Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry noted after last night's win against the Denver Nuggets that they didn't make a big deal out of their 15-0 start after the game because it was just the regular season, they weren't even halfway through it, and they hadn't really won anything yet.
Curry's post-game comments struck me primarily because, whether he knew that off the top of his head or not, the fastest starters in NBA history not only struggled to keep up that pace — as we might expect — but also struggled to even reach the 73% winning percentage (60 wins) mark.
Interesting note re: '48-49 Wash. Capitals team that has NBA best start of 15-0 (w/ 93-94 Rockets): they went 23-22 the rest of the season.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) November 23, 2015
- Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group looked back at the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and noted that they only finished 38-22 after the hot start. (It's also worth taking a look at Rich Kraetsch's piece about the Capitols at Hardwood Paroxysm).
- Steward also noted that the 1993-94 Houston Rockets "only wound up winning 58 games" after starting their season 22-1 — a 36-23 record after their hot start that is strikingly similar to the final record of the Capitols.
- Danny Webster of SB Nation's MavsMoneyball did a great job looking at what became of the 14-0 Dallas Mavericks in the 2002-03 season, noting that they went 25-5 before finishing the season with just 60 wins — they clearly finished their (regular) season better than some of these other fast starters, but 35-17 is still quite a drop off from that hot start.
Of course, that Rockets team would go on to win two titles after their hot start, but these past examples are sort of sobering reminders of the truth in Curry's subdued post game statements, of just how rare it is to start a season so fast and how difficult it is to maintain any sort of momentum over the course of a season.
So what indications might there be that the 2015-16 Warriors can avoid a similar (regular season) fate and capture the top over all seed in the Western Conference?
I thought Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post did a pretty good job of highlighting what might insulate the Warriors from running out of gas over the long-term: an unquantifiable soft side of sports that far too many people dismiss far too quickly in the age of analytics, from the perspective of a writer outside of this market by looking back to what happened to a seemingly-contending Nuggets team with a MVP candidate that failed to meet expectations back in 2010.
In 2010, the Nuggets had an opportunity. One season removed from being eliminated in the Western Conference finals, the Nuggets were back, and back in a way that appeared taking the next step to the NBA Finals wasn't just a possibility, but a probability...That Denver team lost its way. It didn't respect interim coach Adrian Dantley, and, instead of doubling down the established good habits, those Nuggets slowly checked out. They got sloppy, got rough around the edges, lost their sharpness. The massive tidal wave of shenanigans even washed over winner and leader Chauncey Billups, who couldn't do anything to stop it.
Yet nothing had to change just because the voice did. The plan was already in place and already well-known by an experienced group of players. All they had to do was run it.
The Warriors do.
Dempsey's description struck me as I was reading recent commentaries on the Warriors' 15-0 start primarily because it's really easy to underestimate the mental strain of winning consistently in a sport where you're playing back-to-backs.
It takes special human beings to make that happen.
This is a defending champ that has not lost a regular season game since April, won 16-straight last season, and will need another 16 wins this postseason to truly defend their title and yet they have managed to complement youthful talent with a humble perspective that oozes from their roster and emanates from their star who keeps them hungry. And as we spend a day or so trying to appreciate just how good this 15-0 Warriors team is, I think it's worth noting that Curry is the embodiment of an attitude that makes this team truly special, no matter how many losses they take this season: their attitude and chemistry that revolves around a superstar might be unique in all of modern sports, an era in which ridiculously lucrative contracts and attention-starved prima donas seem to dominate the headlines.
Their record probably won't define what makes this team special and that's something worth remembering.
More on the Warriors' success
I really enjoyed the way Seth Partnow of Nylon Calculus framed the Warriors' success last week in an article about their historic ball movement, even before they reached the 15-0 milestone, which I'm going to quote at length.
The Golden State Warriors are still being overlooked. Not in the same preseason "they were lucky" chorus which seems to have given the Dubs all the extra motivation they need to blister the NBA thus far. But in terms of their achievement as a basketball collective, the Warriors teamwork has been nothing short of spectacular...Looking at the the accomplishments of certain players is missing the forest for the trees, as in many ways, the collective is the story. Whether by allowing the Warriors to become the best defensive team in the league via positional versatility and the attendant option to switch across multiple defensive assignments on any given possession, or the selflessness that allows Bogut (and Andre Iguodala before him) to come off the bench rather than demand reinsertion to the starting lineup, the ability to marry Curry’s transcendance within a larger cooperative framework is what takes them from "exciting and good" to "historically great."...the choice faced by opposing defenses is both complicated and unsolvable: either get added to Curry’s highlight film, or allow the unselfish execution of the Warriors’ collective talent and structure to pick the defense apart via passing and movement. Thus far, either poison you pick, the end result is the same.
Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle got a great quote from former Warriors assistant and current Nuggets head coach Mike Malone about the Warriors' dominance.
Before Sunday’s Warriors-Nuggets game here at the Pepsi Center, televised on ESPN, Malone said, "Some people are saying, ‘Hey, it’s great you’re on national TV.’ I liken it to the Washington Generals playing the (Harlem) Globetrotters. Nobody’s here to see us."
When the Warriors beat the Clippers in Los Angeles last week, the crowd morphed into a Warriors’ lovefest. Everywhere they go, the Warriors are winning hearts and lungs with their historic run and their style of play.
The big question, of course, is when this Warriors team will actually lose their first game. And I enjoyed this reminder about the lapses that happen in the NBA from Jeffrey Morton of Denver Stiffs, who reminisced on the time a struggling Nuggets team took down the 72-win Chicago Bulls.
Behind 34 points from Mahmoud Abdul Rauf (who's shooting form is eerily similar to that of Steph Curry ... only Mahmoud was smaller and more streaky) the Nuggets accomplished what only 10 teams did the entirety of the 1995-96 season.
The Nuggets won. They rose up, gave their WHOLE effort, and despite playing individuals such as Doug Overton and Don MacLean. They left everything out on the floor and DID NOT fold up when Chicago made their big comeback in the second and third quarter. I was about to turn 18 at the time and listened to Jerry Schemmel call the game on KOA. Fist pumping and screaming the whole way.
As Justin W. of Nylon Calculus similarly summarized, "NBA results are highly variable."
Draymond Green: Warriors co-MVP?
Draymond Green seems to be getting more attention by the week (as NBA writers are getting bored about repeatedly talking about Curry?) and there was a definite theme this week, which was summed up by the headline of SB Nation's Jesus Gomez's entry: "Draymond Green is as important to the Warriors as Stephen Curry".
Jeff Feyerer of Nylon Calculus did a great job quantifying Green's value as a passer and how he complements the talent of Curry.
If you tie all these factors together – Green touching the ball more, Green passing more frequently to Curry, Curry shooting from distance more frequently after a pass from Green and Curry shooting more frequently overall – the increase in assists from Green is easily understood...As Doug Collins once said about Michael Jordan, "give Michael the ball and everyone else get the hell out of the way." Curry is at that level of offensive efficiency and Draymond Green’s assist distribution this season is going a long way toward advancing that objective.
- And here's an interesting tidbit from Nylon Calculus' Positive Residual's article about passing efficiency last week: Draymond Green is the 13th-most efficient passer in the league so far this season. Not among forwards or non-point guards... but 13th in the league overall.
Joshua Jonah Fischman of Vantage Sports also took note of Green's passing ability, but mixed in some data on his defensive improvement.
This season, most of his defensive metrics are even better. Green’s 2.59 Pressures per 100 Chances, .80 Points Against per Shot, 37.34 Overall FG%, 57.87 Contest+ rate, .059 Fouls per Shot defended, and 1.76 Blocks per 100 Chances all present an improvement over his already elite rates from last season. He is still forcing a tremendous amount of turnovers at .037 TO Forced per Chance and keeping opponents out of the paint with a 48.56 Opponent Inside Shot%.
Other odds and ends
- While focusing on how special this Warriors team is and how well they pass, Rusty Simmons of the S.F. Chronicle documented that Malone thinks Curry is "well on his way to earning his second MVP."
- In case you need a reminder of how good Curry was this past week, David Astramskas of BallIsLife did a great job once again of putting together some videos for you after the Warriors' win against the Toronto Raptors last week.
- Patrick Redford of Deadspin reminds us of how amazing Curry's alley-oop against the Bulls was.
- I happen to think that there hasn't been enough said about Harrison Barnes this year. But Darius Soriano of Forum Blue Gold tweeted that the team is rallying behind Barnes to help him get paid. I'd say he's doing a pretty good job of that on his own.
- Last but not least, LOLClippers.
Obviously, there were other links from throughout the past week that might have caught your eye. Feel free to drop them in the comments below, write a FanPost, or create a FanShot to share them with the community.