Golden State setting new golden standard for NBA


Illustration by Luke Hampton.

By Alec Rainsford and Mario Santos-Davidson


Heading into the all-star break last weekend, the Golden State Warriors, at 48-4, were off to the best start in NBA history and on pace to beat the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins in a season. Even after winning the title a season ago, the Warriors have improved tremendously.

They are outscoring teams by an average of 12.5 points, up from 10.1 in 2014-15. While their defense has regressed from 1st in the league to 4th, the highest scoring offense from last year is scoring 5.5 more points per game.

Three Warriors were selected to the Western Conference all-star team, where forward Draymond Green joined last year’s all-star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

After winning the MVP award last season, Stephen Curry has improved to yet another level this year, raising his scoring average from 23.8 to 29.8 and on pace to shatter his own record of three-point field goals made in a season (286) by around one hundred.

While Curry’s improvement has been impressive, the meteoric rise of Draymond Green has taken this team to a new level. He finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2014-15, and this season he has dramatically increased his offensive production while remaining an elite defender capable of guarding all five positions on the court.

Not only are the Warriors dominating the league in a manner rarely seen, but this team is also bringing a new style of play into the league. They spread the floor with four or sometimes all five players able to shoot with range, and make plays with their passing ability. Because of this, the Warriors lead the league in assists with 29.2. The difference between the Warriors and the second place Hawks at 25.3 is the same as the difference between the Hawks and the 18th ranked Mavericks at 21.4.

Numbers can show a lot about a team, but actually watching the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors play basketball is truly special. It’s a spectacle and they know it. Whether they’re playing at home or on the road, thousands of fans show up two or three hours before tipoff to watch Stephen Curry’s pregame routine of dazzling dribbling and jaw-dropping long jumpers. During every game, there are moments where you are left wondering if what you are watching is truly happening. In just a few minutes they are capable of turning a double digit deficit into a lead, or a close game into a blowout. The rare nights when they do have a typical 10 or 15 point win without any memorable moments, you are left with a slightly disappointed feeling, as if they let you down by not doing something you will remember for many years to come.

With such impressive numbers and achievements, it’s important to appreciate the front office who built this juggernaut. In 2011, a new ownership group led by Joe Lacob took over the Warriors, determined to reward a loyal fanbase with the winning seasons the team had been lacking. Lacob immediately brought in former Los Angeles Laker great Jerry West, the man who also built the Lakers into a 2000’s powerhouse. The next move he made would turn out to be key, bringing in the current general manager Bob Myers, as an assistant GM.

Myers, who would be named the 2014-15 executive of the year in the NBA, had an excellent draft in his first year at the head of the program. In addition to taking North Carolina star Harrison Barnes in the top ten, Myers picked up big man Festus Ezeli at the end of the first round. In the second and last round of the draft, Myers changed the direction of the franchise with his selection; he chose the often overlooked, gritty power forward from Michigan State, Draymond Green. Green has been doubted his whole career, wasn’t recruited heavily out of high school, and had little to no hype going into the draft, but has found his home in Oakland. This class was added to a roster which had been developing for a couple years already. Stephen Curry was drafted in 2009 and Klay Thompson in 2011. The “Splash Brothers” were given some time to grow together, and now form the most dominant backcourt in the NBA.

The last piece to this championship puzzle was coach Steve Kerr. Kerr was brought in prior to the 2014-15 season and with no prior coaching experience, hiring him was certainly a gamble. Fortunately this gamble paid huge dividends, almost immediately.  Kerr imported a balanced staff: Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams came in with years of experience in the league, while two 30 year olds, Luke Walton and Jarron Collins were added as coaches who could relate with the players. The Warriors built this franchise in a balanced and disciplined way and were rewarded almost immediately with a championship, and now they are enjoying possibly the best season in NBA history. The Warriors have now become the model franchise of the NBA, the summit for which every other team in the league now strives.