyone is trying to catch. And judging how players and front offices around the league are responding, that message has seemed to resonate loud and clear.
After just a 4-7 start, watching the Warriors’ early season dominance was definitely a motivating factor for Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey to replace head coach Kevin McHale just 11 games into the season. After getting drubbed by 50 points in the first week of the season, it’s no coincidence that the Memphis Grizzlies almost immediately traded for Mario Chalmers. And despite the fact that his team currently sits atop the Eastern Conference, it’s obvious to see why LeBron James is using the Warriors as his team’s measuring stick so early in the season.
But while every other team scrambles to figure out just what the hell to do against the Warriors, Golden State keeps mowing down opponents with absolutely no mercy, opening the usually never serious discussion of whether or not this team can actually eclipse 72 wins. Comparing any team to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls is almost taboo, and rightly so.
After all, how many teams have had the greatest player of all time play one of the greatest seasons of all time, and then have him supported by two other Hall of Famers and a future Hall of Fame head coach? (Hint: None).
That Bulls team was literally engineered to dominate that era of the NBA, as they challenged opponents with a combination of skill, versatility, toughness and swagger never before seen in the league. However, the NBA has undergone a massive evolution since the 90’s, and arguably this season’s Warriors are more built for success in this era than the Bulls were in theirs.
November 24, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guardStephen Curry
(30) dribbles the basketball against Los Angeles Lakers forwardKobe Bryant
(24) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Lakers 111-77. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
While the 90’s was an era predicated on defense and toughness, the NBA of 2015 is all about buckets. And quite honestly, nobody gets buckets as well as the Golden State Warriors. Thus far, they’ve led by 15 points or more for longer than they’ve trailed at all, which only gives you a glimpse of how dominant they’ve been. Their league leading 112.1 offensive rating is almost a full 10 points higher than the second place San Antonio Spurs, they shoot 40% from three on 30 attempts per game, and perhaps most impressive of all, 70% of the Warriors’ field goals come off of assists. Golden State’s offense hasn’t just been impressive this year; it’s been thoroughly mesmerizing.
Their unselfishness, continuity and genuine joy they get from playing with each other something unmatched by any other team around the league (save for maybe the San Antonio Spurs) and it’s part of the reason that they’re so hard to guard.
Take this for example.
If Stephen Curry is coming off a ball screen, he has no problem pulling up for three if his defender tries to go under. If his defender goes over the screen, he can hit the screener (usually Draymond Green) for an open three at the top of the key. If the opponent tries to trap, Curry can split the double, and foray his way into the paint, which is what really opens up the Warriors’ offense. He can hit a floater from anywhere within about 17 feet, pull up for a mid range jumper, make a move and get to the rim or he can whip one of his patented behind the back passes back to the perimeter.
In their small ball lineup, if the ball goes out to the perimeter, the Warriors’ forwards (Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes) usually flatten out to the corner, which creates perfect spacing while the opponent is still trying to scramble back to their assignments after blowing the double team. The defensive unbalance created by opponents trying to double Curry, combined with the offensive balance created by having five legitimate three-point shooters on the floor means that within just a few passes, one of the Warriors’ gunners is going to find themselves wide open for three. And that’s just out of a simple ball screen action with Curry.
November 24, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) passes the basketball to forward Draymond Green (23, far right) against Los Angeles Lakers guardJordan Clarkson
(6), forwardBrandon Bass
(2), and forwardJulius Randle
(30) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Lakers 111-77. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Combine that with the options and mismatches created by running Curry off off-ball screens, or putting Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes on the block, or having Iguodala bring the ball up the court, and you get a sense of just how impossible it is to stop Golden State. If you pay too much attention to one player, they’ll burn you with their court vision. But at the same time, it’s almost impossible to avoid focusing on any one player on a given possession, because every player they put on the floor has the ability to make opposing defenses pay.
Oh, and their defense isn’t too shabby either. Overall, their 95.8 defensive rating and 41.9% opponent field goal percentage are third in the league, and their 28.6% opponent three-point percentage is the stingiest in the Association, which makes the fact that the Warriors’ offense is so lethal that much scarier. To get an idea of just how much better Golden State has been than anybody else this season, take a look at the point differentials of every team in the league.
At +250, the Warriors is a full 121 points ahead of second place San Antonio (+129), and a whopping 453 points better than the last place 76ers– and we’re only 16 games into the year.
A second year to build their chemistry and comfort in Steve Kerr‘s offensive system, as well as the confidence gained from winning the NBA Finals has created a monster that nobody can seem to tame.
Watch out 72-10, the Dubs are comin’ for you.