• Tonight on TNT: Warriors vs. Suns (10 ET)
Each week, NBA.com’s writers will weigh in on some of the most important topics around the league.
What surprises you most about the Warriors’ league-best 18-2 record?
Steve Aschburner: Not gonna lie, I thought it was going to take Klay Thompson’s return to slingshot the Warriors up the Western Conference standings. That seemed like a reasonable ambition, staying somewhere in the top 4-7 spots until their long-lost marksman – and to a much lesser extent, young James Wiseman – returned to action. But with Golden State’s defense clamping down at peak Finals-era level (thanks, Draymond Green) and Steph Curry extending his prime beyond most non-LeBron NBA precedents, the Warriors haven’t just bided their time. And to me, the most impressive part thus far has been blending the urgency to win with veterans while still developing and spotting in younger players. That more often results in mediocrity than top-of-the-standings excellence.
Mark Medina: A needed caveat. Despite missing the NBA playoffs for two consecutive seasons, the Warriors entered the season feeling optimistic about their future because they have a healthy and effective Stephen Curry and Draymond Green as well as a good mix of veterans (Andre Iguodala, Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney) and young players (Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kaminga, Moses Moody). And oh yeah, the Warriors are also expecting a four-time All-Star (Klay Thompson) and an intriguing second-year center (James Wiseman) to return at some point, too.
But I wondered if the Warriors experienced any pleasant surprises during their best start since they set the NBA record for most regular-season wins (2015-16) and won their first of three NBA titles in the past decade (2014-15). So, I asked Warriors coach Steve Kerr that very question before Sunday’s win over the Clippers.
“I think the rebounding has been the biggest surprise,” Kerr said. “We have never been a great rebounding team, at least since I’ve been here. I didn’t foresee it. We added some vets, and some really smart players. But we’ve been near the top of the league in rebounding percentage since opening night. So that’s really been a nice addition to what we’ve already done.”
The Warriors enter Tuesday’s game against Phoenix ranked fifth out of 30 NBA teams in total rebounds per game (47.1), a stark improvement when they finished 22nd last season (43.0), 24th in 2019-20 (42.8), 11th in 2018-19 (46.2) and 17th in 2017-18 (43.5). The Warriors have not rebounded so well since they finished seventh in total rebounding in 2016-17 (44.4), fourth in 2015-16 (46.2) and sixth in 2014-15 (44.7).
Shaun Powell: This is going to sound weird, but the biggest surprise is … Steph Curry? You probably thought a two-time Kia NBA MVP hit his ceiling in those two epic seasons, one in which he was unanimous MVP. But Steph is suddenly a better version of Steph. Who knew he had another gear at age 32? He’s a better shooter and, more important, a better defender. There are other slight surprises, such as Andrew Wiggins’ consistency and of course Jordan Poole … but Steph, man.
John Schuhmann: That they’ve been so dominant at the rim. The Warriors have outscored their opponents by 12.9 points per game in the restricted area, which is almost triple the differential of any other team (Washington is next at +4.4 per game). On offense, they leverage Stephen Curry’s shooting to get layups and dunks, either for Curry when he drives against pressure or for his teammates when their defenders are forced react to Curry’s movement. Their 70.7% shooting in the restricted area would be the best mark in 26 years of shot-location data. And defensively, they’ve been the best in the league in preventing shots at the rim, with only 22% of opponent shots having come in the restricted area (the league average is 29% and that number has been just 20% with Draymond Green on the floor). The Warriors ranked fourth in restricted area differential last season (+3.5 – the Pelicans were first at +8.5), but they’re on another level this year.
Michael C. Wright: The obvious answer is the fact Golden State ran up this record without Klay Thompson. But did anybody expect Draymond Green to return to this level of play? Green and Stephen Curry are a nightmare to defend because of their strong on-court chemistry. But we’re starting to see that type of cohesiveness coagulate all over the floor for Golden State with players such as Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Otto Porter Jr. among others, and that’s probably what’s the most surprising about this run. But then again, is it really surprising? Golden State handled last year’s injury-riddled campaign the best way it could in giving so many young players extended minutes, and we’re starting to see the Warriors reap the benefits of that. It sounds like the same song on repeat, but the truth is Golden State isn’t yet as good as it’s going to be. Thompson seems to be tracking toward a return soon, and James Wiseman is also on the way back. A promising sign over the weekend emerged in the team’s decision to assign both Thompson and Wiseman to its G League affiliate as they ramp up the return-to-play process. So, once they’re both back the team will inevitably deal with somewhat of an adjustment period. But once that’s out of the way, look out. These two upcoming games against the Suns should be huge indicators about how good the Warriors really are.
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