The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors are a better team than the 2015-16 team that won 73 regular season games. Such a bold statement and you may be asking yourself how
Throw the records out the window for a moment. Wins and losses have no measure in this argument. It’s the players and style of play that makes the case. When Kevin Durant signed this offseason many knew the Warriors would be good, maybe 74 win good. But, they don’t have to beat their NBA record-setting mark to prove a point, all they had to do was show improvements. And that they have done.
Durant is on pace to win his 2nd MVP but his presence is not the sole reason they are better this year. It was the loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals that shaped this team. The Warriors blew a 3-1 series lead, not because the Cavs were better but, because the Warriors forgot to play their style of basketball in the final three games.
Believe what you want, but athletes have some of the biggest egos in the world. You will be a fool to think that Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson didn’t think they had the series wrapped up. How could they not? They won 73 games and have the two best shooters in the NBA and a PF that can get a triple-double in his sleep, and that’s where it all went downhill for the team.
They thought too much instead of just playing.
Enter the Kyrie Irving jumper that brought this team back to the basics elements of basketball. Here are a few stats to help prove my case:
Points- 114 (1) Points- 118 (2)
Rebounds- 46 (4) Rebounds- 45(9)
Assists- 29 (1) Assists- 31 (1)
Steals- 8 (9) Steals- 9 (1)
Defense- 104 (19) Defense- 105 (15)
There are improvements there as you can see but the two biggest ones I did not list. Curry and Thompson are shooters and while they are almost automatic from beyond the three-point line they often take too many that are not called for. This season the Warriors are ranked 1st in two-point FGs made as opposed to 24th last year. They also rank 17 in FTA up from 23 last year. Those two stats will not get you to an All-Star game but those are the ones that will get you a championship.
Curry will be Curry and the same goes for Thompson, but what Durant has brought to this team is balance. Green has sacrificed much of his game in order to make room for Durant’s scoring outbursts. The Warriors now have three players that average at least 21 points per game. That’s outstanding. But, have you seen the Warriors play lately?
The ball moves, no more of Curry and his 10-second dribbles looking for an opening, now he passes then slashes. The same for Thompson and Durant. They still shoot 3’s at an alarming rate but their offense is not as predictable anymore. It was that Irving shot that changed it all. While many figured it would be LeBron James taking the big one, he passed up and let Irving take the lead. If that was the Warriors, then it would have been Curry as we seen with that ill-advised three with Kevin Love in his face.
Those Warriors are no more and that will be a scary sight come playoff time. All it took was for someone to humble them.