Steph Curry, Warriors just embarrassed model that predicted near 0 chance at GSW title
It’s easy to brand the Golden State Warriors as such an obvious contender to the title this year. Hindsight is 20-20 after all. But the reality is that there were a handful of voices that cast doubt on the legitimacy of their threat to take the Larry O’Brien trophy home before the 2021-22 season began.
There were a few talking heads here and there who spoke out on Golden State’s title window rapidly closing. Charles Barkley declared it completely shut two seasons ago when Klay Thompson claimed he wouldn’t rush back from injury given that they still had “five or six years” left of contention in them.
“Number one, I hope you get back [on the court] soon but you’re wrong. I think the [Warriors title] window is shut. I don’t think they can score enough,” Barkley told the Warriors guard back in 2019.
Charles Barkley straight up tells Klay Thompson to his face that the Warriors championship window is "shut" and that the Warriors won't make the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/k6D6VAfFny
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 25, 2019
Chuck may not be the best at dropping predictions given his spotty track record, but his take represents a not-too-uncommon sentiment that the Warriors may have had their best years behind them before this season.
But it’s a different story when a statistical projection made by a few analytical basketball minds dubs you unworthy of even sniffing the the NBA playoffs. But that’s what the vaunted FiveThirtyEight model projected as the Warriors’ fate this season before opening tip.
FiveThirtyEight gave the Warriors just a 22% chance to make the playoffs – a full 12 percentage points lower than the next highest on the list in the Washington Wizards. They also gave Steph and co. just a 0.5% chance to reach the NBA Finals, putting it at one in 200 odds for them to do it, and 0.1% chance to actually win the damn thing – one in a thousand.
The explanation behind the model supposedly comes with a Dr. Strange-esque process of running 50,000 simulations:
These forecasts are based on 50,000 simulations of the rest of the season. Our player-based RAPTOR forecast doesn’t account for wins and losses; it is based entirely on our NBA player projections, which estimate each player’s future performance based on the trajectory of similar NBA players. These are combined with up-to-date depth charts — tracking injuries, trades and other player transactions — to generate talent estimates for each team. A team’s full-strength rating assumes all of its key players are in the lineup. A team’s current rating reflects any injuries and rest days in effect at the moment of the team’s next game. Elo ratings — which power the pure Elo forecast — are a measure of team strength based on head-to-head results, margin of victory and quality of opponent.
Well, so much for that. This wasn’t an Avengers: Endgame scenario wherein the Warriors needed everything to go perfectly right in order to secure the championship. Stephen Curry and the Dubs, at their best, more closely resembled Thanos. Inevitable.
"It's nice to bring ole' Larry back home where he belongs. Like Draymond said, 'it's the Warriors invitational. We back."
🗣 Steph Currypic.twitter.com/VsLHWXSXAM
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 18, 2022
The Golden State Warriors simply asserted their will on the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, particularly in the last three contests of the series. Stephen Curry looked like a man comfortable underneath the brightest lights and his opponents simply did not.
Most stat-based projections had the Boston Celtics as title favorites for months leading up to the playoffs given their NBA-best defense bolstered by the Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart alongside dynamic scoring wings in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
The same FiveThirtyEight had the Celtics with a 32% chance of winning the NBA Finals right before the playoffs, with the Warriors, who owned a better record in an arguably easier conference to come out of, with just a longshot 8% chance.
Curry and the Warriors are no stranger to shattering expectations. That’s what their entire foundation is built upon – Stephen Curry projected to be nothing more than a streaky above average scorer. Their reliance on the three-point shot was supposed to just be a gimmick that stops working once defenses lock in during the playoffs.
Instead, GSW drowned out all the noise and turned themselves into the NBA’s next great dynasty. Skeptics had already cast a great cloud of doubt on Golden State in the past only to be proven wrong.
After witnessing the Warriors go through what feels like the perfect rebuild en route to yet another title, doubting Stephen Curry and the Warriors needs to be done at your own peril.