It wasn’t the start to the season that many hoped for with the Golden State Warriors.
Actually, if you set a nice arbitrary cutoff, it was. The Dubs started the season 6-2, with wins in five of their six road games. The second act was where the struggles began, as Golden State has gone just 2-7 since, which featured a six-game losing streak in which five of the games were at Chase Center.
As such, they’ve tumbled down the Western Conference standings after initially looking like they might build a home at the top. The bad news is that Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins are struggling, Draymond Green is having a hard time staying on the court, and the team has work to be done. The good news is that they’ve already flashed the potential, and we’re only 17 games into a very long season.
Every few weeks, I’ll try and check in on the standings in the Western Conference, so we can see where the Dubs sit. It will offer a little bit of an opportunity to talk about each team that Golden State is up against.
Here’s where things sit, entering Monday’s games. Net ratings are garbage-time adjusted, per Cleaning The Glass.
The playoff teams
1. Minnesota Timberwolves — 12-4 record, +7.9 net rating (3rd in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Wolves: 0-2
The Wolves are a very surprising team at the top of the West. A year after struggling to make their twin-center lineup of Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns work, Minny has seemingly figured things out, boasting an above-average offense and a top-three defense. Things are also personal between the Wolves and Warriors now, after the last meeting between the teams resulted in three ejections before the first point ... and Green landing a five-game suspension for choking Gobert.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder — 11-5 record, +8.4 net rating (2nd in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Thunder: 1-2
The Thunder being an up-and-coming team isn’t surprising. The Thunder being this good of an up-and-coming team is. There’s been growth and maturation across the board, and rookie Chet Holmgren is playing more like the second-year player that he was supposed to be this year before suffering an injury shortly after the 2022 draft. The Thunder also dealt the Warriors their most devastating loss of the year, when Holmgren made a turnaround, fadeaway, buzzer-beating three-pointer to tie the game after Wiggins hit a go-ahead three with less than two seconds remaining, then won in overtime. They’re a problem, but the Warriors don’t face them again this season.
3. Phoenix Suns — 11-6 record, +4.6 net rating (7th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Suns: 0-2
You can’t read much into Golden State losing a pair of games to Phoenix, since Green was out for both games ... as was Bradley Beal. The Suns got off to a slow start, but have started to really figure things out, despite Beal having already missed 14 games, Devin Booker having missed eight, and Kevin Durant having missed two.
4. Denver Nuggets — 11-6 record, +2.4 net rating (11th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Nuggets: 0-1
The defending champions are just kind of plodding along. They clearly have another gear they haven’t tried to activate yet, and are operating like a veteran team that now knows how to pace itself for another title run.
5. Dallas Mavericks — 10-6 record, +1.3 net rating (14th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Mavs: N/A
Count me among those who are surprised that Dallas is off to such a good start, and highly skeptical that it will continue. The Mavs have done a good job taking advantage of their schedule, but most of their wins are against bad or mediocre teams.
6. Sacramento Kings — 9-6 record, 0.0 net rating (19th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Kings: 2-0
Like the Warriors, the Kings have not had the season they were anticipating, after a breakout campaign last year. They’ve been a lot better lately though, and De’Aaron Fox has already missed five games.
The play-in teams
7. Los Angeles Lakers — 10-7 record, +0.6 net rating (16th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Lakers: N/A
The Dubs ended last season playing the Lakers in the playoffs, and they started this year playing them a bunch of times in the preseason. As a result, I forgot that they haven’t actually played each other this regular season ... and don’t for another two months! The Lakers got off to a slow start, but are finding their groove: they’ve won seven of their last nine games.
8. Houston Rockets — 8-6 record, +7.8 net rating (4th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Rockets: 2-0
Houston has been a very surprising team this year, after winning just 22 games last year. I certainly didn’t peg them for a winning record at this point in the season ... especially one that should be much better, according to their net rating. The oft-joked about offseason contract to Dillon Brooks seems to be paying off, as the Rockets surprisingly have the best defensive rating in the NBA, by a sizable margin.
9. New Orleans Pelicans — 9-8 record, -1.1 net rating (21st in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Pelicans: 1-0
NOLA continues to be a team that can be great or awful, and their inconsistency is largely a result of their injuries, as it has been for some time now. Brandon Ingram has missed three games, Zion Williamson four, and CJ McCollum 11. Things just aren’t quite clicking.
10. Golden State Warriors — 8-9 record, +0.4 net rating (18th in the NBA)
I remain far less worried about the Dubs than most people, but it’s safe to say that anything remotely close to this record, net rating, or playoff standing at the end of the year will be a massive failure.
The lottery teams
11. LA Clippers — 7-8 record, +4.6 net rating (8th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Clippers: N/A
The Dubs and Clippers haven’t played yet, but that’s about to change. Golden State plays Sacramento on Tuesday, and then three of their next four games are against the “other” Los Angeles team. LA has been confusing this year, sporting the fifth-best net rating in the West, but a losing record. They lost their first five games after trading for James Harden, but have won four of five since.
12. Utah Jazz — 5-11 record, -6.6 net rating (24th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Jazz: N/A
There’s plenty of time for things to change, but right now it sure looks like it’s 11 teams fighting for 10 spots. There’s a clear drop off from the Clippers to the last four teams, which includes a Utah team that hasn’t been able to replicate last year’s surprise season.
13. Portland Trail Blazers — 4-12 record, -9.1 net rating (28th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Blazers: N/A
The Blazers struggled to win games when they had Damian Lillard. It’s not surprising that they’re struggling to win without him. Scoot Henderson has shown flashes, and Deandre Ayton looks happy to be away from the desert, but it’s pretty clear that Portland is a long ways off.
14. Memphis Grizzlies — 3-13 record, -8.2 net rating (26th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Grizz: N/A
Memphis’ goal entering the season was to tread enough water to still be in it when Ja Morant returns from his suspension. So far they’ve failed at that goal, with the season-ending injury to Steven Adams certainly not helping matters. Last year’s No. 2 seed might already be cooked.
15. San Antonio Spurs — 3-14 record, -12.2 net rating (30th in the NBA)
Warriors record vs. Spurs: 1-0
2023-24 was never about winning games for the Spurs. It was about seeing if they did, indeed, have a generational talent in Victor Wembanyama. It sure as hell looks like they do, as the 19-year old is averaging 19.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.6 blocks per game. They’ll be a force to be reckoned with at some point, just probably not this year. And if you need reason for optimism that the Dubs can stack up some wins, just look at these four bad teams in the West: Golden State has played just one game against these four, with 13 contests against them remaining.