Culture of Hoops

The great range of the Golden State Warriors

Image courtesy of Matthew Addie/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Matthew Addie/Flickr.

When the words “range” and “Golden State Warriors” are combined, the name Stephen Curry is usually what comes out the other end. But there’s another way in which the Warriors are the rangiest team in the NBA. The Dubs are the only team in the league that might miss the playoffs, but also have a chance at advancing to the NBA Finals.

Sure, this is technically possible for a number of other teams that are currently fighting for a playoff spot, but does anybody really believe the Dallas Mavericks have a real shot at winning the Western Conference? Let’s take a look at the NBA’s rangiest team and see if they really do have a shot at coming out of the west.

After beating the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, the Warriors sit at 40-24 and are in sixth place in the Western Conference. They’re three games ahead of the ninth place Phoenix Suns. At this point it seems unlikely that they’ll miss the playoffs, but one injury could turn that unlikely scenario into a likely one. If Andre Iguodala, Steph Curry, or Andrew Bogut miss any kind of significant time down the stretch, it will be very difficult for the Dubs to hold off the three teams breathing down their neck in the standings.

However, if they can stay relatively healthy and avoid a mammoth collapse, the Warriors should find themselves in the playoffs. From there, their fortune will likely come down to matchups.

The West is so incredibly deep this year. Talk to four people and you’ll probably get four different picks for who will wear the Western Conference crown. A month ago, the odds-on favorite was the Oklahoma City Thunder. But now, after the surprisingly impactful Thabo Sefolosha injury and five losses in their last eight games, the Thunder seem fallible and there are some major questions about the team’s ability to defend.

The San Antonio Spurs are doing what they always do, and while it would surprise nobody if they made the Finals, we all are kind of wondering how many miles the Spurs can accrue before finally breaking down.

The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers are the two other popular picks to come out of the West, but they are not without their own question marks, both of which involve roster depth.

The Golden State Warriors fall behind these top four teams, but that fact alone doesn’t extinguish their hopes at coming out of the conference. Here’s why: The Dubs have the best defense in the Western Conference, when healthy. They’re the only team in the West with a sub-100 defensive rating, meaning that they allow less than 100 points per 100 possessions.

This year’s addition of Andre Iguodala combined with the existing defensive stalwarts of Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut has turned the Warriors into a defensive juggernaut, and that defense isn’t going anywhere come playoff time.

In order for the Dubs to exceed expectations in the playoffs, it’s going to take an offensive effort that we have not seen consistently so far this season. Oh, and also the right matchups. If the season ended today the Warriors would land in the sixth seed, matching them up with the Rockets. This would be a problem for Warriors fans as they’ve only beaten the Rockets twice in their last seven meetings. However, if they get the Clippers in the first round, they’d be in luck. They’re 5-2 in their last seven against the Clips.

If the Warriors want to defy the odds and make it to the Finals, they will have to beat some teams they’re not accustomed to beating, but if they get the matchups they want, that road will become much smoother.

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