The holiday season hasn’t even begun, and already people are already starting to wonder if this year’s Golden State Warriors team is not just great, but historically great. In many ways, this is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s a byproduct of the Warriors being absolutely ridiculous.
The Warriors are already a part of history, being one of three teams to start a season 15-0 after defeating the Denver Nuggets 118-105 on Sunday. The feat put them alongside the 1993-94 Houston Rockets and the 1948-49 Washington Capitols. The Warriors then surpassed those two teams by beating the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday, improving their record to 16-0 and setting a new NBA record for most wins to start a season.
Now, however, the question has become how the Warriors stack up compared to considerably more celebrated teams. Some are wondering if they could meet or surpass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ NBA record of 72 wins in a season. As Tom Ziller of SB Nation points out, Golden State has at least one advantage, as Michael Jordan’s Bulls (which, oddly enough, included currently sidelined Warriors head coach Steve Kerr) started their season going a somewhat more modest 13-2.
Or maybe there’s another all-time great team the Warriors could threaten: the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. Miami Heat president Pat Riley, a member of that team when they went on a NBA record 33-game winning streak, sees certain similarities.
“They are in the beginning of something that can be dynastic,” Riley said about the Warriors’ core. “They’re in the beginning stages of it, and that’s the scary part, versus somebody that catches lightning in a bottle one time.”
There’s some evidence to back up Riley’s claims that we’re seeing an all-time great team in the making. Their average margin of victory this season has been 14.4 points, the result of a team effort that results in them logging 112 points per 100 possessions while playing lights-out defense.
Still, as good as they are, doesn’t this all seem a little too much, too soon? We’re only two months into this particular incarnation of the Warriors. They’re playing at full health; it doesn’t seem possible that even Curry will keep up this pace (as of Sunday, he was on track to make 404 three-pointers, which would violate several laws of physics); and, well, this is the NBA and there’s still a quarter of the season left. Things can happen. Even those Bulls and Lakers teams, as talented as they were, required more than a little luck to accomplish what they did.
Who else can we compare them to? The way the Warriors are playing now, there’s not a worthy rival out there in the here and now. We almost have no other option but to look back into league history for an appropriate opponent.
Vine of the week
We have our first true Dunk of the Year candidate! Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan should get bonus points for this one, as he’s posterizing Rudy Gobert, maybe the best rim protector in the league.
How much did LeBron carry the Cavaliers?
Well, LeBron James was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, but that’s really just a typical week at the office for him. More notably, James showed how valuable he is when he moved up to 25th place on the all-time assists list. The total is even more impressive when one realizes that, in every imaginable non All-Star Game context, James is necessarily passing to an inferior scorer.
Quote of the week
When I’ve become the voice of ‘ball-movement reason,’ you know you have an issue.
– the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant speaking out about his team-mates’ bad habits.
It can’t be said that Bryant suffers from an excess of tact. There’s a bit of self-deprecating humor here, something which would be more admirable if he weren’t still the team’s biggest ball-hog.
Maybe that was a good thing in the past, but the past isn’t where the actual games are being played. Right now, he’s shooting a horrid 33.1%, while head coach Byron Scott is letting him play 30+ minutes a night and clang a dozen or so shots per game and then telling the media that Kobe “has that privilege.”
1. Golden State Warriors (Last week: 1)
How many games in a row would Golden State have to lose for us to knock them down to the No2 spot? Never mind, it’s almost impossible to believe that the Warriors could actually drop two or more consecutive games unless, of course, Steph Curry gets hurt.
Please don’t let Curry get hurt.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
In a Warriors-less world, an 11-3 start would look a lot more impressive, especially since Kyrie Irving has yet to play a single minute. Speaking of Irving, he apparently beat James in a modified one-on-one game in practice a few days ago. That’s good news for Cavaliers fans, bad news for Kevin Love fantasy owners.
3. San Antonio Spurs (3)
Could a tortoise and hare situation be brewing in the West? While the Warriors continue to kill the competition, the Spurs, who famously don’t give a damn about regular season accomplishments, have been on a relatively quiet 8-1 run.
4. Miami Heat (6)
The Miami Heat are now 9-4 and fighting the Chicago Bulls for that second spot in the East. “I think we know what our identity is,” Dwyane Wade says. Now that the Heat have found their identity without LeBron, they might be the team most likely to face him in the conference finals.
5. Dallas Mavericks (4)
Last week, DJ Gallo noted that the Mavericks probably didn’t deserve to be as high as No4. We have adjusted that now, but only just slightly. To absolutely everyone’s surprise, Dirk Nowitzki and company remain one of the most competitive teams in the West while trendier preseason picks struggle.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (11)
Kevin Durant returned on Monday, scoring 27 points in a 111-89 win over the Utah Jazz. Considering that Oklahoma City has been holding fairly steady with Russell Westbrook alone at the helm, this probably means real bad news for the non-Golden State portion of the Western Conference.
7. Chicago Bulls (5)
Why not the Bulls here? Look at these power rankings and you’ll notice there’s a an equal number of Eastern Conference teams here in the Top 10. This is not a fluke. Right now, there are a larger number of genuinely good teams in the East. Maybe the Warriors are hogging all the W’s.
8. Indiana Pacers (13)
Before the season started, Paul George said (to much guffawing) “I want to be the MVP this year.” While it would take season-ending injuries to Steph Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant for that to happen, it now no longer seems completely laughable.
9. Atlanta Hawks (7)
The biggest piece of news about the Hawks recently involved head coach Mike Budenholzer being ejected and fined for making contact with an official during a loss to the Cavaliers. Per usual for Atlanta, the news isn’t about the intricacies of the game, but at least it doesn’t involve racially insensitive remarks this time.
10. Phoenix Suns (8)
The Suns lost their last two games, dropping their record down to .500. They remain in the Top 10 mostly because that’s actually pretty good for a Western Conference team right now. What a difference a year makes.
11. Toronto Raptors (12)
Bad news for the Raptors as center Jonas Valanciunas will be out for around six weeks with a broken bone on his left hand.
12. Washington Wizards (16)
A three-game winning streak was good enough to push the Wizards up the rankings just a smidge.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (14)
The Grizzlies still look creaky, but that’s an improvement over “nearly dead.”
14. Utah Jazz (17)
It’s less that the Jazz deserve to be this high, it’s more that the Clippers have officially forfeited their right to be up here.
15. Charlotte Hornets (23)
The Hornets had their second biggest comeback in team history on Monday, as they defeated the Sacramento Kings in overtime after falling behind by 22 points.
16. Boston Celtics (9)
The Celtics lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, hurting both their own standings AND their precious draft pick’s worth.
17. Los Angeles Clippers (10)
The in-fighting Clippers blew a 20+ point lead against Golden State last week and they haven’t looked the same since.
18. New York Knicks (19)
19. Detroit Pistons (24)
The Pistons could be above .500 right now, but they had a 21 point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
20. Milwaukee Bucks (15)
That Bucks win snapped a three game losing streak, allowing them to just stay in the Top 20 here.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves (22)
22. Orlando Magic (25)
23. Denver Nuggets (18)
24. Portland Trail Blazers (26)
25. Houston Rockets (20)
26. Sacramento Kings (21)
27. Brooklyn Nets (29)
28. New Orleans Pelicans (27)
29. Los Angeles Lakers (28)
30. Philadelphia 76ers (30)
This article was written by Hunter Felt, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 25th November 2015 11.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010