Each week, NBA.com’s writers will weigh in on some of the most important topics around the league.
One month into the season and the Warriors are sitting atop the Western Conference standings. Will this last?
Steve Aschburner: Absolutely it can last. The Warriors are good now and positioned to get even better, once Klay Thompson returns and their youngest players gain experience on the fly. They rank at or near the top on both sides of the ball, they have Steph Curry playing at an MVP level again, and Thompson will be back both eager and fresh, spared a couple seasons of mileage. And if Golden State’s front office really wants to get creative, it has the assets to package some youth for a clinching piece up front.
Mark Medina: It sure will. The Warriors have the best shooter of all time (Stephen Curry), a top defender (Draymond Green) and a versatile mentor on and off the court (Andre Iguodala). Golden State should also be dubbed “Strength in Numbers 2.0” for having a crop of role players that can collectively represent a sum greater than their individual parts, including a consistent wing (Andrew Wiggins), a young guard (Jordan Poole) and a dependable forward (Kevon Looney). And the Warriors will have soon have Klay Thompson, who is expected to be a dependable shooter even while experiencing hiccups with his rust, timing and defense.
Shaun Powell: Yes it could last, and it probably will, partially because the Warriors will only fortify once Klay Thompson returns, and partially because the other contenders for the top aren’t making the top a priority. For example: The Lakers aren’t aiming for best-record, at least not at the expense of the health of their two stars. The Nuggets are missing a star at the moment and so the math doesn’t add up for Denver. At this point, only the Suns are serious threats for best-record honors.
John Schuhmann: Their performance on Tuesday was certainly an argument for “Yes.” Stephen Curry was electric, but the Warriors were also the team in Brooklyn that was less dependent on the production of their leading scorer. Their defense was fantastic and they expanded the lead when Curry went to the bench with four fouls in the third quarter. This team has a full grasp of its identity and, even as it waits on Klay Thompson, has a lot of guys contributing. The Warriors had played an easy and home-heavy early schedule, but dominant wins over the Bulls and Nets over the last five days (combined score of 70-35 in the third quarter) are a validation of their record. The third-ranked offense is somewhat of a surprise, but it doesn’t feel all that unsustainable, because a big part of their league-best effective field goal percentage is their ability to leverage Curry’s shooting to get layups. Phoenix and Utah remain strong candidates to earn the top seed, but the Warriors should be the favorite at this point.
Michael C. Wright: Tough question, but the answer here is yes. The Warriors entered their showdown Tuesday with Brooklyn sitting at No. 3 in offensive rating and No. 1 in defensive rating. When you’re ranked that high in both categories, that’s usually a recipe for sustained success. Golden State is currently off to its best start since 2018-19, and you can easily see the Warriors took full advantage of their 39-33 campaign from last season, when they were forced to play so many young players heavy minutes due to injuries. We’re looking at a team now that has re-established its identity, yet is still evolving offensively, and it still isn’t all the way back to full strength with Klay Thompson and James Wiseman still out rehabbing injuries. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday that “one of the interesting things about our team is literally every guy on our roster is capable of helping on a given night,” adding that the team is still learning about which combinations to deploy in certain situations. So, as good as Golden State has been over the first month of the season, we still haven’t seen the Warriors’ true capabilities. They’ll continue to improve as the season progresses, and once they peak, watch out.