Dub Nation: 10 Reasons Why The Warriors Are Early NBA Title Favorites
With their impressive 112-102 win over the Chicago Bulls over the weekend, the Golden State Warriors proved again why they are currently the NBA's top team.
The win in Chi-town gave the Warriors their 12th in a row, a franchise high for successive victories, and improved their record to a league-best 17-2.
The extending of Golden State's streak had Steve Kerr calling himself the "luckiest coach" in the NBA and left Stephen Curry simply declaring "we're pretty special when we're clicking."
They are both dead right; Kerr, because of the amount of good players that he's been given to work with in his first year as a head coach, and Curry, because of those players' knack for turning that talent into pure brilliance on the court so far this year.
Both of those facts are indicative of a Warriors team that has turned into the NBA's surprise title contender nearly a quarter of the way through the season.
Here are 10 reasons why the Dubs are the league's early title contenders:
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When former head coach Mark Jackson was fired after the Warriors' 2014 playoff run ended, fans had reason to think that a great injustice had been done. But this season has made two things abundantly clear:
The first was revealed by team owner Joe Lacob:
Part of it was, he couldn't get along with anybody else in the organization. And, look, he did a great job -- and I'll always compliment him in many respects -- but you can't have 200 other people in the organization not like you.
The second is that Steve Kerr is really, really good. His years of playing as a point guard under Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, by far the two best coaches of our generation, appear to have given him the perfect coaching education.
Simply put, Kerr has helped the Warriors improve practically every facet of their game.
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The most cited criticism of Mark Jackson's offensive system was that he didn't get creative enough. The Warriors were the 12th most efficient team on offense last year while using a game plan that was isolation heavy.
As Deadspin's Brett Koremenos points out, the team ranked 3rd in the league when it came to running isolation plays last season, per Synergy Sports data.
This year, the Warriors average the most assists per game, a total turnaround in offensive philosophy and a sign of a good offense that produces open shots instead of having to rely on 1-on-1 moves.
The MVP Candidate
When deciding who the league's MVP should be, conventional wisdom tells us to always look for the best player on the best team.
In that regard, there is no need to look any further than Steph Curry.
While the former Davidson College great is scoring and assisting slightly at a lesser rate than last season (23.2 ppg and 7.7 apg so far this year), the advanced stats say he is scoring, shooting and passing more efficiently within an offense that is getting more out of his already talented teammates.
He's doing all of this, furthermore, while playing about four fewer minutes per game.
That type of increased efficiency plus a lessened workload, in theory, is a good sign for Curry's chances of keeping up elite levels of play during the season and through the playoffs.
So far, the Warriors have five players on their roster who are scoring over 10 points per game, while four others (Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Shawn Livingston and the soon-to-return David Lee) have proven throughout their careers to be capable of having big nights when needed.
That means when guys like Curry and Klay Thompson are having bad shooting nights, as they did on Saturday (combined 14 of 37 shooting in Chicago), Kerr's offensive scheme allows someone like Draymond Green to step up (career-high 31 points vs. the Bulls).
That ability is a great asset to have for any potential title run, which inherently requires a team to have as many solutions as possible to different defensive schemes.
Vacancy At The Top
The injury troubles that the Oklahoma City have experienced, with both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook having missed significant action, leave the Thunder, who were many people's favorite in the West, removed from the title-contending conversation (for now).
Throw in a Los Angeles Clippers that has not looked as good as expected and a San Antonio Spurs squad that seems to be submitting the West's top spot in favor of pacing their old roster and you've got a vacancy at the top of the championship discussion. So far, the Warriors are filling it nicely.
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For all that can be said about Mark Jackson and an underachieving offense, the fact of the matter is the Warriors pushed the Clippers to a seven-game first-round series during the 2014 playoffs, and they had to do so without Andrew Bogut, who was injured for the whole series.
The fitness of Golden State's starting center has always been an issue. Last year, he played only 67 regular season games. The year before, just 32. And the year before that, only 12 for Milwaukee.
So far this year, Bogut has played all 19 of the Warriors' games so far. The seven footer has offered true rim protection in the process while helping Golden State to averaging a league best 6.4 blocks per game.
Playing with what is widely regarded as the NBA's best home-court advantage, the Oracle Arena and its fans have become a true asset to the Golden State Warriors.
That is noting new and is not unique to this particular season.
It is, though, an important fact to point out at a time when the Warriors are showing signs that they'll be in contention for the league's no. 1 overall record, and thus home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
That advantage could well make a big difference in the notoriously tight Western Conference playoffs.
Outside of the rim protection that Bogut offers, the Warriors possess a wealth of players who can guard multiple possessions.
The most notable among them are Green, Livingston, Iguodala, Thompson and Harrison Barnes, who all stand around 6'7.
Their long arms help Golden State produce the 7th most steals per night in league while averaging the 6th most forced turnovers overall.
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With Golden State, Klay Thompson has been developed into a great sidekick for fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry.
Since his rookie season, the former Wazzou standout has made significant jumps in scoring performance.
This year, that trend has shown no signs of stopping.
After the Warriors declined the option of trading the guard to Minnesota for Kevin Love, Thompson has taken his scoring average improved on his 2013-14 average of 18.4 points and taken it to 21.2 per game, so far this season, while showing improved shooting percentages from both the three and free-throw lines.
The continued improvement of the Warriors' secondary scorer only encourages their fans' title hopes.
The biggest fact of all to point out about the Golden State Warriors this season?
They're produced offensive and defensive brilliance at the same time. The Warriors currently rank 4th in offensive efficiency and first in defensive efficiency, per ESPN.
Translation: The Warriors are great on both sides of the ball and that is evidently one of the more easy-to-digest statistics; 19 games into the season, Golden State ranks first in point differential, scoring 10.9 points more than their opposition on average. That's 2.1 point more than the next best team.
It's a huge gap in statistics and enough reason to crown them the NBA's early title favorites. Watch out for Dub Nation.
Come the end of the season, they just may be basketball royalty.