The Golden State Warriors are off to a 17-2 start this season, the exact same mark with which the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls began their season before finishing with a then-record 72-10 mark.
Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns (32) is sandwiched by Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant (35) and Stephen Curry (30) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won 115-102. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Last year’s Warriors team exploded out of the gates with a 24-0 start before suffering their first loss on the way to a 73-9 record. This year’s Warriors team is in fine shape if reaching 70 wins is the mission again. But after bringing in Kevin Durant this summer, it’s clear Golden State has bigger plans in store. It’s all in, championship or bust for the Warriors after last summer’s Finals loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Still, Golden State has been so dominant in the early season that winning 70-plus games in the regular season might be inevitable anyway. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate whether or not a 70-plus-game Golden State season is inevitable.
Green: Golden State is so stacked with talent that they’ll waltz to 70-plus wins with no problem. They might not be as deep as they’ve been over the last few seasons, but their big guns at the top are an untouchable group. Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green form a dynamic foursome because each player is unselfish and ready to share the glory. That free-loving nature makes them a balanced force that should run heavy for the rest of the regular season. Last year’s 73 wins was a goal that wore the team out by the time the regular season was over. This time around the Warriors don’t have to plan for 70 wins—they’ll sleepwalk to those heights with ease.
Riley: The year-long campaign to match or beat the Bulls’ record became a major story. But the exhausting 82-game schedule probably drained the best from the Warriors, and I don’t think head coach Steve Kerr will make the same mistake again. Coming off of a championship the previous year, I think Golden State got too cocky along the way and expected to one up their accomplishments of the prior year by adding a league record to another championship. After falling flat on their face against LeBron James and Cleveland, Kerr will make the necessary adjustments which may stop the team from reaching 70 wins. He could very well rest players intentionally with an eye on the bigger goal at the end of the season. If anybody stops the Warriors from reaching 70-plus wins again, it’ll be Kerr.
Green: Kerr is the complete definition of a players’ coach and he’ll run the team based on the pulse of his players. If the players jointly decide to chase another 70-win season, then Kerr will let them. Winning 73 games last season wasn’t the reason that Golden State tripped up in the Finals—the reason was LeBron James. Chasing 73 wins was a heavy emotional investment, but once the playoffs started the Warriors were recharged and renewed. If anything, Golden State should be chasing 75 wins this year with a chance to cap things in better fashion compared to last year’s finish. Golden State is loaded with too much talent to play calculated and scared. I say they should let it rip and chase the 70 barrier again—and they’ll get it, again.
Riley: This team was assembled solely to win another ring. If chasing 70-plus wins was the goal, then they could have just brought back the same team from last season and done that again. It’s title time in the Bay Area now. NBA teams have a small window in which they can capitalize on their talent. I think the Warriors will be a lot smarter this year in how they rest their players in-season, and save some of the wear and tear, similar to coach Gregg Popovich’s methods with the San Antonio Spurs. Why play Curry and Durant in all 82 games when you don’t have to? The 73 wins earned Golden State absolutely nothing last year, and they’ll refocus on what’s important.