Although most people roll their eyes at this question, as the season wears on, it becomes more legitimate. Currently, the Warriors are 48-8, and on pace for 74 wins, which would defeat the 95-96 Chicago Bulls who went 72-10.
I suppose this leaves us with two questions:
- Will the Warriors win at least 72 games?
- And if they do, are they the greatest team ever?
In terms of winning 72 games, there is one huge factor which will affect the Warriors as the season winds down: getting ready for the playoffs. There is no point in trying to break the record if they flame out in the playoffs. And if this means resting key players down the stretch in order to preserve freshness and avoid injury, then that might cost them a few regular season wins.
Before I paint a potential scenario for the Warriors, we need to take a strong look at their injury history. This season, we’ve already seen a number of troubling injuries happen.
Klay Thompson, perhaps the 2nd best shooter in the league (behind Steph Curry of course), started off the season with a sore back, and then later actually sprained his ankle on December 11. We already have evidence this season that he is susceptible to injury. At 21.3 points per game, Klay is a huge part of the Warriors offensive machine and cannot afford to miss any games.
Harrison Barnes, although not on the same offensive level as Thompson, also sprained his ankle this past year, on November 27. He has returned to mostly full health, but as a starter on the team, he cannot afford to miss much time. And then, of course, we have Steph Curry, who earlier in his career battled serious ankle injuries. And although he has been relatively injury-free these past two years, it is certainly easy to imagine him getting hurt. He has a frail figure, and we all saw that nasty fall he took in last year’s Finals.
Imagine if the Warriors are at 69 wins with a week to go, but Steph Curry tweaks his ankle in the final week. Head coach Steve Kerr will certainly play it safe and rest Curry, which will likely result in the Warriors finishing below 72 games.
The next question is this: if the Warriors keep up their amazing pace, are they considered the best team ever?
The question obviously continues on well past the regular season. The Warriors have to win the championship. And before we start asking if they can win the NBA Finals, we need to ask if they can actually make it to the Finals. This is because there is another all time great team standing in their way: The San Antonio Spurs.
At 46-9, the Spurs could very well notch 70 wins of their own. Last year, the Warriors successfully avoid the Spurs, thanks to the Clippers knocking off San Antonio in a shocking game 7 upset. This year, however, that is not expected to happen, and the Warriors are a virtual lock to face the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. In order for this question of being the greatest team of all time to be a serious question, the Warriors have to not only beat the Spurs, but do so in 6 games. That is because the Bulls didn’t go to any game 7’s in their championship run of 1995-1996.
Let’s assume that they beat the Spurs in 6 games. Welcome now to the NBA Finals. The Warriors will likely face the Cleveland Cavaliers, who boast 2 very good players who were not present for last year’s battle.
With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving ostensibly healthy and ready, one has to wonder how much better the Cavs will be against the Warriors when they face off for the championship.
Sure, one can point to the 1 regular season game they had, in which the Warriors destroyed the Cavs. However, everyone knows that the regular season is much different than playoff basketball, and that the pace slows down and defenses grind everything to a halt. The Cavs are much more adept at that, as proven by LeBron leading the Cavs to 2 Finals victories despite missing Love and Irving. One can only speculate how much better they will be in this year’s Finals with them suited up.
Let’s say the Warriors defeat the Cavs this summer. Are they then considered the greatest ever? Possibly – it depends on their playoff run, and if games are nail-biters and whether the Warriors win in convincing fashion. This is simply because it’s not enough to win, but one has to win big.
One thing is for sure – the Warriors have to at least win 72 games and a championship in order for the title of best team ever to be a fair question.
Comment on this post with facebook!