The Warriors enter the NBA playoffs riding a five-game winning streak. Klay Thompson has found himself, Draymond Green has returned to form, and Jordan Poole keeps doing his best Steph Curry impersonation.
Golden State finished the regular season 6-6 in its final 12 games with Curry sidelined with a sprained ligament in his left foot. The two-time MVP will be re-evaluated this week and his status for Saturday's Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets likely will come down to the wire.
Curry's status obviously will be a critical factor in how long the Warriors' postseason run lasts. If Curry returns and is at or near 100 percent, the Warriors should be viewed as a serious threat to return to the NBA Finals. Yes, Golden State has bad habits to break to make plans for June, but the Warriors have always seemed confident in their championship ceiling when at full health.
They should be. Among the many reasons to be optimistic about a 53-29 team that has seen its core play just 11 minutes together this season, is the fact that Golden State's best lineup will debut in the postseason.
Among the Warriors' four-man lineups that have played at least 45 minutes together this season, the quartet of Curry, Thompson, Poole, and Andrew Wiggins has been the most effective.
In 63 minutes this season, that lineup has an offensive rating of 130.3 and a defensive rating of 84.3 for a net rating of 46.0. Simply put, the Warriors are 46 points per 100 possessions better than their opponent with those four on the floor.
To put that number further into perspective, that four-man lineup has the third-best net rating in the NBA, trailing two different quartets from the Minnesota Timberwolves (!), and finishing 2.7 points above the Milwaukee Bucks' best four-man lineup.
Of course, looking at five-man lineup numbers will give you a better view of a team's best unit. For instance, the best five-man lineup in the NBA this season that has played at least 45 minutes together is the Bucks' group of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, Wes Matthews, and Bobby Portis with a net rating of 40.9.
The Warriors' best five-man lineup by net rating has been Curry, Poole, Wiggins, Kevon Looney, and Otto Porter Jr. However, Green has not played a minute yet with Curry, Wiggins, Poole, and Thompson all on the floor.
Expect that lineup to debut once Curry returns, and it should be one that keeps other NBA teams up at night.
Surrounding Curry with three shooters and an elite facilitator in Green will take some of the scoring pressure off Curry and force teams to guard the Warriors to death no matter where the ball swings. Come to double or trap Curry? Pay the price. Help off Wiggins on a drive? It's either a wide-open 3-pointer or the ball swings to Poole, Thompson, or Curry for an even better look.
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On Sunday, Thompson called the thought of a fully healthy Warriors team a "scary sight" for the rest of the NBA. It's hard to find fault in that declaration especially when we haven't seen the best these Warriors have to offer.
With four shooters on the floor, two of whom are ticketed for the Hall of Fame and another who has been supernova hot over the last month, the Warriors will force teams into a defensive dilemma that there is no easy way to solve.
That lineup could have some issues defensively. But with Green on the backend and the switchability of Wiggins and Thompson, the Warriors should be able to trot out this tortuous lineup against most opponents they will see in the postseason.
If it is as lethal and effective as the numbers suggest, it could prove to be the ultimate trump card against the NBA's elite.