Comparing the 15-16 Warriors and the 95-96 Bulls
Every couple of decades a team comes along that is just magical. They are a team fans talk about for years after and what rising teams get compared to. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team was one of those, and this years Warriors team is another. In fact, this years Warriors team may be the team all future great teams get compared to.
The 95-96 Bulls went an astonishing 72-10 and were able to finish it up with a 69-13 campaign the next season and a 62-20 season the following year. In 3 season the Bulls won 203 of 246 regular season games. What is even more impressive is that during those same 3 years that Bulls team won 45 of 58 post season games and 3 NBA championships.
The Warriors have not yet had the time to accomplish this feat, so as it stands at this point in history the Bulls are still the watermark for what all other future dynasties are going to be compared.
But give these Warriors time, they are going to be special. Enjoy what you are watching because before you know it this great team will be gone. Rarely, do teams have long staying power of over 5 seasons as a contender. The Russell Celtics did it; The Magic Lakers did it; the Jordan Bulls did it; and the Duncan Spurs did it. But all these teams underwent massive transformation over the course of their dynasties. The Warriors are likely going to have to do it with their core of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and their star Stephen Curry.
Last season the Warriors ran a similar record to the late 90s Bulls by going 67-15 in the regular season and capturing the NBA title with a 16-5 post season. This year the Warriors are on pace to tie or break the 95-96 Bulls 72 win mark. The Warriors are currently 52-5 with 25 games left the Warriors need to go a minimum 20-5 to tie the Bulls record and 21-4 to break it. The scary thing is that it can and most likely will be done.
If the Warriors win the games that they are supposed to win and don't have any more losses like their loses to the Bucks and Blazers, that leaves them with only six possible losses for the rest of the season. 2 against Oklahoma City, 3 against San Antonio and one against Memphis. The Warriors tend to play up to these teams as all five of their losses this season have been against lower tier playoff teams or lottery teams. Another thing that favors the Warriors is that they only have eight road games the rest of the season. All five Warriors loses have been away from Oracle Arena, and it has been over a calendar year since the Warriors last lost at home.
Going by the odds and how the Warriors have played this season, the Warriors will likely finish this season 21-4 and winning an NBA record 73 games. The 73 regular season wins is the easy part, now comes the hard past: The NBA post-season.
Winning 16 games against the best teams in the NBA night after night and after playing a full 82 game schedule is daunting. This is where the Warriors will separate themselves from the very good historical teams into the great historical teams. Back-to-back titles however, is not all that difficult as it has happened 12 times in NBA history, most recently with the Miami Heat of the Lebron James era.
If the Warriors again manage to capture the NBA title this post-season they will need to follow this encore up with another encore to be ranked with the Jordan Bulls.
Things get trickier in 2017-18 as the only players the Warriors have under contract are Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and possible the rookie option of Kevin Looney. The Warriors will do anything possible to re-sign Curry, but age and health may be a factor in what the Warriors decide to do with Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala. Likely both veterans will sign for smaller contracts as Curry gets paid.
A three-peat in the NBA is extremely rare. It has happened only five times in NBA history. The Minneapolis Lakers did it from 52-54; the Boston Celtics had an eight-peat from 59-66; the Chicago Bulls did it twice, once from 91-93 and again from 96-98; and the Los Angeles Lakers followed 50 years after the Minneapolis Lakers with another three-peat from 00-02. Even making 3 NBA finals in 3 seasons is extremely rare, besides those 5 times it 5 other teams have done it as well. The most recent was the 12-14 Miami Heat.
To win 3 titles in a row the Warriors are going to need to keep their core together and keep a lot of their role players as well. This is extremely difficult to do in the modern NBA as free agency and big money spreads talent all around the league.
Following this season the Warriors have eight free agents, only Barnes and Barbosa are major contributors. Losing Barbosa would not be too much of a blow because he can be replaced, but if they were to lose Barnes the Warriors would be in serious trouble. The Warriors do have the option of making Barnes a restricted free agent and likely will do so and will likely match any non obscene offer sheet he signs.
The rise in the NBA salary cap can also help the Warriors attract free agents with their core. They have been rumored to be interested in players such as Kevin Durant to add to their core.
But first thing first is that the Warriors need to worry about this current season and let the future settle itself out. Barring any catastrophic injury to Green, Thompson or Curry the Warriors will most likely win the NBA title this year, and be favorites to win it next year. So enjoy this team while you can, because soon they will be history and we will be comparing the next up and coming great team to them.