The Golden State Warriors are 20-0, which is the best start of any team in NBA history. The reigning champions rain threes and play suffocating defense. Point guard Stephen Curry, last year’s MVP, leads the league in scoring (32 PPG) and is ascending to a legendary level. They don’t even have their coach, Steve Kerr, on the sideline. Never before has a team been so enjoyable to watch.
The streak will inevitably end sometime this season and the new target will be at the 72-10 mark of the great 95-96 Bulls. While Golden State is capable of reaching that record, their championship hopes must be first and foremost, even if it means a few more losses because of conservative management.
The NBA regular season, with 82 games spanning six months, is grueling. Add in the playoffs, which can add anywhere from 12-24 games for a team in the Finals, to the schedule. On top of that, the Finals are a best-of-seven series. The system isn’t built for a team to go all-out and totally dominate night after night and still be in great shape for the climactic battle in June. If injuries don’t catch up, fatigue will.
Golden State is head and shoulders above every other team in multiple aspects. One of those is depth. The starting lineup is stacked and is supplemented by a capable bench that is one of the best in the NBA. If one player goes down, the team wouldn’t even cede the position of best in the business.
With that depth, the Warriors can get away with managing their players conservatively. Whether Luke Walton or Steve Kerr is coaching, precaution must be taken in the form of decreased minutes for the starters. The bench allows Golden State to still play at a high level, though it may translate to a few more losses.
The Warriors want to be in the best position possible in June because they’ll face a difficult challenge- the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron is chasing the title harder than ever before and in last year’s Finals bout, the Cavs came up short because of injuries, not hustle. The Cavaliers are starving for a title and will do anything to get one; the Warriors just won the Big One. On paper, Golden State is the better team. The NBA title isn’t won in the regular season. But it sure can be lost in it.