Steph Curry

Why Strat-O-Matic picks 2014-15 Warriors as ‘Settle the Argument' champions

NBC Universal, Inc.

Picking a favorite Steph Curry-era NBA championship team must feel like an impossible decision to some Warriors fans. There’s nothing like the first celebration, the second was the most dominant, repeats are rare, and the fourth ring was the dynasty’s greatest triumph.

Numbers don’t lie, though. The 2016-17 champions were by far the most dominant of the bunch. Kevin Durant’s first Warriors season was a 48-minute highlight reel in Oakland, as the team boat-raced the rest of the NBA.

The Warriors essentially swapped Harrison Barnes for Durant and won 67 regular-season games, tied for their most in any championship season. Three players -- Curry, Durant and Klay Thompson -- averaged at least 22 points per game, and the team had four All-Stars and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Draymond Green. The regular season was a cakewalk, as were the playoffs.

Golden State swept its first-round opponent, swept its second-round opponent, swept its third-round opponent, and had a gentleman's sweep of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017 NBA Finals.

Still, the computers don’t see 2016-17 as the Warriors’ greatest group, even if the fans might in NBC Sports Bay Area's "Settle the Argument" series, which pits the four recent champs against each in a four-team tournament. In fact, a Strat-O-Matic simulation has those Warriors falling to the next season's squad in six games in the first round.

To be fair, the 2017-18 champions undoubtedly were a great team. Curry and Durant each averaged 26.4 points on nearly 50/40/90 shooting, and the Warriors again had four All-Stars. Durant won his second consecutive Finals MVP, again beating LeBron’s Cavs, but the Warriors won nine fewer regular-season games and trailed the Houston Rockets 3-2 in the conference finals before rallying. It wasn't the cakewalk of the previous season.

Strat-O-Matic also has the 2014-15 champions taking down the 2021-22 team in just five games, setting up a matchup of 2014-15 against 2017-18 in the championship series. There must be something about the original champs, which were the first Warriors team to win it all in 40 years. The computer again went with 2014-15, this time beating 2017-18 in six games.

The 2014-15 Warriors were the first with coach Steve Kerr at the helm, and Curry won his first of back-to-back NBA MVPs that season. They also won 67 regular-season games -- the same as the 2017-18 Warriors -- but people still fault them for beating a Cavs team that had Kyrie Irving play one game in the Finals and didn’t have Kevin Love at all.

While the 2017-18 Warriors had the better offensive rating, the 2014-15 team was the better of the two in defensive rating and net rating. But the 2017-18 team also had Durant. Yet, Strat-O-Matic has 2014-15 bettering 2017-18 for a handful of reasons.

Starting in Game 1 of the series, the 2014-15 versions of Curry (35 points) and Thompson (36) combined to score 71 points. The 2017-18 versions of Thompson (44 points) and Durant (27 points) also combined for 71 points, but the 2014-15 team went on a 21-7 run in the third quarter and maintained a double-digit lead until the final two minutes.

Then in Game 2, Strat-O-Matic had 2017-18 tying up the series before the 2014-15 champions won two in a row to put the 2017-18 Warriors on the verge of elimination. Big performances by 2017-18 Curry and Durant kept them alive in a Game 5 win. But Game 6 was a 14-point win by 2014-15, the largest point differential of the series.

Kerr’s first championship team, according to the Strat-O-Matic simulation, used its balanced attack of five players scoring in double figures, led by 25 from Klay and 23 by Steph, to hold bragging rights forever. Even if you side with one of the other three champions, admit it, you’ll never forget Curry firing the ball into the air as the 2014-15 Warriors began celebrating in Cleveland.

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