Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

COUTURE: Warriors in Prime Position for Playoffs

It is no surprise by now that the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors are a force to be reckoned with. They are the favorites — the super-team — and they embody the result of smart drafting and good player development. Any NBA fan will be the first to tell you that the Warriors will win the 2016-17 finals, but I think they also stand a chance to pose the most dominant postseason run in NBA history.

The most successful postseason story belongs to guard Kobe Bryant’s and center Shaquille O’Neal’s 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers, as the purple and gold staged an impressive 15-1 run in the playoffs, losing only to guard Allen Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The current NBA format includes a best-of-seven, first-round playoff series. The format was changed in 2003 from a best-of-five structure, so it is more difficult for teams to recreate the Lakers’ 2001 dominance. However, this has not proven a problem for the Warriors, as they managed to sweep the Portland Trailblazers in a commanding fashion.

Aside from having a starting lineup of four top-20 players in the NBA, including two of the top three, what makes Golden State such a formidable opponent is the accrual of talent in a league where top talent is often divided among teams. In other words, superstars joining forces will manage to beat teams with one superstar — go figure.

But the issue extends further than that. Usually teams can be divided into two categories: a superstar leading a team with disappointing surrounding talent, or a superstar-less, high chemistry group led by an intelligent head coach. Teams like the Thunder, Clippers and Pacers fall into the former category, while teams like the Celtics, Hawks and Jazz fall into the latter.

Typically, this is not a major concern, and it is often fun to see hero-ball versus team-ball, but the Warriors have created an inevitable matchup issue because they are a superstar-heavy team with tremendous chemistry and leadership.

In the past, we have seen great examples of this combination, particularly the 2010-14 Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs since they drafted forward Tim Duncan in 1997. However, even these dynasties favored one side of the hero-team spectrum. Namely, the Heat erred on the superstar side and the Spurs erred on the team side.

The reason the Warriors have a legitimate chance to surpass Kobe and Shaq’s dominance is that the 2016-17 Warriors are a combination we have never quite seen before. Every ounce of superstar talent on their roster is matched by team chemistry and leadership. This is formidable because the team chemistry and leadership ensures that players will be getting open shots, while the amalgamation of superstar talent ensures that at least one player will be able to carry the workload.

Sure, the Warriors have lost this season. Despite their dominance, they managed to somehow win fewer games than the previous season. However, people tend to forget this is a team hungry for victory. Three of their stars, guards Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and forward Draymond Green, all have rings from the 2014-15 season and are coming off the blown 3-1 lead against the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals last season. Meanwhile, forward Kevin Durant is still looking to avenge his 2012 Finals loss to forward LeBron James to win his first ring.

All this makes for a very dangerous team, one that will stop at nothing to win. In a conference where the top players, including guards Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul, are spread across teams, the isolation of talent makes it difficult to take down an army alone. Even the Spurs, who resemble the next-best combination of superstardom and team chemistry, have only the skills of forward Kawhi Leonard and the brains of Head Coach Gregg Popovich to rely on.

Even the reigning-champion Cavaliers, who miraculously took down the super-team last season, do not stand much of a chance. The Warriors have upgraded their weakest starting position to the best scorer in the league at that position. Moreover, the Cavaliers pose one of the worst defenses for teams remaining in the playoffs, allowing The Pacers to shoot a scorching 39 percent from deep to match 109 points per game, a weakness that could easily be exploited by The Warriors.

More likely than not, the Warriors will lose a couple of games on their championship quest. Recording a 16-0 record against four playoff teams might take some luck, but the fact remains that the Warriors are in a better position than any other team in NBA history. They are currently a quarter of the way there, and if history is any indication, they should not have much trouble the rest of the way.

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