Barring a big-time collapse, the Warriors are going to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season – the “We Believe” year.
I was asked an interesting question about this: Are this year’s Warriors better than the “We Believe” Warriors?
Well, let’s talk about it … let’s imagine a seven-game series between the two teams. Here’s what I think:
I don’t want to say this year’s Warriors team isn’t in the same league as the “We Believe” team, but I would ask this … “What’s your definition of ‘same league?’”
To me, there’s a significant difference between a team that advances to the Western Conference semifinals and a team that loses in the first round. That’s another level in my book.
So, no, I don’t think this year’s team is on that level.
On a more tangible level, I don’t think this year’s team matches up very well against the “We Believe” team. Not even a little.
But let’s examine further. Here’s why I think the “We Believe” team was better and would win a series against the 2012-13 Warriors:
Superstar vs. star: First and foremost, the “We Believe” team had a superstar in Baron Davis. Yes, a superstar. During the period of time leading up to the 2007 postseason and for most of the following season, Davis was an elite player.
He was a player who “made teammates better” as the phrase goes. Davis could score, assist and, when the time called for it, defend. For the Warriors, Davis was a franchise difference-maker, no doubt about it.
At that time, Davis played at a level that no current Warrior player is playing at.
Stephen Curry and David Lee are both darn good; but they’re not where Davis was at back then.
Toughness and defense: When the Warriors were at their best during the “We Believe” era, they defended with quickness, length and athleticism.
That team was terrific when it came to getting the opposition out of their comfort zone. I’m imagining Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack having their hands full being effective on a consistent basis on the perimeter.
I see the “We Believe” team forcing turnovers and getting out into transition.
If there’s a misconception about the “We Believe” team it’s that it “played small” or used “small ball.”
Well, if you define small ball as playing without a traditional center, then, yes, they played small-ball. But that team was anything but small.
Not if you go position-by-position. That team had Davis at point guard, and he had size, strength and physicality. Jason Richardson, 6-foot-6, played shooting guard. Yes, he had some defensive limitations, but he competed and he took pride at that end of the floor.
So what he lacked in lateral quickness, he made up for in hunger.
How about Stephen Jackson, with the ability to defend three positions? Everyone remembers the job he did on Dirk Nowitzki, and rightfully so. With the help of teammates, Jackson confounded Nowitzki in the Warriors’ first-round upset of Dallas. Jackson was quick, athletic and nasty and he was an excellent defender during that playoff season.
I’ve got to believe Jackson could cause some issues for David Lee. And Jackson would more than hold his own against Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
We’re not even mentioning Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus and Andris Biedrins, all of whom I would consider more effective defensive players than offensive players.
Barnes took pride in the enforcer role and did the job back then more judiciously than he does now. Sure, Pietrus sometimes made you scratch your head, but he could stick with perimeter players pretty well.
And when push came to shove, the “We Believe” also used center Andris Biedrins, who once upon a time used to be effective as a defender and shot-blocker.
Hall-of-Famer vs. Newbie: No knock at Mark Jackson, but I’m going to take my chances with Don Nelson, a Hall –of-Fame coach, to get it done in our mythical seven-game series against the second-year coach.
Without getting into too much detail here, I can much more easily see Nelson concocting ways to confound Curry and/or Lee than I can Jackson figuring out a way to combat the overall intensity and talent of the “We Believe” team.
Who wins: I say the “We Believe” team beats the current Warriors in six games – 4-2. I actually think that the “We Believe” team could sweep or win in five games. But chances are, “We Believe” would give away a game or two because of player ejections, loss of poise, general apathy, temporary loss of focus, suspect preparation or any other number of peripheral type stuff.