By Argyris Argyroudis
One of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season has been the remarkable success of the Golden State Warriors. With a dominating run of 67 wins and 15 losses in the regular season, becoming the 10th team in the NBA to have 67 wins and defeating the Denver Nuggets in their own home stadium (Oracle Arena). However, the Warriors unprecedented run does not end here as highlighted by head coach Steve Kerr. Golden State fans would be ecstatic to see their favourite team win its first NBA trophy after 1975.
Steve Kerr’s experience and wisdom has led the franchise to an unparalleled success so far. He replaced Mark Jackson as the team’s head coach in May 2014, following the elimination of the Warriors in the first round of last season’s playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers. Steve Kerr has the experience needed to lead a team to a playoff success, being one of only 25 players in NBA history to win 5 NBA titles (3 with the Chicago Bulls & 2 with the San Antonio Spurs) and he has played for some of the most successful coaches in NBA history, including Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. Even though this is his first year of coaching, he has already set a record for wins by a first-year head coach. From the beginning of his coaching career on the Warriors bench, Kerr also surrounded himself with talented and experienced staff members like Ron Adams, a defensive guru and longtime assistant coach.
Furthermore, the Warriors have Stephen Curry, who many consider as the MVP of the league. Steve Kerr recently stated “Steph is one of the top few players in the entire league at his position defensively, and he’s this offensive machine that we’ve built our whole attack around”. Stephen Curry is one of the best players in the league, averaging 23.9 points and 7.7 assists and 2.0 assists per game (source: ESPN). He proved himself in the All-Star competition, winning the three-point contest. He is one of the most lethal shooters in the League, he has mastered his ball-handling skills, can help his team through a number of ways and he can be the man to take the last shot in the game when needed.
One of the most significant strengths of the Warriors as a team this season though, is their ability to depend on many different players (apart from Stephen Curry). Many teams rely primarily on the performance of one or two big stars, such as the Oklahoma City Thunder (Russell Westbrook & Kevin Durant), Portland Trail Blazers (LaMarcus Aldridge & Damian Lillard) and New Orleans Pelicans (Anthony Davis). However Golden State have a deep roster consisting of charismatic players like Klay Thompson (one of the best shooters in the league), Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut (both candidates for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award) as well as Andre Iguodala (NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2014 & world champion in 2010 and 2012 playing for the U.S. national basketball team). Steve Kerr has the ability to rotate players and still get many points from the bench.
The Warriors have developed great team chemistry, which definitely helped set a new league-record for improvement among teams that won 50-plus games the season before (16, breaking the record of 13 set by the Philadelphia 76ers in1966-67). The team is expected to face fierce competition in the playoffs though, where experienced coaches like Gregg Popovich (head coach of the San Antonio Spurs) will attempt to destroy the Warriors team chemistry. The task of predicting which teams will make the playoff finals this year is increasingly onerous, since many teams have already performed exceptionally well in the regular season (such as the Atlanta Hawks, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies) and they all have the same goal, which is to win the NBA championship.
There is much controversy about the potential of the Cleveland Cavaliers to secure their position in the playoff-finals (although “the king – Lebron James” has returned to Ohio), having a disappointing losing streak in the beginning of the season, and a considerably better performance after Christmas. Even though the defending champions San Antonio Spurs have an ageing team (2nd highest team age average in the NBA – 29.2, after the Dallas Mavericks – 29.5), they still aspire to win the NBA-playoffs again this season having very experienced players (e.g. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili) and Gregg Popovich as their head coach.
Undeniably, the Golden State Warriors have exceeded everyone’s expectations this season and have already broken several records. But their dream is to win the championship as officially stated recently by Stephen Curry. There are many well-trained and ambitious teams that have qualified to the playoffs, increasing the level of competition the Warriors are likely to face in pursuit of the title. If the Golden State Warriors remain focused and put in the required amount of effort, they can outperform all their rivals nonetheless. The Warriors have an extremely talented team and have the perfect recipe for success.