At this point, the only intrigue about the defending champion Warriors is can they stay healthy? And how close will they get to the iconic 1995-96 Chicago Bulls record of 72-10. Can they pass it with a holy number of 74 wins?
The Chicago Bulls were flawless in 1995-96. They had lost the year before in the semi-final round in Michael Jordan’s return from baseball. Focus was not a problem. The addition of Dennis Rodman was the key personnel move that season. Although the Bulls didn’t start off winning their first 24 games like the Warriors, the Bulls had a 13 game win streak. They had an 18 game win streak. They only lost back to back games once. They were 27-3 and on a 14 game win streak. They were 45-5 and in the midst of a 7 game win streak. They beat the Atlanta Hawks by 31 to begin a 6 game win streak. The next night they beat the Los Angeles Clippers by 21 to win their 70th game of the season. Can the Warriors reproduce that?
|Offense||Points Per Game||Field Goal Percentage||3-Point Percentage||Assists|
It stands to reason if you are first in every offensive category, 70+ wins is yours for the taking.
The Warriors offense is a hybrid version of Phil Jackson’s triangle, where reading and reacting is the foundational principle, and Gregg Popovich’s motion offense. As a bonus, they defend the three better than 27 NBA teams (Spurs, Knicks, Heat are better).
Steph Curry is aware of the challenge. So much can happen in a few months. The Warriors have yet to play the Spurs or Thunder or Cavaliers. The X-mas day matchup with the Cavs will be revealing. Simply put, there are teams that on a great night, facing a tired Warriors team, can pull off an upset. Sound familiar, Milwaukee Bucks?
The Warriors play the Cavs and Bulls on a road trip in January. In February, on the road, they play the Clippers, Hawks, Heat and Thunder. Still, the possibility that the Warriors can tie a record considered untouchable, after winning a title, when they are supposed to be complacent, is a testament to how good a team they are.
|Defense||Points Scored (Defense)||3-Point Percentage (Defense)||Steals||Rebounds|
Are the Warriors playing with fire, giving up so many points (102.2)? Will it be their Achilles heel?
It all comes down to Curry. On the ’95-’96 Bulls team, there were three efficient players. Michael Jordan had a PER of 29.4. Scottie Pippen had a PER of 21.0. Toni Kukoc had a PER of 20.4.
The Warriors have Curry and everyone else. Curry’s PER is an extraordinary 33.7. The next closest is Festus Ezeli at 19.7 and Draymond Green at 18.7, meaning it’s all on Curry to get the Warriors to 70 wins. Curry has the highest PER in NBA history so far, beating out Wilt Chamberlain’s 31.82 in 1962-63. But only 25 games have been played. There is a whole lot of season left. But one question has already been answered.
The Warriors are better than they were last year.
But are they special-better? Or, iconic-better?
photo via llananba