The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA with a 19-2 record. They’re currently on a 14-game winning streak after beating the Houston Rockets Wednesday night. They haven’t lost a game in a month.
The Warriors’ ascent has been gradual. They cracked 50 wins last season for the first time in 19 years, and they have made the playoffs the last two seasons. Through a combination of smart drafting, clever trades, and wise spending, the Warriors have built a team that looks ready to compete for a championship.
It’s the most complete roster in the NBA — a smart mix of offensive weapons, defensive stoppers, bench scorers, and role players. Here’s how they built it.
1. Drafting (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green)
The core of the Warriors starts with their back-court of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors made brilliant decision to draft Stephen Curry at No. 7 in the 2009 draft, and it’s paid off. Curry has career averages of 20 points, four rebounds, and six assists per game. With a career 43.7% shooting average from three-point range, he’s on pace to become the greatest shooter in NBA history.
Like the team itself, Klay Thompson has grown incrementally over the last four seasons. Taken with the 11th pick in the 2011 draft, experts felt Thompson could be a good shooter in the NBA, but wasn’t athletic enough, and would struggle creating his own shot and defending. Thompson has since posted three-straight seasons scoring 15 points or more per game (21 ppg this season) while shooting 41.2% from beyond the arc, and often guarding opponents’ best back-court player.
The Warriors have also solidified their depth by drafting forwards Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green in 2012, both of whom are starting this year and having breakout seasons, averaging double-digits in scoring.
2. Trades (David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala)
The Warriors have rounded out their core by making extremely smart trades.
In 2010, still stuck in the lottery, the Warriors agreed to a sign-and-trade with the Knicks for power forward David Lee. Lee was given a six-year, $US80 million deal to go to Golden State, while the Warriors shipped off Anthony Randolph (now playing in Europe), Kelena Azabuike (out of the league), and Ronny Turiaf (now with the Wolves after playing for four teams in the last five years).
Lee has averaged 18.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game the last four seasons with Golden State.
In 2012, the Warriors got their anchor for their currently No.1-ranked defence, Andrew Bogut, by trading with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Warriors sent shooting guard Monta Ellis (now with the Mavericks), Stephen Jackson (out of the league), Ekpe Udoh (now with the Clippers, not playing), and Kwame Brown (out of the league).
In the 2013 offseason, the Warriors got their best perimeter defender by pulling off a sign-and-trade with the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets for Andre Iguodala, who had just had his best season in the NBA with the Nuggets.
The Warriors signed Iguodala to a four-year, $US48-million contract, while sending away Richard Jefferson (now with the Mavs), Andris Biedrins (out of the league), Brandon Rush (back with the Warriors), and several draft picks — the only big cost for Golden State.
3. Signings (Shaun Livingston, Marreese Speights, Leandro Barbosa)
Because of their lack of cap space, the Warriors haven’t been able to make big free agent signings, but they have spent their money wisely. In 2013, they signed back-up big man Marreese Speights, who was a disaster last year, but has been a valuable player off the bench this season.
This past summer, they signed versatile guard Shaun Livingston away from the Nets after he had a great comeback year, and they signed former Sixth Man of the Year Leandro Barbosa to solidify their back-court off the bench.
Lastly, in May 2014, they hired Steve Kerr to replace head coach Mark Jackson, who had gotten under management’s skin. Kerr has received abundant praise, and after Wednesday’s victory over the Rockets, became the first head coach in NBA history to win 19 of the first 21 games of his coaching career.
It’s taken several years for the Warriors, but it’s finally coming together, and they look unstoppable.
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