If you haven’t heard, the Golden State Warriors are off to a historic pace. In fact, they’re matching the pace set by the ’96 Bulls, who won an NBA record 72 games and won the NBA Championship. The Warriors are currently at 37-4, but are they really the favorite team to come out of the West? Not too far behind are the usual suspects; the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are off to a 36-6 start and are arguably better than the Dubs. The two favorites to bring home the Larry O’Brien Trophy are very similar squads.
Both are among the NBA’s ranks in points per game, assists, and rebounds. The Warriors lead the league in points per game with 113.9, while the Spurs rank fifth with 103.9 points per game. The Warriors also lead the NBA in assists at 28.6, with San Antonio coming in at third with 25.2 a game. The teams rank fourth and six in the rebidding department, with Golden State coming in at the four spot.
Moving away from the statistical points of how they are similar, both teams play a similar style of offense. As seen by their assist totals, both squads love to share and move the rock. Stephen Curry and Tony Parker are two of the best in the business at putting players in the right positions to set up the offense. There is a lot of off the ball movement from both squads, using picks and back cuts to get easy buckets. While the off ball screens usually lead to long range bombs from Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, they usually lead to easy buckets at the rim for the Spurs.
And while the Warriors love a high pick and roll with Andrew Bogut and Curry, the Spurs run a high-low offense, using Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge down low.
But the main difference comes down on the dirty end of the court. The Spurs are hands down the best team in the league, allowing the fewest points per game in the league. San Antonio allows under 90 points per game, rank second in opponent field goal percentage and are tied for first in three point field goal percentage. With Kawhi Leonard being the best on ball wing defender in the league, at least one player is shut down per game. He can cover three positions on the court, using his speed, athleticism, active hands and versatility to shut down the opponent. Even LaMarcus Aldridge, who is renowned below average defender, has made strides under Gregg Popovich. Danny Green is one of the most undervalued players in the NBA, as his defense and three point shooting often goes unnoticed behind the likes of Duncan, Leonard and Aldridge.
While the offense for the Warriors strictly runs through Curry, there’s a new focal point in the Spurs offense every night, keeping defenses off balance.
Both teams are deep, but the edge has to go to the Spurs. Manu Ginobli has seen his role diminish in recent seasons, but he’s still productive in just 20 minuets per game. The addition of David West has worked wonders for the Spurs and has joined Patty Mills and Boris Diaw to create the best bench in the NBA. They get a lot of minutes because Pop wants to rest his starters until the playoffs, but with the way they play together, there isn’t much drop off in production.
The Warriors bench relies strictly on Festus Ezili, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala for their production. The problem is that neither of those players are great on the offensive end. With so much offensive pressure put on the starters, they play more minutes than needed because the bench can’t get it done.
The San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors are the two best teams in the NBA. And while the Warriors have the slight advantage in record, the early edge has to go to San Antonio. An elite defense beats an elite offense most of the times. And in a seven game series, I’ll take the Spurs due to the fact that their legs will be more fresh than the Warriors. The importance of a deep bench can’t be overstated enough. While Golden State definitely has the scoring punch and star power, the overall experience of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich would be too much for Steph Curry and the Warriors to handle. Just be ready to watch a battle of the heavyweights next Monday, where the two squads will take the court in Oakland.