The Golden State Warriors got off to a slow start, but they’ve started to find their rhythm, and as we reach the All-Star break the Warriors are 31-22 and in the 8-spot in the NBA’s Western Conference. Given the current trend, you have to like Golden State’s chances to eventually pass at least Dallas and Phoenix (whom they trail by just a half-game) and move as high as #6. Let’s take a closer look at the team who advanced into the second round and then threw a scare into the San Antonio Spurs in 2013.
Golden State is known for its fast pace and its sharpshooting backcourt and both of those reputations are well-earned. The Warriors are one of the top five teams in the league when it comes to pushing the tempo, and they’re second in three-point percentage. That second-place ranking is even more impressive when you consider the high volume of treys Golden State guns up there. Steph Curry attempts eight a game and hits 42 percent. Klay Thompson fires up seven treys a game and hits 41 percent.
Those percentages are good regardless, but at this level of volume, it’s outstanding. Curry is averaging 25 ppg, while Thompson adds 18. Head coach Mark Jackson thinks they might be the best shooting backcourt in league history. Offhand, that sounds a little over the top, but I guess I’m not ready with an immediate alternative. They are, at the very least, the best shooting backcourt in the game today, and Curry hasn’t forgotten his point guard responsibilities, handing out nine assists per game.
David Lee was injured during last year’s playoff run, and the Warriors will need the power forward if they want to advance deep this year. Lee is averaging 19 points/10 rebounds. Andrew Bogut, the oft-injured center, has stayed healthy this year and is averages 11 rebounds per game. Bogut doesn’t score, but with the guards and Lee, the center doesn’t need to. He just needs to go hard to the glass, and Bogut has done exactly that. Between Bogut and Lee, the Warriors are a top-five rebounding team.
Golden State has two more items essential to playoff success. At small forward, they have two players—Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala who chip in to the offense and are capable of big games if one of the stars is cold. More important, the Warriors play serious defense. The stat of defensive efficiency adjusts for tempo, so teams that play at a rapid rate aren’t perceived as worse on defense (or better on offense) just because of the pace of play. Golden State ranks fourth in defensive efficiency.
That’s a championship-quality defense, and there’s more than enough star power on the offensive side. The stacked Western Conference makes it seem unlikely, at least to me, that Golden State could make it all the way to the NBA Finals. But if you wanted to argue their case, there’s plenty of ammunition. Now they just need to build on their momentum and move up the seeding ladder.