The Wizards play the Warriors on Wednesday in a nationally televised game.. As you know, they're the defending champions, have the best point guard in the NBA, and are entering this game with a 44-4 record. They're on pace to beat the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72 regular season wins.
To kick things off before our more traditional preview's up, I talked to Nate Parham at SB Nation's Golden State of Mind.
Like most other opposing team bloggers we do Q&A's with, Nate isn't a D.C. native. However, he is familiar with the basketball scene around our neck of the woods.
During his college years, Nate went to American University for college. He also lived in Baltimore for a bit after graduation. We also go way back in time -- at least for SB Nation world standards -- since Nate founded Swish Appeal, SB Nation's general women's basketball site, where I also have contributed.
So, with all of that said, our conversation is below.
Albert: Draymond Green was named an All-Star this year. He hasn't been the most flashy player like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, yet he is the Warriors' leading rebounder and assister. Green has been known as a do-it-all forward even during his college days at Michigan State, but what has allowed him to flourish the way he has this season?
Nate: My man Apricot has written about this a number of times and I don't think there's one simple answer to that question.
First, Curry has been absolutely ridiculous this season, which has opened up space for everyone.
Second, Green has been given the ball in 4-on-3 situations when Curry is trapped, which allows him to be a playmaker far more often in half court situations.
Third, Green has continued his improvement from beyond the arc, which has made him an even more efficient scorer (career-high 58% TS).
Fourth, and perhaps more important, the Warriors have just played their small ball lineup more often this year and Draymond thrives when they push the tempo with him at 5, so that has definitely helped him a bit.
Overall, he's just a worker, he's taken advantage of every opportunity he has been given and as the team continues to learn Steve Kerr's offense (with Kerr actually coaching) I imagine we'll see Green get even better.
Albert: Warriors assistant Luke Walton was the team's interim head coach for most of the team's games this season including their franchise-record 23-0 start. What qualities in Walton do see that he brings to the table that are different from Steve Kerr, and what type of an NBA team (besides GSW) do you think he is a good fit for as a head coach?
Nate: I always felt that Walton gave them a little bit more freedom to do their thing (within the offense, of course), which can be good and bad. On the one hand, there were certainly times when this team gets carried away with just how good they are and starts to test the limits of their abilities - Walton sort of let that go, Kerr came out on Sunday in New York and broke a clipboard due to their poor play.
Walton didn't call timeouts as much and might have had too much faith in the bench. On the other hand, I think the way he approaches things as maybe a bit more of a players' coach gave this team more confidence than they've ever had.
As for what type of team he'd be good with, I'd love to see him with a young team that he can grow with and install a system from the ground up. The fact that he did so well in Kerr's absence speaks volumes about his offensive acumen and I'd love to see what he can do with a young team.
Obviously, some Cali fans are pointing to L.A. as the next destination and I certainly think that's interesting...if they can keep their pick and give him another young talent.
Albert: The Warriors' ascendance to the NBA elite has been remarkable, especially since none of their core homegrown players (Curry, Thompson, Green) were Top-3 draft picks. I think we all expected Curry to be a great shooter when he was drafted, but not an NBA MVP. What has been the key for the Warriors' success with drafting and developing their players over the last several years?
Nate: That's an interesting question because I actually think you have to look to the 2012 draft to really get a sense of that. The thing they talked about a lot after that draft was that they wanted hard workers who were committed to winning.
It sounds so trite, but when you look at Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Green it's impossible not to see that as the common thread. None of them were considered championship prospects (Barnes had mixed reviews as a prospect), but you can see now they all fit in this system and everyone has had an amazing work ethic - like not just lip service, but these guys have really been tireless workers.
Overall, though, I think picking a person they wanted to build around, having a vision for what kind of style they want to play and how to help him succeed, and then finding players that complement each other well has been the key. They didn't go for gimmicky athletes but really did a phenomenal job of identifying players whose strengths and weaknesses fit nicely within their system.
TL;DR: Jerry West.
Albert: SB Nation's Paul Flannery wrote last Sunday that the Warriors' biggest enemies are themselves considering that they bounced back in epic fashion from a rare bad loss to the Detroit Pistons on January 16. In that piece, Flannery also gave a quote that Kerr gave in regard to "human nature games" when a team just has a natural lull at some points.
Is Wednesday's game against Washington a potential "human nature game?" After the Washington road game, the Warriors head back home to play the Thunder and Rockets before another grueling seven-game road trip?
Nate: It's so hard to say. Three of their losses were predictable because players were missing and they were on the road. The only real human nature loss we have is Detroit.
If anything, I'd probably expect a slow start because this is an opponent they *should* beat - not meaning to insult your squad, but facts are facts. I don't know if you watched the Knicks game on Sunday, but the Dubs came out looking awful. The Brooklyn Nets blitzed them in the first half at home before losing in OT. You really just don't know. Having two days of rest might help, but who knows. I think Flannery is right: they beat themselves. Otherwise, you need length on the perimeter to bother their shooters, a big to challenge them on the boards, and a bit of luck.
Albert: Last question that we're all thinking about: Do the Warriors win more than 72 games this regular season?
Nate: I hate to cop out...but I'll be in much better position to answer after their seven-game road trip. There are actually two non-trivial reasons for that.
First, they haven't played Kevin Durant and the Thunder yet. OKC comes to town next Wednesday and then they see them again during that road trip.
Second, no team in history has made it through a seven-game roadie undefeated...but I firmly believe that had they not gone to Milwaukee on the back end of a back to back after a double OT in Boston without two starters that they would've made it through that trip unscathed.
So...if they can get through this upcoming road trip undefeated and win the few games prior...they have something like 17 of their last 23 games at home. Given their performance so far, I don't see them losing 6 in 23 (if they're healthy). But I'm just not willing to commit to that yet because they have a real tough stretch coming up.
Golden State of Mind also has a Q&A where I answer some questions he had about the Wizards. Click here to check it out.