After Sunday’s 136-115 smashing of the Los Angeles Lakers and Friday’s 101-88 thumping of the Utah Jazz, the Golden State Warriors are off to a 9-2 start. That marks the franchise’s best start in 39 years, and by the looks of their soft schedule, it could get even better.
Golden State is second in the league in both points per game and assists, the Warriors have propelled themselves to the third-best record in the league behind only Memphis and Toronto. But with a five-game road trip set to begin Sunday in which they will face just one team that has a .500 record, the Dubs are looking at a great opportunity to continue to pour it on their opponents. They have played in three straight blowouts, allowing their starters to rest a majority of the 4th quarter. Sunday night in Oklahoma City could be another lopsided affair.
A major part of the Warriors early season success has been their well-rounded play. They are first in field goal percentage, connecting at a scorching 49%. Add that to their first place defensive field goal percentage that is allowing just 41% shooting and you have a winning recipe. Golden State is not not only holding their opponents to a league-low shooting percentage, they are also doing the dirty work and collecting the most defensive boards in the league at 35.5 a game. They rank third in the league in point differential at +10.5.
Individually, Golden State has two players who rank among the top-seven in the league in PER. Marreese Speights ranks third at 26.88 and Stephen Curry is seventh at 26.44. Wait, what?! Big Mo Speights has the third highest PER in the entire league?! That has got to be a typo, right? Wrong. In just 20 minutes off of the bench in LA on Sunday, Speights dropped 24 points on 8-11 shooting and collected nine boards. He is shooting a spirited 64% on the season. That’s the kind of quick and efficient bench production that the Warriors could not get a season ago with Mark Jackson at the helm. Things have changed under Steve Kerr.
In all seriousness, we cannot expect Speights to continue to be a top-three PER-guy all season. But we can expect both Curry and Klay Thompson, who currently ranks 16th with a 22.74 PER, to be right up there for not only this season, but seasons to come. Curry is averaging 23.3 points, 7.9 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game. Thompson has cooled off a bit, (or maybe has just come back down to earth) but is still averaging 22.6 points, 3.2 assists and three boards per contest. The Splash Brothers rank twelfth and fourteenth in true shooting percentage, an amazing stat considering how often they are firing away from all depths of the court. It has become pretty clear who the best backcourt in the league is now.
With a current three game winning streak and eight of the next 10 games against teams with .500 records or below, Golden State will look to extend their lead in the Pacific Division, beginning with OKC on Sunday. The devastatingly banged up Thunder squad is just 3-11 this season and in some serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. That’s what losing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will do to a team. The big question for them is when they return from their prospective injuries, how effective can they be? Can they stay healthy? And just how far back will they be in the standings of a tight Western Conference? It’s going to a tough go for the Thunder all season long.
However, the tough luck of OKC has opened the door for other teams such as the Warriors as well as the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trailblazers, and Houston Rockets to sneak into the top of the standings. And while the LA Clippers haven’t gotten off to the start that they wanted, they will surely turn things around. Never count a Doc Rivers-lead team out.
Regardless, these teams will still all have to find a way to get past the defending champion San Antonio Spurs – the Warriors toughest matchup. But can the Spurs really reach three straight NBA Finals? Or will we see some new blood facing off in June this season? LeBron James changed the shape of the league this offseason, and maybe not in his favor.
Follow Rich Peters @Tricky_Roma.