This Team Would Beat the Golden State Warriors

The numbers tell us that our fantasy squad -- which fits under the NBA salary cap -- could take down the mighty Dubs.

The Golden State Warriors might be the greatest team in NBA history -- you probably won't get any argument from the Cleveland Cavaliers on that one -- but they can be beaten.


Or so says nERD.

nERD is numberFire's measure of a player's overall contributions for a season, based on efficiency. Like win shares, it tells us how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would be with that player as one of their starters.

For example, in 2011-12, LeBron James posted an 18.3 nERD rating, meaning if he played alongside four league-average players, nERD would like that team to finish 50-32, or 18 games over .500. By summing nERD for a team's players, we can see how many games above .500 a team would finish in a full 82-game season.

After watching the Warriors do horrible, horrible, horrible things to the Cavs in this year's NBA Finals, I decided to concoct a roster comprised of current NBA players who have a higher combined nERD than the Warriors, and fit under the the league's salary cap. So if the Association's general managers decide they don't like the concept of five-year-long Warriors dynasty, they're welcome to collude and bring this team to life.

The Mighty Dubs

Before we introduce the squad that will take down coach Steve Kerr's crew, let's remind everybody what they'll be up against.

Position Player nERD Salary
PG Stephen Curry 15.9 $12,112,359
SG Klay Thompson 4.5 $16,663,575
SF Kevin Durant 17.6 $26,540,100
PF Draymond Green 6.0 $15,330,435
C Zaza Pachulia 4.0 $2,898,000

STARTERS SUBTOTAL 48.0 $73,544,469
F Andre Iguodala 5.5 $11,131,368
C JaVale McGee 4.6 $1,403,611
F/C David West 1.6 $1,551,659
F Kevon Looney 1.0 $1,182,840
F/C James Michael McAdoo 0.3 $980,431
G Ian Clark 0.1 $1,015,696
F/C Damian Jones -0.3 $1,171,560
G Shaun Livingston -0.4 $5,782,450
G Patrick McCaw -1.1 $543,471
F Matt Barnes -4.2 $383,351

BENCH SUBTOTAL 7.1 $25,146,437

TEAM TOTAL 55.1 $98,690,906

As expected, the Warriors' starting lineup delivers a large chunk (87.1%) of their team's nERD, and their Big Four of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant account for 79.9% of that themselves. The bench more than did their job this season, led by Andre Iguodala (5.5 nERD) and JaVale McGee (4.6), a duo that put up over 33 points per 36 minutes of play.

But does any of that faze our fantasy team? Nah. Here's why.

The Mightier Challengers

Before the big reveal, a quick note about how we utilized the salary cap: Although the cap was roughly $94.1 million in 2016-17, we decided to use the Warriors' total cap hit of $98.7 million for our cutoff. (It's only fair, right?)

Furthermore, we used each player's price tag for this season, ignoring all coming extensions in 2017-18. With all that in mind, check out the collection of talent this Billy Beane of roundball slapped together.

Position Player nERD Salary
PG Isaiah Thomas 16.3 $6,587,132
SG Jimmy Butler 17.3 $17,552,209
SF Kawhi Leonard 19.5 $17,638,063
PF Giannis Antetokounmpo 14.0 $2,995,421
C Rudy Gobert 17.8 $2,121,288

STARTERS SUBTOTAL 84.9 $46,894,113
F/C Anthony Davis 12.4 $22,116,750
F/C Nikola Jokic 10.9 $1,358,500
F Otto Porter 9.4 $5,893,981
G George Hill 5.9 $8,000,000
F David Lee 5.4 $1,551,659
G C.J. McCollum 4.6 $3,219,579
F Jae Crowder 4.3 $6,286,408
F/C JaMychal Green 2.9 $980,431
G Gary Harris 2.3 $1,655,880
F/C Shawn Long 1.0 $89,513
Bench BENCH SUBTOTAL 59.1 $51,152,701

TEAM TOTAL 144.0 $98,046,814

The squad boasts six All-NBA performers and eight of the top 20 players in our power rankings, and
they combined for 266.4 points and 19.4 three-pointers per game on 38.3% from beyond the arc.

So the offensive numbers are in favor of our Moneyballers...but what about the other side of the floor? In the NBA, it's all about matchups.

According to Basketball Reference's play-by-play data, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard both logged defensive time at multiple positions throughout the season, and could thus comfortably check Curry, Thompson, or Green -- and you know they'd check them quite well, what with both having appeared on multiple All-Defensive Teams. Then there's the length thing: Antetokounmpo sports a 7'3" wingspan, while Davis tops out at a whopping 8'0".

Could Durant bust out of that double team? We'll give that a hard maybe.

As for Gobert, his shot-blocking (2.6 swats per game) and offensive-rebounding (3.9 boards per) skills would give the undersized Warriors fits down low. And if he's forced to the bench against Kerr's small-ball lineups, do-it-all bigs like Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic will give the Dubs plenty of trouble.

Speaking of the bench, the hulking Jokic, with an assist rate of 28.8% in his second season, brings unique play-making skills from the center position, while position-switching forwards Otto Porter and Jae Crowder could check each if the Dubs Big Four when Butler and Leonard head to the pines.

Shooting guards C.J. McCollum and Gary Harris would be key threats off the ball for the second unit. Between them, the two youthful scorers managed 37.9 points and 4.2 treys a game. Yes, Iguodala, their prime defender off the bench, is a great ball-stopper -- he's made two appearances on the All-Defensive Team -- but there's only so much one man can do.

So for those of you Cavs fans who have been bummed out about the team's performance in the Finals, know that the Golden State Warriors are vulnerable, and with a few slick trades, can be dethroned.