There’s a Golden State Warriors duo that’s often labeled as one of the NBA’s best.
There’s another Golden State Warriors duo that, through a vicious run of 92 wins since the beginning of last season, has undoubtedly become the best pair in pro basketball.
If you hadn’t guessed from the title, the former set of Warriors is Steph Curry and Klay Thompson – and the latter duo, of course, is Steph Curry and Draymond Green.
The 25-1 Warriors, who have rendered it nearly impossible to use an adjective that sufficiently describes their dominance, can’t fully be appreciated unless you look at numbers.
Specifically, numbers that belong in a video game.
As of this writing, Golden State’s hefty average margin of victory (13.5 points) would be the largest in NBA history — and almost makes monitoring the spread as intriguing as actually watching them.
Despite spotting nearly 10 points in Vegas every time they play, the Warriors have covered or pushed the spread in 18 of those 25 wins. If you’re not particularly versed in gambling, that’s borderline insane.
For some perspective, the San Antonio Spurs – a decent basketball squad themselves – are the only other NBA team with an average margin of victory in the double digits.
The Spurs are right behind Golden State (13.4) — and as basketball fans, we can only hope a Warriors-Spurs matchup in the Western Conference Finals becomes reality.
But this article isn’t about comparing this season’s Warriors to this season’s Spurs, or comparing them to any of the great teams in NBA history like most want to do after their historical 24-0 start.
No, this is about showing why Golden State has been able to take the NBA by storm over the last 14 months. Why, after six NBA franchises accounted for the 24 NBA titles before theirs in 2014, the Warriors have taken a seat at the NBA Royalty dinner table before the Board of Directors could even review their application.
The big picture, video game-like numbers above confirm the Golden State Warriors deserve that seat – but it’s the individual stats that tell us how they grabbed it.
A stat to sum up the #Warriors: Steph Curry & Draymond Green both finished +19 in 31 minutes tonight. Steph had 40 points. Draymond had 4.
— Peter Hahn (@Big_Bear11) December 3, 2015
I was moved to tweet the above after checking the box score from a recent stop on the Warriors 2015 Destruction Tour, a casual 17-point road victory over the pretty decent Charlotte Hornets.
Golden State then beat Toronto, Brooklyn, Indiana and Boston before finally losing in Milwaukee — but that +/- quirk from the Charlotte box score remains the single most telling thing I’ve seen all season about the Warriors.
Exactly like it sounds, a player’s +/- rating quantifies exactly how good (+) or bad (-) their team performs on the scoreboard when they’re on the court. Unlike points, rebounds, and assists; +/- isn’t very misleading. I mean if you post a -10 in a game that your team wins, then it’s obvious you really didn’t do shit that night.
Which brings us back to Steph Curry and Draymond Green.
In addition to their identical +19 against Charlotte, Steph and Draymond had matching foul and turnover counts. But other than that, they couldn’t have had more different nights.
Curry shot 14-18 from the field, 8-11 from three-point land, and made all his free throws. It was his sixth of seven 40+ point games in 2015.
Green shot 2-9 from the field, 0-4 from three-point land, and missed both of his free throws. The four points are still his lowest total of 2015.
Curry finished with three rebounds and five assists – pretty standard – but didn’t record a steal for the first time in 2015.
Green had 11 rebounds, nine assists, and three blocks. That’s the sixth time he’s grabbed double-digit rebounds, the seventh time he’s had nine or more assists, and his fourth game with three or more blocks in 2015.
Every single statistic would suggest Steph Curry and Draymond Green had completely opposite nights, but then there’s that twin-like +19 hiding on the far right side of your box score.
And, as indicated by their equal 31 minutes of playing time in Charlotte, that’s not some random coincidence.
This season, the musical duet known as Steph Curry and Draymond Green are averaging more than 32 minutes together per game – the most of any NBA duo – posting a league-high 14.2 in that +/- stat I just gave a mini-seminar on.
And in those 32 minutes of shared court time, no team has produced more points, assists, or three-pointers per game. Plus the third most rebounds and sixth most steals – not bad for a point guard and 6’7 dude – of all 2-man lineups.
If you prefer advanced NBA analytics, Curry and Green have the highest aggregate “Real Plus-Minus” score between any two teammates this season.
Real Plus-Minus is a fancy metric spawned by ESPN that takes the error out of your standard +/- rating. This error refers to a player’s +/- being potentially inflated if they play for a good team – say, the Golden State Warriors – and thus somewhat misleading.
But, even on the adjusted RPM, Curry (1st overall) and Green (6th overall) easily come in as the league’s most productive pair. And they did the same damn thing last season.
At this point, arguing that Steph Curry and Draymond Green are the NBA’s best duo seems silly because it’s obvious that’s exactly what they are. In fact, calling them the league’s “best” pair is probably an undersell.
They’ve become the ultimate new-school version of the renowned ‘big and little man’ combo; a quintessential example of Golden State’s radically successful brand of basketball.
They’re the main reason interim coach Luke Walton was able to win an unheard of 24 consecutive games this season, and I think it’s fair to say the same about Steve Kerr winning the most games of any rookie head coach ever last season.
Of course, you could point to how ridiculously good Curry has been since the 2014 season began and discount Green’s role as simple “dominance by association.” But we’ve known for awhile now that Steph Curry is a special talent.
It wasn’t until Green blossomed into a full-time starter last year that we saw Curry – and the Warriors – reach a level popularly known these days as “basketball porn” and “appointment television.”
After all, in that time period, the Warriors are 92-16.
So, as clear as it is that Steph Curry is the NBA’s most valuable player, it’s just as evident that he’s found his most valuable wingman.
And his name isn’t Klay Thompson.