After a brief two-season sojourn as a normal basketball team, the Golden State Warriors have once again decided to simply stop losing games. At 18-2, the Warriors have revived their brand of incandescent goodness; their +13.6 average margin of victory is the highest in NBA history. Even if Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are the only truly meaningful holdovers from Golden State’s dynastic outfits of the late 2010s (at least until Klay Thompson returns), the Warriors have proven to be a Ship-of-Theseus-ass team, silently replenishing their rotation with productive, well-fitting pieces. This isn’t the exact same Warriors’ team in either form or function, but it hums at a similar frequency nonetheless.
In this sense, this year’s roster is essentially unchanged from last year’s playoffs-missing squad—nearly every member of last year’s rotation has returned besides Kelly Oubre Jr. But if last season felt like a semi-convincing cover band strumming their way through the Warriors’ catalog, this year marks the return of the genuine article; their minor offseason tweaks have borne major results. At the most basic level, the Golden State Warriors look like the, uh, Golden State Warriors. They’ve become so comfortable with their dominance that their historic greatness feels quotidien; they play with such precision that even their characteristic whimsy carries a casual cruelty.
Unsurprisingly, the Warriors are fueled by the twin genius of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. In fact, Curry and Green have the best net-rating of any high-minutes duo in the NBA, outscoring opponents by 17.6 points per 100 possessions when they share the court. To a degree, they represent inversions of each other: Curry is the greatest and most unique offensive player of this generation and Green is the greatest and most unique defensive presence; Curry stresses enemy defenses to the point of rupture and Green ensures the continued stability of Golden State’s own defense.
Like a shirt from Dan Flashes, the Warriors’ offense is so good because it’s so complicated. Split cuts, horns sets, short rolls: they’re playing the hits. Whereas Curry’s contemporaries like James Harden or Damian Lillard derive most of their value from their ball dominance, Curry is the league's leading scorer in large part because he’s an active and incendiary cutter without the ball—he scores an NBA-best 5.8 points per game from off-screen actions alone. Guarding the Warriors tests the limits of human perception. You need to be ever-vigilant to shadow Curry as he traces his cursive path through the frontcourt and then you also have to navigate the latticework of screens that he dips through and then you also have to account for the battery of screens that he sets and then you also have to hedge aggressively if Curry shakes free and then also—oh, shit, somebody lost sight of Gary Payton II and he’s soaring for yet another dunk.