Can the Golden State Warriors Go All the Way?
Of course not. But then again … maybe?
No one really thinks the Golden State Warriors will go 82-0. No one who’s thinking rationally, at least.
The NBA season is just too long. Injuries happen. Off nights happen. Flight delays that get you to the hotel at 4am happen. And the league’s other elite teams, none of whom the Warriors have played yet, are just too good. Even if the team somehow survives the randomness of injury and the challenges of the Cavs and Spurs, there’s the overwhelming incentive to let the stars rest down the stretch. Better to finish the regular season with a few losses and fresh legs than undefeated and totally drained. And even if they did manage to power through, a completely undefeated season would be unprecedented: the best league record to date was 72-10, set by the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls during the heyday of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
And yet, it’s still hard to not consider the Warriors achieving the impossible. That’s how good they’ve been this year.
It’s easy to argue that the Warriors will get beat at some point this season, but it’s hard to predict who will do it. As they’ve raced out to a 16-0 start, there’s simply no signs of weakness. They’ve got the league’s best shooting percentage and are holding opponents to the league’s fourth worst. They’re the league’s second best three-point shooting team, while their opponents are shooting the league’s lowest percentage on threes. Add all that up and you get a +15.6 point differential, more than six points better than the Spurs, who are second with a +9.2 differential.
Newsflash: These guys are good. When they go small, they’re great. Sliding Draymond Green down to the center position, Harrison Barnes to the power forward and letting Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala roam around the back court has so far proven unstoppable. With that lineup, the Warriors have outscored opponents 200-119. They play at a breakneck 109 possessions per 48 minutes and are twice as good as the league’s second best lineup when it comes to net efficiency.
Then there’s Curry, the league’s most exciting (and best?) player who’s destroying his MVP season of a year ago. Last season, Curry averaged 26 points per 36 minutes (a better stat than points per game, given how often he was rested in blowouts) and this season he’s at 33 points per 36. That’s a 27% percent increase, which he’s done, not by shooting the three at a better clip, but by finishing at the rim like an elite big man. Curry’s 60 percent shooting percentage on two point shots is nearly identical to Hassan Whiteside’s and Whiteside is seven feet tall. That’s damn impressive.
So yeah, the Warriors look incredible right now. But you already knew that. Let’s talk about that undefeated record and when (or if) it will end. At 16-0, the Warriors are staring down a pretty easy schedule over the next few weeks. Their next 12 opponents are a combined six games under .500.
The Pacers, who will host the Warriors on December 8th, are red-hot right now and should provide a formidable challenge. Then the Dubs will run into LeBron and the Cavs on December 25th. Forget the gifts, all we want for Christmas is an undefeated Warriors squad getting pushed to the edge by LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie.
If the Warriors get past the Cavs — and they’ll certainly be favored to — they’ll take their undefeated record to Dallas and Houston before the end of the year. Make it to the end of January, and they’ll run up against the Spurs for the first of four times this season.
The chances that they escape all of these games without a loss or an injury that leads to a loss, are slim But it’s sure as hell going to fun to watch them try.
Photos by Thearon W. Henderson / Getty images