The Golden State Warriors were always going to be better this year than last, but an NBA-best record prior to the return of Klay Thompson and James Wiseman is beyond just about anyone’s expectations.
So how did it happen? Or perhaps a better question: Why did it happen?
NBA analyst Bill Simmons, founder of The Ringer, posed an explanation fascinating in its simplicity last week on his self-titled podcast: This season, the Warriors can win even when their All-NBA point guard Steph Curry plays poorly — or, at least, poorly by his ridiculously high standards. Last season, they couldn’t. It’s that simple.
“This is a team that already looks really good and really finished and really complete, and I think they can actually get better, because Curry hasn’t played that great this season,” Simmons said during a podcast episode that aired Thursday, November 4. “He’s had some good games. He’s also had games like (Wednesday night, November 3) where he didn’t shoot well and they were still able to win. They beat the Hornets.”
“That’s one of the reasons I like this team,” Simmons continued. “They can win this season when Curry doesn’t play well. Last year, if Curry didn’t play well, pretty much no chance. Now, Curry can not play well and they can still win.”
Warriors Win With Good or Great Curry; Bad Curry Doesn’t Truly Exist
In fairness to Curry, and reining in Simmons’ take just a tad, the point guard’s “bad games” would be quality starts for the third- or fourth-best players on most NBA teams. But even when he puts those performances up, his team has found a way to win.
Curry has shot 40% from the field, or worse, in five the Warriors 10 contests thus far this season, per ESPN. The Dubs are 4-1 in those contests, with the only loss coming against a scrappy Memphis Grizzlies squad by 3 points in overtime.
Prior to Curry’s electric 50-point explosion against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, November 8, the Warriors’ point guard put up four consecutive games of 20 points, 15 points, 19 points and 20 points. Golden State was victorious every time.
Dubs Deepest Team in NBA
At 9-1, alone atop the Western Conference standings, the Warriors are playing like the most complete team in the league despite missing major pieces in Thompson and Wiseman, both of whom are likely to re-enter starting roles before regular season’s end.
The answer to the charming riddle of how the Dubs are doing this is two-fold — depth and defense.
“They have found all these role players. They finally figured it out,” Simmons said. “Much better defensively. They are third in opposing field goal percentage. They can rebound. They’re sixth in rebounding right now, which is interesting without Wiseman. They’ve got the best chemistry in the league.”
“They’re 10 deep right now. That does not include Klay Thompson. That does not include the second pick in the draft from a year and a half ago, James Wiseman,” Simmons continued. “It does not include the seventh and fourteenth picks from this year’s draft, Kuminga and Moody. Somehow, they’re still 10 deep.”
And because of their depth and superb roster construction, the Dubs still have a trade to make for another big-time player — if they want it.
Warriors’ forward Andrew Wiggins’ $30 million annual salary over the next two years could be packaged with a group of young assets to make the money work, and it is only a matter of time before a bonafide NBA star wants out of a bad situation. It happens every single year.
“I think they might actually be the best team in the West,” Simmons said.
The games the Warriors have won since Simmons made that statement six days ago have proved his hypothesis right, at least to this point in the season. And things only look to get better for Golden State, who should now be considered among the top contenders for an NBA Championship in 2021-22.