Here come the Golden State Warriors.
Enough about the Miami Heat's tottering regular-season displays. Never mind that the Los Angeles Clippers are scoring enough for two teams and neglecting defense enough for eight. Derrick Rose who? The Philadelphia 76ers' untenable start, say what?
Let's talk about the Warriors and all that they've already done. All that they can still do.
They exited 2012-13 with a bang, on the heels of ending a five-year postseason drought and putting forth a valiant effort against the San Antonio Spurs. Darlings of the NBA—that's what they were back then.
A couple of offseason tweaks and one Andre Iguodala acquisition later, and they're back—no longer undervalued treasures; instead, rightful contenders. Seekers of championships, forerunners of perimeter dominance and defensive valor.
Elite teams 'round the NBA, consider yourselves warned.
Golden State began its season by plucking the Los Angeles Lakers from their opening-night paradise and bringing them ground-side. Klay Thompson went for 38 points on 15-of-19 shooting (5-of-7 from deep). No big deal.
After that, the Warriors were offered a rude awakening of their own. They traveled to the Staples Center, where an angry Chris Paul and trigger-happy Jamal Crawford awaited. Not even Stephen Curry's nine bombs to go along with 38 points were enough to propel the Warriors to a victory.
Again, though, no big deal. It was the tail end of a back-to-back. Move on. The Warriors cut deep into the lead late, and had Mark Jackson employed Hack-a-Jordan (DeAndre) sooner, maybe things would've turned out differently. And while I'm not 100 percent sure, I'm almost positive one of the 10 Commandments states, "Thou shalt not win basketball games when Chris Paul plays one-on-five and registers 42 points and 15 assists."
Next came the Sacramento Kings. Poor guys didn't know what hit them. Golden State took a 20-point lead into halftime and coasted the rest of the way.
Two nights later, there were the Sixers. Led by Michael Carter-Williams, they were one of a handful of undefeated teams remaining. The Sixers. Undefeated. Seriously.
The Warriors made mincemeat of America's worst tank job, bringing a 33-point lead into the fourth quarter. Curry posted his second career triple-double...in just 29 minutes of action. He and Kevin Durant are now the only players under 26 to have recorded a triple-double in less than 30 minutes since Jason Kidd did so in 1995.
Iggy had a field day against his former team as well, scoring 32 points while hitting a career-high seven treys. David Lee pitched in 18 points of his own, and Splash Brother No. 2, Thompson, did what a Splash Brother does—shoot 4-of-8 from downtown for 18 points.
This team has played like a juggernaut, downing talented teams or organizations on a roll as quickly as they come. Wins over the Sixers and Kings aren't a big deal, but they show the Warriors are taking care of business early.
Miami cannot say the same after an inexcusable loss to Philly. Neither can the Chicago Bulls. One can make the case that the Clippers' loss to the Lakers was downright inexplicable, too.
The Warriors haven't subscribed to such sluggish starts. Their margin of victory stands at 12.75 through four games, the highest in the NBA.
They're already off to the races, leaving a majority of the league—contenders included—to play catch-up.
It's early. I get it. And I agree. But that doesn't mean the Warriors are suddenly going to slow down or regress to the mean. Maybe this is their mean.
Curry is on pace to drill 369 three-pointers, a number that seems unreachable. Once more, I agree. If anyone can break 300, it's him, but pulling north of 350 is unrealistic. You're free to ignore, or toast to, projections of that kind, knowing they're unlikely to come true.
Other forecasts aren't as easy to sidestep.
The Warriors currently rank sixth in offensive efficiency (109) and fourth in defensive efficiency (96.6). Their 46.9 percent clip from the outside ranks second, and their collective field-goal percentage (50.3) has them tied with the Clippers for first.
Here's a look at how the teams currently with the best regular-season records stack up against Golden State in a few key categories:
Disregard the genocide of color and indiscernible trends. There is only one trend the eye is immediately drawn toward: the Warriors. Of the six teams currently with the best records in the NBA, Golden State is the only one to make a top-seven appearance in each of those categories.
Five players are also averaging in double-figures, and six are attempting at least one three per night and converting at least 35 percent of them. Through the first four games, the Warriors' starters have combined for a plus-290, meaning that each of the five is averaging a plus-14.5 per contest. That's insane.
Are we supposed to believe all of that isn't sustainable? Certainly, some of it will dissipate as the season goes on, but everything we've seen cannot be a mirage.
The Warriors are not a facade. They're a contender.
"Move over, Miami," said absolutely no one.
Not enough is known of the Warriors to argue they're the best team in the NBA beyond reasonable doubt. We know too much about the Heat and what they can do. What the Spurs can do. What we think the Thunder, among others, can do.
But there's a new kid on the championship block. "Underdog" is no longer a word associated with the Warriors. Not these Warriors. "Real deal" is a more appropriate phrase, and we'll be hearing a lot of it.
Still without Harrison Barnes, the Warriors are off to one of the hottest starts in the NBA. Where teams like the Clippers are experiencing isolated success on offense or defense, Golden State is becoming a proficient student of both.
Curry and Thompson will keep chucking, but the Warriors are prepared to defend as well. In each of their three victories, opponents haven't exceeded 94 points. Overall, they're holding teams to 39.5 percent shooting, the second-best mark in the league.
With a healthy Andrew Bogut, scrappy Lee, laterally sound Iggy and gritty Jermaine O'Neal, the Warriors are armed for a dogfight. That is, if opposing defenses can even abate their production that much.
Something about this team and their system just fits. Look at how Iguodala has found himself jacking up deep balls like never before. He's on course to make 205 threes and attempt 410, both of which would be career highs by far. While that trajectory likely won't hold, he's almost guaranteed to hit 100 threes for just the second time in his career.
Point being: The players have bought in. On both sides of the ball, they're playing. They're excelling.
Four games. It's only been four games. Keep telling yourself that, any and all nonbelievers. Soon, you'll be chanting, "It's only been 10 games." Then, "It's only been 20." Then, "30." And so on and so forth until the only thing left to do is concede the truth, the same dose of reality I've been administering here.
Seek refuge, Miami. Duck for cover, Oklahoma City. Hang on to that Pacific Division crown tightly, Paul and friends. Because the Warriors aren't just coming; they're already living, shooting and winning amongst you all.
And they're not going anywhere.
*All stats obtained from Basketball-Reference and ESPN unless otherwise noted.
**All stats accurate as of November 5, 2013.
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