The last time the Golden State Warriors won an NBA championship, the year was 1975. The great Rick Barry led his underdog Warriors to a four-game sweep over the Washington Bullets in what is still considered one of the biggest upsets in the amazing game's playoff history.
Golden State Warriors have had good teams since, but none were able to break the nearly four-decade-long drought.
Forget another ring. The NBA's perennial strugglers haven't even topped its own division since 1976. Despite their long history of mediocrity, several writers – and a lot of hipsters – have them as their pick to win it all in the 2014-15 NBA season.
The Warriors' hot start to the new campaign (8-2) is the basis of this argument, and the emergence of Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut as dependable scoring and defensive options respectively only add weight to the point. Thompson in particular has been the shining star and will become an All-Star this season if he keeps up his level of play.
Bogut, meanwhile, has shown clear signs that his injury troubles are behind him. Unlike Thompson, the only thing the Aussie had to prove was his fitness, not his talent. He is so far, so good on that front.
Add Stephen Curry and the supporting cast to the mix, and the Warriors become a highly exciting bunch capable of beating any team – or most teams. They've given enough demo of their promise in the first 10 games too. But we're still just 10 games into the new season. The question is, can the Golden State be just as good as they are now in April 2015?
Let the operation begin:
The Splash Brothers
How can a Golden State Warriors piece begin without the Splash Brothers? There hasn't been a sharp shooting duo this accurate from range since...well, since when? The Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis duo in their Seattle Supersonic days was pretty deadly, but the latter wasn't a guard and the featured on an otherwise average roster. Either way, Thompson and Curry's combined FG and 3PT averages are higher than the Seattle duo's. To have the best backcourt in the game and not be relevant come playoffs time is an anomaly. Championships are hard to win on three-point shooting alone, but GSW's duo is so accurate, this long held belief might change next year.
Curry used to be defensive liability but that has changed this season. The 6'3 guard has become increasingly focused in defense, and his much improved game was on show a few weeks ago when he restricted Portland Trail Blazers' rising star Damian Lillard to just 11 months. Even if he is having an off night or matched with a tricky opponent, the Warriors' perimeter defense of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Thompson are more than capable of covering for him.
While much is being talked about Thompson's rise to stardom, what about Bogut? The Australian center has looked healthier and is being regarded as one of the better defensive big men in the league. Even if he has to sit out a few games – which he will at some point – coach Steve Kerr has a decent backup option in Festus Ezeli.
People forget that the Golden State Warriors have looked this good despite getting a total of 6.8 minutes from the injured David Lee. Once the two-time All-Star's troubling hamstring heals, he would be back in rotation – unless Kerr and company trade him to lower the wage bill. When fit, Lee is a double-double machine and just the kind of low-post scoring presence the Warriors could use to add a bit more variety to their offense.
The Warriors' decision to replace Mark Jackson with Steve Kerr wasn't a popular one, especially considering the marked improvement during Jackson's three years. But it was a change that seemed logical and is already paying off. The Warriors are chasing a ring and Kerr has five. Jackson, despite being a superior player, didn't win anything in his career. Moreover, Kerr's 45 percent career average from downtown means he might have a few more pointers to give to the Splash Brothers.
The bottom-line is that the Warriors are one of those rare teams whose coach and players are on the same page.
So, Are the Warriors Championship Material?
They have all the ingredients, and they have shown that their talent does translate well on the court. Still, the Warriors need to take measures to improve their chances even more. Turnovers are a problem that needs to be solved. With 19.7 turnovers per game, they are topping a bad statistical category along with all the good ones. Sure, their style of play and personnel means they will always rank high in this category but compensate for it by outscoring their opponents. But, sometimes – as they found out against the San Antonio Spurs last week – this strategy backfires.
So while they're good, they're not perfect yet. Also, the Warriors front office needs to move players to get Bogut some more help – if possible – and alleviate some pressure off the salary cap. Their roster is deep and talented, but they can't afford to keep all their cogs and continue to stay out of the luxury tax territory.
The Warriors do have a championship window, but it's a very small one. Thompson's mega $69 million deal means that Green is all but confirmed to sign for another team next year. The Oklahoma City Thunder were in a similar position in James Harden's final year. They couldn't beat LeBron James' Miami Heat in the finals, and next year, their advantage of having three superstars plus a decent supporting cast was gone when the Beard was traded.
To avoid a similar fate, the Warriors need to act now, and give themselves the best shot to win a championship THIS SEASON – because the window of opportunity for small market clubs is very short in the NBA.