NBA Handicapping: Are the Golden State Warriors a Real Contender?
by George Monroy - 12/17/2014
Golden State Warriors rookie head coach Steve Kerr recently had to quiet the media talk about his team possibly reaching the Chicago Bulls' hallowed 72-10 record set my Michael Jordan and company during the mid 1990s by stating that matching the mark might be impossible because there were 10 games where "Michael decided we weren't going to lose". Kerr did state, however, that the media should come back and talk to him if Golden State could start the year with a 43-3 record like those Bulls did back in 1996.
Winning 72 games is an unrealistic and unfair burden to place on this streaking Warriors team, but what is impressive enough is that the media is even talking about it in the first place. When Kerr took over an already 50-win group during the offseason, most expected the coaching change to have little impact. Golden State would still be a 50-something win, five- or six-seed, team in a tough Western Conference with or without the newly-minted coach.
Few experts, if any, expected Golden State to be this good this fast-and most of that praise should fall to a coach that handled a delicate and controversial situation with leadership and authority. The question on every bettors mind, however, is whether or not Golden State is a legitimate contender. Let's take a closer look.
Improvement on offense
Golden State has improved in nearly every area of the court, and the simple analysis on its drastic improvement would start on the defensive end. And while the team has certainly improved in that area--it's currently ranked seventh in opponents points allowed, when it was ranked 10th last year--a more in-depth look at the Warriors would show that Kerr has the squad playing a better brand of offense on the court.
Golden State is currently ranked second in points scored per game at 107.6 and second in points per 100 possessions, which is a drastic improvement compared to 2013 where the team was ranked 10th in points per game. The Warriors built a reputation for being an offensive power, when in reality former coach Mark Jackson had the team focusing on defense. The new-look Warriors have been a juggernaut during the first part of the year because of their improved play on the offensive end.
Golden State futures odds
Title Odds : +500 (Third)
Conference Odds : +300 (second)
Stephen Curry MVP Odds : +250 (tied for second)
The Warriors, who are currently sitting on a 21-3 record, are near the top of every futures odds category, receiving the second and third best Western Conference and NBA title odds, while Curry is on the short list of MVP favorites. The question on every bettor's mind is whether the team can keep up their hot start or was this recent streak simply the case of a good team playing above its potential?
One huge factor in Golden State's sudden ascent to the top of the Western Conference has been the growth of franchise superstar, Curry. The NBA is a player's league, and the teams with the elite players usually sit at the top of the standings and compete for titles. Until this season, Curry had been an excellent player with loads of potential, but he was not game changing in the way LeBron James or Kevin Durant were considered to be.
At the moment Curry is a legitimate MVP candidate who is averaging 23.5 points, 7.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game with a player efficiency rating of 26.52. Klay Thompson, the team's second superstar, has also improved his game and played far more consistent than is years past where could not muster up his A-grade performance on a nightly basis.
Can Golden State keep this up?
Golden State is a team that is built for the regular season with a high-energy offense and a core of young players ready to compete every night. There is no reason to suspect that the team won't continue to win and end the year with 60-something wins. The Warriors could also end up the best ATS team in the league, and are currently covering games at a 66 percent rate through the first fourth of the season.
Succeeding in the playoffs might be a different matter. The team does play quality defense, yet it remains to be seen how they will fare during those low-scoring, grind-out affairs that playoff basketball games can become. There are still a set of teams that play a grinding style that could give the Warriors trouble. Expect coach Kerr to keep his team motivated and to become a legitimate title contender, but also keep an eye on Golden State becoming a bit overrated and being favored in spots were it should probably be an underdog.
Read more articles by George Monroy
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