The Western Conference despises the idea of having a "favorite," treating such a concept the same way Stephen Curry thinks of the rim, Gregg Popovich feels about both sidelines reporters and a lack of nastiness, Kevin Durant ponders inefficiency and Blake Griffin considers passing up an open dunk.
Throughout the 2013-14 campaign, favorites have popped up and been subsequently shot down.
The offseason acquisitions of the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets made them into true contenders, but neither has risen to the top since actual play began. The San Antonio Spurs have steadfastly refused to lose many games, but they haven't beaten many teams above .500 either. The Oklahoma City Thunder stormed to the top, then they lost Russell Westbrook. The Portland Trail Blazers have been consistently dominant, but they have too little experience to emerge as true favorites.
Then we have the Golden State Warriors.
Seeking a rise of their own, the Dubs are looking to shore up their bench by adding a point guard to serve as both a backup and an insurance policy in case Curry's ankles start acting up.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears, the Warriors have added Andre Miller to their list of targets following his recent flare-up with Brian Shaw, and they're still in pursuit of Kyle Lowry.
Now first of all, those are two very different players, as Ethan Sherwood Strauss makes pretty clear in this tweet:
That's a huge "or." The 1st player is so much better RT @Chahlz55 who do u think Dubs are willing to part w for K. Lowry or A. Miller?— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 3, 2014
Miller might be a brilliant basketball player who throws alley-oops as well as anyone in the NBA, but he's almost AARP-eligible, doesn't have much time left in the Association and shouldn't serve as anything other than a limited backup at this stage of his impressive—and underrated—career.
The same can't be said about Lowry.
Ever since Rudy Gay was traded away from the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 9, Lowry has taken his game to the proverbial next level, seizing responsibility for the offense and rejoicing in his newfound ability to control the rock. Averaging 17.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 42.9 percent from the field, the point guard has led his team to an 8-3 record, one that has it shooting up the standings in the Eastern Conference.
As B/R's Christopher Walder writes, though, that's not all he brings to the table:
His numbers have been impressive, but the intangibles he brings as a leader and being vocal on the court are just as important, if not more so.
You can't dispose of someone like that and expect the winning culture to continue right away. It's impossible.
All of that is fantastic, and Lowry routinely plays with tremendous heart and hustle, making him the NBA's closest thing to a bulldog. But it doesn't help the Warriors as much as it could.
There's no denying Lowry would be a significant upgrade over the current host of backup point guards that Mark Jackson uses (Toney Douglas and Kent Bazemore), but his skill set would be devalued.
Do the Warriors really need someone who brings more winning culture?
More never hurts, but the Raptors—a young team filled with up-and-coming players who don't have much experience on their resumes—need that much more than the Dubs. Not only is Jackson a master motivator, but there are also plenty of veterans on the squad.
Additionally, Lowry is one of those point guards who loves controlling the ball.
According to NBA.com's SportVU data, John Wall, Kemba Walker and Chris Paul are the only players who touch the ball more frequently than the 27-year-old floor general. While he ranks "only" No. 12 in time of possession per game, that number has been trending upward ever since a certain notorious ball hog was traded away from his squad.
All that means that it's highly unlikely Lowry and Curry are going to coexist in the same lineup. The sharp-shooting point guard currently starting for Golden State ranks No. 11 and No. 4 in those respective categories, and the freedom he has controlling the ball is what's allowed him to blossom into such a deadly offensive threat.
The Warriors as a whole don't exactly lack ball-handlers.
Though Klay Thompson still hasn't morphed into much of a creator, Andre Iguodala has gone through his career as more of a point-forward than anything else. That's no different now that he calls Oracle Arena home.
Unless Jackson used Lowry as the leader of the second unit—which isn't going to spend too much time on the court—he isn't going to be as effective as he's been lately. And that "lately" is key as well, seeing as Lowry's season numbers are nowhere near as impressive as the ones he's posted over the recent 11-game stretch.
So, let's recap, as there are three major reasons that Lowry would be overvalued on the Dubs:
- The winning culture he brings is nice, but it's not altogether necessary.
- He wouldn't be able to control the ball with as much frequency, and that takes away from his effectiveness.
- He's been hot lately as teams get a scouting report on the post-Gay Raptors, and that may or may not be fluky.
There's no doubt that Lowry would make the Dubs better. It'd be crazy to deny that, especially with Douglas currently serving as the primary backup. But that doesn't mean he'd push this team into a new tier of awesomeness.
Right now, the Warriors are an extremely competitive team.
We're finally seeing what everyone can do when healthy, as the squad has reeled off a seven-game winning streak heading into the Jan. 3 contest with the Al Horford-less Atlanta Hawks, their first such streak since 2005.
That stretch includes victories over the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat, making LeBron James say, as reported by ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh, that Curry has a "fluorescent" light. It's not like the Dubs are racking up wins against bottom-feeding opponents.
At this point, there should be no doubt that the Warriors are one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Even given the early-season struggles, ones that were caused primarily by injury-created absences, the Warriors have allowed fewer points per 100 possession than all but three NBA teams, according to Basketball-Reference.
The offense isn't too shabby either.
When you take into account margin of victory (4.6 points) and strength of schedule (seventh hardest), it's hard not to consider the Dubs one of the 10 best teams in basketball. Problem is, that's a top 10 filled largely with teams from the Western Conference.
In fact, you'd probably get laughed out of the room if you suggested that any Eastern Conference teams other than the Heat and Indiana Pacers deserve to displace a Western squad from that portion of the rankings. So basically, don't do it.
But again, the West despises the idea of having a favorite.
The conference is going to be tough throughout the regular season, and it becomes a bona fide gauntlet as soon as the postseason begins. Even teams that sneak into the playoffs, squads like the Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, for example, are tough outs.
Would Kyle Lowry make the Warriors the best team in the Western Conference?
Thus far, the Dubs have failed to separate themselves from the mob of true contenders, a group that currently includes six teams: Portland, OKC (with Westbrook), San Antonio, LAC, Houston and themselves.
Adding Lowry isn't going to change that.
The point guard would make the Warriors an even stronger team, perhaps pushing them to the forefront of the aforementioned pack, but that doesn't make them the favorites. As strong and unpredictable as the West is in 2014, trying to place such a label on any team is just a foolhardy mission.