As usual, the NBA trade deadline provided all kinds of entertainment for both casual and die-hard fans of the league. There was plenty of actual player movement in addition to the (still ongoing) Anthony Davis saga and teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks strengthened their rosters with an eye toward legitimate title contention. In fact, much has been made of the wildly intriguing race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, with four teams jockeying for position and the prospect of an all-out brawl for a Finals spot in May.
Even with the buzz about the Sixers, Raptors, Bucks and Boston Celtics operating in justifiable fashion, the reality is that the NBA’s top tier is still occupied by exactly one team in the Golden State Warriors. It is undeniable that the post-LeBron East is more intriguing than some would have expected but, quietly, the reigning champions are lighting the league on fire and they are doing so without a clear-cut challenger in their own conference.
In the last 16 games, the Warriors are 15-1 and, while that isn’t out of the ordinary given their obscene level of talent, Golden State boasts a +15.0 net rating buoyed by off-the-charts offense. Steve Kerr’s team is scoring 123.4 points per 100 possessions during that time period and, well, that seems almost impossible over that large of a sample. In drilling down a bit, the Warriors are also 9-1 during the DeMarcus Cousins era, with the team firing on all cylinders and essentially deploying an unguardable offense the likes of which the NBA has never seen.
It isn’t “sexy” to write about the Warriors, simply because there is a feeling of invincibility with regard to the team. Golden State might get a legitimate challenge in the NBA Finals after one of the four aforementioned challengers emerges. Until then, however, it would be wise to avoid getting too carried away in a big-picture sense because, unless something changes on the injury and/or chemistry fronts, it’s (still) the Warriors and everybody else.
There isn’t much mystery about the top spot in this week’s DIME power rankings but the other 29 spots are up for grabs. Let’s go.