The Golden State Warriors have won their first 13 games of their title defense, the longest winning streak for an NBA team coming off a championship since
since the 1997 Bulls the 1958 Celtics. Only the 1994 Rockets (15-0), 1949 Washington Capitols (15-0), 2003 Mavericks (14-0) and aforementioned Celtics (14-0) have started with more season-opening wins. But when discussing these historically dominant Warriors, it’s the ’96 Bulls who are drawing all the comparisons, because that squad has the all-time record with 72 wins in a single season.
Right as this season started, Klay Thompson was asked about making a run at, if not the 72-win record, then at least the 70-win plateau, and didn’t dismiss it out of hand. And now, with just a hair over a seventh of the way into the season and without a single blemish to their name, the mark seems even less crazy now. Kevin Cottrell over at NBA.com ran a bunch of historical comparisons between the Dubs’ start and that of the ’96 Bulls, and they’re all worth a look, mostly because the Warriors win every one of them.
The simplest difference is that the Bulls had already dropped two games at this point. Going deeper, the Warriors have better point differentials, a higher scoring rate out of their star (Curry’s 33.7 points to Michael Jordan’s 29.3 points) and they shoot better overall.
(Ed. Note: This piece was composed before Golden State’s comeback against the Clippers Thursday night pushed them to 13-0, so all stats are from their first 12 wins.)
But comparing these Warriors to those Bulls is like comparing Citizen Kane to Pulp Fiction — they’re from completely different eras and were constructed using a completely different set of rules, not to mention that the existence of the first informed the second. Instead of comparing apples and oranges, let’s simply try to figure out if the Warriors can make it to 70 wins, full stop.
With 12 games out of the way, only 70 remain. To finish with 70 wins, the Warriors will have to at least go 58-12, for an .829 winning percentage. Last year, their 67-15 record was good enough for an .817 winning percentage. That means that even if the Warriors regress to last year’s levels, that still wouldn’t be good enough to make it to 70 wins, let alone 72. So, just how much better are this year’s Warriors than last year’s (with the necessary small sample size caveat)?