Are the Golden State Warriors Now an Elite Team?

October 24, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12), shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9), and point guard Stephen Curry (30) look on during the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena. The Trail Blazers defeated the Warriors 90-74. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The Golden State Warriors currently have an 8-3 record, which is the third best record in the Western Conference. They are 5-0 at Oracle Arena, and they have already had several blowout wins so far this season.

They’ve impressed NBA analysts and fans with their uptempo, fun style of play and their stellar defense. Offensively, they shoot an outstanding 46 percent from three, which leads the NBA, and they’re tied for fifth in the NBA with 24.3 assists per game. They also shoot 48.5 percent from the field, which ranks second in the NBA.

Defensively, they allow opponents to shoot 42.3 percent, fifth best in the NBA, and they allow 96.3 points per game, sixth in the NBA. They allow opponents to shoot just 31.8 percent from three, third in the NBA. Also, they average 8.8 steals per game, ninth best in the NBA, and they average 5.6 blocks per game, seventh in the NBA.

All of these statistics are impressive, but stats only tell part of the story. There are many reasons why the Warriors are an elite team in the NBA.

First of all, the Warriors have one of the best starting lineups in the NBA. Stephen Curry is a star, Klay Thompson is developing into a complete player, Andre Iguodala is extremely versatile, David Lee is a double-double machine, and Andrew Bogut is a powerful defensive anchor. In fact, the Warriors have six proven starters. Harrison Barnes is still developing, but he could easily be a starter on this team because of his athleticism, his ability to play power forward, and his improvement in the post.

Second, the Warriors have a deep roster. Although their bench has struggled at times this season, the Warriors have several key contributors off the bench including Jermaine O’Neal, Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, and Draymond Green. Kent Bazemore has struggled this year, and Nemanja Nedovic and Ognjen Kuzmic are still developing. The bench will gain more chemistry once they play more together.

Third, the Warriors made, arguably, the best and most significant acquisition of the offseason. The Warriors traded away some bloated contracts and useless players in Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins (and Brandon Rush, who wasn’t useless) and added the perfect complement to this Warriors team in Iguodala. He can do everything well, he has a high basketball IQ, and he makes everyone around him better.

He also improves this Warriors offense because of his ability to handle the ball, make plays, and drive to the basket. When he gets into the paint, defenders close in on him because of his ability to finish and that gives more wide-open looks to Curry and Thompson. In addition to his slashing ability, he also can shoot from mid-range and from three. He’s a great rebounder for his size, he’s able to run the offense, and he’s one of the best defenders in the NBA. He makes the Warriors a serious title contender.

October 5, 2013; Ontario, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9) dunks to score a basket against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, these factors make the Warriors an elite team. On the court, the Warriors also prove why they’re an elite team. As mentioned before, Iguodala is a huge part of this offense. When he’s making plays, the Warriors are at their best. They’re also at their best when everyone is involved on a given play. All five of the Warriors’ starters are above-average passers, which is a significant reason why they’re an elite team. Each starter is more than capable of getting five assists in any given game. When the Warriors are passing the ball quickly and effectively, they are almost unstoppable.

Warriors basketball starts and ends with their defense though. This is the second year that the Warriors are playing under the defensive scheme that Coach Mark Jackson and former head assistant coach Mike Malone implemented last year. After allowing their opponents to shoot 43.9 percent from the field last season (fourth best in the NBA), the Warriors look even stronger defensively this season.

One reason why their defense is especially stellar this season is because of the addition of Iguodala and the fact that Bogut is healthy right now. Iguodala is able to guard four positions, which gives the Warriors a lot of options, in terms of matchups. Bogut drastically improves the Warriors’ defense because of his ability to block and alter shots and how opponents attack the basket.

The other reason why their defense is so effective is because of the general principle behind their defensive scheme. The Warriors have the mindset to focus on defense, because that’s the kind of team they are now. Their defense leads to their offense. Offense isn’t their primary focus anymore. It all starts with defense. When they get steals and blocks on defense, that leads to fast breaks, which is where they thrive. They’re so efficient in transition, because of their ability to shoot threes, attack the basket, and pass to the right person at the right time.

The Warriors are definitely an elite team in the NBA. Of course, it’s still very early in the season though, and they still have a lot to prove. The Warriors need to stay healthy in order to continue to play their dominant style, but they are a top-four team in the Western Conference and could potentially go far in the playoffs.

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