Golden State Gift Guide

Good afternoon! I hope that everyone is having a happy Serial Season 2 Release Day! It’s taken all of my willpower to keep from listening, but with the long hours of holiday driving right around the corner it is important to remember what the true purpose of Serial is – to keep loved ones sane after driving back from their umpteenth Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus party.

Speaking of the Holidays, there are few presents I want under my tree more than watching an undefeated Warriors team put their streak on the line against the Cavs in Cleveland on Christmas day. Golden State, as you may have heard, is 23-0 as of this writing. This run is already the single greatest in the history of America’s big four professional sports, and is almost unfathomable for a team that is coming off a championship run.

The stats for this current Warriors streak speak for itself. Golden State is scoring a league high 115.8 points per game, with a point differential of +14.6. That’s a jaw dropping 3.4 points higher than the second place San Antonio Spurs. They also lead the league in three point percentage and assists per game. Their Net Rating of 16.3 is the highest I’ve ever seen. Which is all to say that there has never been a team quite like this year’s Warriors. To watch them play during this current streak is like watching a big cat play with its prey.

It seems like anytime a team is able to keep the game close going into the fourth quarter Golden State is able to unleash their version of the Kracken –  a small ball lineup that features Draymond Green at center, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes at forward, and the Splash Brothers.  This lineup has the best +/- in the league, and is currently shooting an otherworldly 63.6% from the field and (I had to double check this) 62.5% from three. The NBA has never seen a lineup as unguardable as this.

Then there’s the question of Stephen Curry, and what do we make of this season that he is having. When you watch a lot of basketball it’s easy to become jaded by everyday greatness. LeBron James has been the best basketball player on Earth for around a decade, and somehow his current stat line of 26/7/7 seems almost pedestrian, because we’ve seen him dominate for such a long time. It’s human nature to take things for granted. That’s why I feel like it’s important to keep reminding people that what Steph is doing this season deserves to be treated like the marvel it is.

Curry is averaging 32 points per game this year with a shooting line of 53/46/90. His current PER of 34.7 is on pace to demolish Michael Jordan’s current record of 27.91. His .700 True Shooting percentage is so far ahead of historical records it almost makes the stat seem obsolete. That’s what Steph is doing right now, he’s making the entire league look like a flip phone and he’s the iPhone 7. He’s having the kind of season that destroys comparison. Michael Jordan in his prime could never fathom shooting the way Curry does, or playing as efficiently. He wouldn’t know how even if he wanted to try. This may be my favorite thing about the current Curry era. It feels like the death nail in the “next Jordan” quest. When you talk to kids who love basketball, they no longer want to be like Mike, they want to dribble and shoot like Curry.

There are other teams around the league that are trying to emulate what the Warriors are currently doing, but you cannot emulate a style that relies on the skills of a Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. I find it really interesting that the Spurs, a team whose space and pace style of the last few years was a huge inspiration for the current Warriors juggernaut, have zigged where everyone seems to be zagging. San Antonio is currently leading the league in points against (88.7) as well as three point percentage allowed (.309).  They are averaging the fourth lowest possessions per game at 95.7, which is a far cry from the past couple of years. Coach Pop knows that you can’t beat the Warriors at their own game, and is quietly forming an immovable object to counter Golden State’s unstoppable force. I’m already salivating for a potential Western Conference Finals between these two teams.

Ankle sprains to both Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson will pose the biggest challenge to the Warriors streak for a league record 33 straight wins. Barnes is expected to miss the next couple of games, and Klay will be a gametime decision when Golden State goes into Boston on Friday to play an increasingly frisky Celtics squad. If the Warriors can get out of Boston with a win they their schedule sets up almost perfectly for a Christmas showdown with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in what will be one of the most hyped Christmas games in years.

Even if the Warriors streak ends on Friday in Boston, it does not lessen what is happening this year in the Bay Area. I don’t think there has ever been a team that has played the game so close to perfection when it comes to sheer aesthetic beauty and cold blooded efficiency. There is no statistic that can capture the excitement of Stephen Curry going NBA Jam for a quarter, or watching Draymond Green lead a fast break flanked by four deadly three point shooters. This is basketball of the highest order. Every game this team plays feels like a gift from the basketball Gods.

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