The Warriors Are the Best Team in the NBA, and It’s Not Really Close
Don’t get me wrong –- the majority of the basketball community agrees that the Warriors are very good. However, there seems to be a growing consensus that the Atlanta Hawks are the best team in the NBA.
I’m not entirely sure why this is a growing belief, as statistically, the Warriors are still the best team in the NBA. Actually, they’re very significantly the best team in the NBA. And it’s really not close.
Point Differential and Other Stats
One way to look at a team is by their win-loss profile. However, that can be a bit deceiving in some instances. History has shown that point differential –- how many points a team is beating opponents by -– is much more predictive of future success than mere win-loss record.
Think about it. You can have two teams that are 8-0 on the year. Team 1 is blowing opponents out by 20 points, while Team 2 is winning in the last minute of every game. They have the same record, but it would be silly to say they’re equal. Point differential matters.
And the Warriors are in a class of their own in terms of point differential. Theirs currently stands at +11.9, the only team in double digits. The Hawks are the second-best team at +7.3. That gap is a Grand Canyon-wide one.
In fact, the difference between the Warriors’ mark and the Hawks’ mark –- 4.6 points -- is the same as the difference between the Hawks’ mark and the 29-17 Chicago Bulls. Again, it’s not close.
The same is true if you want to look specifically at offensive and defensive ratings. The Warriors boast the fourth-best offense in the league -- only behind the Clippers, Mavericks, and Raptors -- and easily the best defense in the league. The difference between their 100.7 rating and the Blazers' second-best 102.2 is as wide as the difference between the Blazers and the 11th-best Charlotte Hornets.
If you'd like to look at individual players, that's fine too. By Real Plus-Minus, Stephen Curry is miles above all other point guards with a mark of 8.74 (the next point guard is Kyle Lowry at 6.31), Klay Thompson is sixth among all shooting guards, Draymond Green is third among small forwards (only behind LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard), and Andrew Bogut is also third among centers (only behind DeMarcus Cousins and Tyson Chandler).
Lastly, our nERD statistic tells the same story. The Warriors’ 84.9 score is nearly 15 points higher than the second-place Hawks. Our algorithms equate that difference to a big swing in championship odds –- we have the Warriors winning the championship 33.9% of the time and the second-place Hawks at less than half that at 15.2%. And that factors in conference disparity.
There is really no statistic or way to evaluate the Warriors that doesn't have them easily the league's best team.
Let’s talk history. Not only are the Warriors clearly the best team in the NBA, they’re one of the best teams of all time.
There have only been four teams historically with a point differential of 11 or higher –- the ’96 Bulls, the ’72 Lakers, the '71 Bucks, and the ’15 Golden State Warriors. Out of those teams, only the ’96 Bulls –- yes, those ’96 Bulls who won 72 games -– had a higher win percentage than this Warriors team.
The fact that we’re discussing whether or not this Warriors squad is the best in the NBA is crazy. What we should be discussing is how they fit among the best teams of all-time. Are they on track to be right behind those dominant Bulls during MJ's prime?
Right now, yes. Yes they are.