The Golden State Warriors are once again the NBA’s best team.
While they won’t top last year’s historical 73-9 record, they still own the best record in the league at 47-9, and amazingly, their point differential is even higher than last season.
Once again, the rest of the NBA is staring up at the Warriors, trying to figure out how best to compete with them.
Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick noted this on Bill Simmons’ podcast on Tuesday, saying that the Warriors have essentially become the NBA’s measuring stick.
“Maybe it was like this in the NBA when Jordan was playing, but I just feel like the last two years, it all comes down to, ‘Can you beat the Warriors?’ Whereas, like, five years ago, you always are gonna have a handful of teams, five or six teams, that have a legit chance. But it wasn’t that one team, where like, everything Cleveland is doing is ‘Can we beat the Warriors?’ The whole conversation about [the Clippers], no matter what we do in the regular season, no matter if we get to the conference finals or not, it’s can we beat the Warriors.”
It’s not the first time this idea has been suggested. Last season, en route to winning 73 games (though they ultimately fell short in the NBA Finals), ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested that the Warriors are having a psychological effect on the league, intimidating opposition with their dominance. ESPN’s Zach Lowe said some teams were willingly slowing down rebuilding projects to “wait out” the Warriors.
“Bottom line: Kevin Durant is now on the Golden State Warriors.
“That is a league and maybe history-changing consequence, the cap spike allowing a 73-win team with three All-Stars to add an MVP. After the wrecking ball hit the Oklahoma City Thunder, perhaps no one else was more affected than James and the Cavs.”
“Now, though, the smoke has cleared. James is stone-cold sober about how challenging his mission is for this season. The Warriors (41-7) are awesome. Their firepower is incredible. They have only gotten stronger as the season has gone on.”
This idea that the Warriors cast a shadow over the league seems especially pertinent leading up to the NBA trade deadline. Top teams are scrambling to add pieces, forfeiting valuable first-round picks to add role players that might help them match up with the Warriors.
The Houston Rockets traded a first-round pick for Lou Williams to add some scoring punch and relieve James Harden. Why? Perhaps they can try to outscore the Warriors in a series.
The Clippers are among the teams targeting help at small forward, reportedly considering trading a first-round pick for Suns wing P.J. Tucker. Why? Despite a core that’s nearly on-par with the Warriors, they’re still one piece away from truly being able to handle them. Tucker could help plug that hole.
The Warriors’ dominance even hangs over the East. The Cavs traded for Kyle Korver midseason, adding another perimeter weapon to their already extensive arsenal. Why? They may need more to hang with an improved Warriors team.
Teams like the Raptors, Wizards, and Celtics have made or are weighing making moves to try to challenge the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the buck seems to stop there. Even if they could give the Cavs a run for their money, nobody seems to believe these teams can truly stack up to the Warriors.
Anything can happen in the postseason, as the Warriors and Cavs both showed last year. But in the meantime, even though the Warriors are not the reigning champions, they remain the NBA’s measuring stick. Any playoff-bound team only really matters if they can stack up to Golden State.
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