Six road wins in a row, nine total - the Warriors are on a tear. Hearken back to the first few games of the season, when we first saw this edition of Golden State ripping every team they faced to shreds. Remember that? It turns out that it wasn't a mirage - this starting lineup really is that good. Back then, Andre Iguodala cautioned that it would take a few months for the team to gel, and suggested that they should be clicking by the end of December. So, what does a team that's come together do?
They perform as the best starting unit in basketball, based on cumulative +/- over the last 10 games. But really, that doesn't do justice to the way they've played. How 'bout we look at individuals? Oops, no change. Over the last 10 games, the top 5 Association players for cumulative +/- are..... the Dubs starters.
This isn''t a surprise for the league - teams are bringing their best game against the Dubs, but lately that hasn't been doing them much good. The Wizards are not a terrible team - they got some real players, and slightly above-average starters. Barring any more injuries, they should make the playoffs. They're good enough to play with the Warriors for 24 minutes, and they did.
But that's it. After halftime, Washington could not sustain it's game, and Golden State ran away. The Warriors have adapted to life as a heavyweight - absorb the foe's best shots early, and then out-punch them to close it out. Sure, there were pretty plays (an assist off the backboard dunk), but that's the simple story line right now - Golden State effectively outworks decent teams down the stretch.
How much does team synergy and "chemistry" matter?
Ask Western Conference player of the week David Lee, and he'll tell you it matters a lot. Via ws/48, DLee is having his second-best year ever. Better than last year, better than his all-star year in New York. While his raw numbers are down, he's still managing to pull down 9.8 boards a game, and his per-36 scoring is up. He's 10th in win shares overall, and 13th in ws/48. (In passing, let's note that "rebound thief" Lee doesn't seem to effect Bogut's numbers badly, and that playing next to Bogut David is getting very close to a 20/10 average again for the season.) In the last week, David averaged 24.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, and 3.5 apg, And a 19.3 average +/-.
Just plain old "lets trade him for a bag of chips" DLee. The guy with the best net rating among starting forwards last week, eighth best overall.
While David was first among forwards, Andrew Bogut was first among starting centers - indeed, among all starters. Bogut is having a career year, measured by ws/48. He's pulling down a ridiculous 29% of defensive rebounds. He's 4th in rebound%, 2nd in FG%, 4th in DRtg, and eighth in defensive winshares. He's doing that In 25 minutes per game. To this point in the season, Bob Myers' big gamble has paid off - playing at this rate, Andrew would meet his bonus criteria for the next few years pretty easily.
That Klay Thompson is having a career year is no surprise - preseason, he was projected to become one of the top shooting guards in the league this year. He's doing it on both ends of the court. Though he's the lowest-ranked of the Warriors starters at .130 ws/48, that puts him at 21st for all guards playing more than 800 minutes. In that group, he's 13th in TS%, 2nd in BLK%, and top-20 in both ORtg and Drtg. Over the last week, Klay has the 12th-best net rating among starters.
Andre Iguodala is on pace for his second-best ws/48 year ever. (best year, second best year - is this getting redundent?) Over the last week he was 4th in netrtg among all starters. This is a key point - it's not only that @andre makes the players around him better - the players around him are making him better, too. The drop in usage (and in some cases raw numbers) is good for him, and he's got a great defensive center behind him. And then there's the biggest factor of all - playing next to Steph.
With Chris Paul out for a month or more, Stephen Curry is clearly the best guard playing in the league right now. Over the last 10 games, he's averaged a double-double - the same assists per game as CP3, and a whole lot more scoring. It's one thing to talk about career years - it's another to talk about the year Steph is having, because few players ever approach this level. If we talk per-game Curry's 23/4.7/9.6/2.0 rate has only been exceeded once. Not surprisingly, that was by CP3 in '08-09.
That's what chemistry can mean - an entire lineup consistently playing at near-or-above career levels, while playing the most road games. It means having 5 top-75 players. It means holding home court for the playoffs is now the goal, instead of fighting to get it.
DId you know all that? Were you aware that DLee and Bogut together are consistently better than either of them have been alongside anyone else? None of these players are plug-and-play modules. They're individuals with ego and talent, and they play for each other.
The Association has recognized that David Lee is one of the top players in the league. He's integral to the success of this team, and to the chemistry. Isn't it time that Warriors fans recognize it as well?