Warriors

West’s No. 6 Seed Golden State’s Sweet Spot

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Despite their horrific start, the Warriors are a respectable 6-6 after the first twelve games of the season. Their victories during this stretch came against clubs of varied stature.

They got the “Those were sloppy, but at least they’re beating the bad teams in the East” wins against the Bulls and Pistons. The “I’m starting to feel confident they can make it to the Play-In Tournament” wins came next against the Kings and Blazers.

And then the Clippers games happened.

The two games against LAC changed the perception of what the Warriors can be.

They were surprisingly competitive in the first game of the two-part baseball-style series. They lost by seven despite Steph only scoring 13 points, and showed flashes of that top-10 defense Steve Kerr is dreaming of.

In the second game, the Warriors played with desperation reminiscent of the Mark Jackson’s underdog squads. They executed like a poor man’s version of the record-breaking 73-win team and weathered a hot shooting night from a contending team (45% from three). Curry, flanked by decent shooters, led a 20-point comeback which turned into a 10-point win. He dropped a dazzling 38 along the way.

Since then, they beat a struggling, but still talented and veteran Raptors team, and lost two close ones to the Pacers and Nuggets.

All this to say that the Warriors were misrepresented in the preseason. Three weeks ago, many declared the Warriors were lottery bound once more. It now feels as if not making the playoffs would be a legitimate disappointment.

The question about Golden State going forward will be about what seed they’ll finish with.

The question we should be asking, however, is what seed they should want to finish with.

The answer is 6th. Here’s why.

It’s Probably Best to Stay Away from the Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers are the best team in the NBA. Their new-and-improved roster boasts their two titans from yesteryear, along with an improved supporting cast filled with talented two-way players. They’re off to an 11-3 start without looking like they’ve needed so much as a water break.

It’s foolish to think they might relinquish their spot atop the West.

It’s accordingly foolish for the Warriors to be in their bracket when the playoffs roll around.

The Lakers are the only team in the West that should scare Golden State. They have two indomitable physical nightmares in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and a plethora of defenders to make Steph work.

If the Warriors finish with the 6th seed, they will play the 3rd seed in the first round, and either the 7th seed or 2nd seed in the conference semifinals should they advance.

Sure, getting through the first two rounds would be somewhat of a shocker in and of itself. And beating the Lakers at any point will take a miracle.

But miracles in the Conference Finals are a lot more fun than miracles in the first round.

This isn’t the Year to Mess Around in the Play-In Tournament

It really isn’t.

Ten squads have a chance at making the postseason this year because of the recently introduced Play-In Tournament. Here’s how it works.

There will be two brackets in both conferences after the season ends. On one side, are the No. 7 and 8 seeds. On the other are the No. 9 and 10 seeds. The winner of a game between the 7 seed and the 8 seed locks in at 7. The remaining team plays the winner of a game between the 9 and 10 seeds. The winner of that game the 8 spot.

Sounds pretty equitable, right?

Wrong.

The West is a warzone.

Fourteen organizations want to make the playoffs. The Thunder are the one that doesn’t and even they are tied with the Warriors at 6-6.

Let’s say the Warriors land the No. 7 seed. There’s a real possibility that the three teams behind them are any combination of the Mavericks, Pelicans, Spurs and Blazers.

While none of them are definitively better than the Warriors, the Dubs also aren’t so much better, if better at all, than any of them that wins are a given. Especially when some of the names involved are Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard.

The Pick

No, no, no not the Minnesota gold coin top-3 protected pick—the other pick.

The Warriors 2021 pick has to fall in the top-20 for them to keep it. Otherwise, it becomes a part of Sam Presti’s first-round treasure trove.

This pick is especially valuable to the Warriors. They are going to be strapped for cash for the foreseeable future, so bolstering their lineup with quality rotational players from the draft is the easiest way to build.

So, why the 6th seed?

Traditionally, it’s really not the best spot to be in if you want your pick to land in the top 20. Only two No. 6 seeds in the last 10 years have actually picked within those bounds. But those two years, 2012 and 2016, were similar to this year in that the Eastern and Western Conferences were similarly competitive (record-wise)—specifically with the No. 5 seeds.

In 2012, The No. 5 seeds in the East and West both finished 40-26, and in 2016, they finished 48-34 and 44-38 respectively.

This year looks like it will shake out similarly. The East is surprisingly deep, which should result in pretty similar win totals across conferences. For example, right now the East’s 5th seed is only a game behind the West’s 5th seed, though it is early.

To put it simply — if the Warriors are the 6th seed, the top five teams in the East have to finish with better records than the them if they want to keep their pick. That seems as likely as ever this year.

Follow us on Twitter @DubsLead for the latest Warriors news and insight. 

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About Matt Cardoza

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