The Golden State Warriors, currently standing at 26-6, the best record in the NBA, should definitely be viewed as NBA title contenders even with their lack of success into the deeper stages of the playoffs in the past few years, however I would not pick them to win the championship this year.
The core of the Warriors consists of point guard Steph Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson, and power forward David Lee. The three have played together since Golden State drafted Thompson as the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft and the three have been starters since Golden State traded starting guard Monta Ellis mid-season in 2012. The three have helped the Warriors win one playoff series, against the Denver Nuggets in 2013, and the team bowed out in the first round to the Los Angeles Clippers last spring.
Boosted by a 16-game winning streak, the Warriors have an impressive record to start 2015 and hold the top spot in the Western Conference standings. The big question now is whether the team can keep up the pace for the entire season and into the playoffs.
The fact that the Warriors have been able to win so many games even with key players injured is a good sign that this team is strong throughout and will get even better with a fully healthy roster. Center Andrew Bogut has been on injured reserve since Dec. 10 with knee soreness, giving Marreese Speights the opportunity to start and play crucial minutes. The former first round pick from Florida has responded well, averaging 12.6 points, 5.2 rebounds in around 20 minutes per game since Bogut’s injury. He also leads the team this season with a 53.9 percent field goal percentage.
Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes have been excellent this year as well, contending for starting players’ minutes. Barnes is averaging over 10 points per game, while Green has been a player Golden State has been able to lean on. He scored his first career triple double last week in a victory against the Toronto Raptors where he scored 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished out a career high 13 assists. It was a career night, which the Warriors will hope can turn into magic coming off the bench or starting over Lee for the rest of the season.
Other teams in the Western Conference have much more experience in the playoffs than the Warriors and will be expected to make it out of the conference over the Warriors. The defending champion San Antonio Spurs can be expected to make a run for a repeat, while the Oklahoma City Thunder will be a tough test if possibly the best duo in the game, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, can stay healthy for the remainder of the season. The Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Clippers will also be vying for the top spots in the Western Conference on their way to taking on the top team from the Eastern Conference in the NBA finals.
The Warriors have the talent to go deep into the playoffs. Their lack of experience with having to win 16 games to win the championship is what scares me from picking them as a favorite to make the final or the NBA title. I think the Warriors have a team that is capable of making the Western Conference finals, but eventually either the Spurs or the Thunder will go on to take on the top team from the East in the NBA final because of their talents as well as their experience with playing so many big games night after night in recent playoff runs.