There's something awfully familiar about the brand of basketball those Golden State Warriors have been playing this season.
An MVP-caliber point guard with nifty passing? A host of deadly 3-point shooters? A high-octane offense that consistently runs opposing teams out of the gym?
Huh. Sounds a bit like the Phoenix Suns from 2004-2010, doesn't it? It should, because that's essentially what this year's Golden State Warriors are: a reincarnation of the Phoenix Suns of yore.
Take a gander at some of the offensive team stats from the 2009-2010 Suns and the 2014-2015 Warriors:
2009-2010 Suns: 110 PPG (1st) 49.2 FG% (1st) 41.2 3P% (1st) 112.7 OffRtg (1st) 54.6 eFG% (1st)
2014-2015 Warriors: 110 PPG (1st), 47.8 FG% (1st), 39.8 3P% (1st), 109.7 OffRtg (2nd) 54% eFG% (1st)
Come on, how freaky is that? Both teams ran a blistering, non-stop offense, and they both clearly got great results from it. It's hard to believe, but the Warriors 20.9 fast break points per game were more than any Suns team in the 2004-2010 era averaged (18.5 in 2004-2005 was their highest mark).
The similarities don't stop at the numbers. The players may be different, except in one case (MEEP MEEP), but they are filling in the same roles that the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns players filled.
Stephen Curry = Steve Nash
The Warriors are led by the slippery Steph Curry. Curry really is more or less the second coming of Steve Nash. He operates a bit differently than the Canadian Kid did as a point guard, but Curry's 2014-2015 regular season numbers are not too far off from Nash's 2005-2006 MVP campaign.
2005-2006 Nash: 18.8 PPG, 10.5 APG, 4.2 RPG, 51 FG%, 44 3P%, 58 eFG%, 92 FT%, 35.4 MPG
2014-2015 Curry: 23.8 PPG, 7.7 APG, 4.3 RPG, 49 FG%, 44 3P%, 59 eFG%, 91 FT%, 32.7 MPG
Now, Curry is more of a scorer than Nash, and he isn't quite the distributor that Two Time was, but those shooting numbers are eerily similar. Certainly, you remember how good of a shooter Nash was at his acme. Imagine that, except Curry shot almost TWICE as many threes (Nash shot 4.3 3s per game that year; Curry hoisted up 8.1 treys this year). And Steph Curry is a pesky defender, too. He might very well be a better overall player than Nash was. Either way, both the SSOL Suns and 2014-2015 Warriors were led by sensational, MVP-level point guards.
The rest of the crew
Curry has an excellent running partner in Klay Thompson. Thompson is probably a more talented wing than any of the two guards Nash played with, but you could say he's a bit of a mix of 05-06 Raja Bell and 2009-2010 Jason Richardson. He is a natural scorer like Richardson, but he's got the long-range shooting (46 FG%, 44 3P%) and defense of Bell. Joe Johnson is also a good analogy, but again, Thompson is a better defender.
And then the Warriors have two versatile forwards in Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. Both of these guys can guard multiple positions, allow the Warriors to play small ball, and best contribute on offense by moving without the ball. They're different players, but that sounds a bit like what Shawn Marion and Grant Hill did for the Suns, doesn't it?
There are even some familiar faces, too. Steve Kerr, GM of the Suns from 2007-2010; Steve Kerr, current head coach of the Warriors. Leandro Barbosa's role, as it was in his heyday in Phoenix, is to be a spark plug off of the bench. Last but not least? Alvin Gentry, Suns assistant coach from 2003-2009 and head coach of that 2009-2010 Western Conference Finalist team, is the offensive coordinator and assistant coach of the 2014-2015 Warriors. Coincidence? I THINK NOT. There's a reason why the offensive numbers are so closely similar between the Warriors and the 09-10 Suns.
There are tons of little comparisons to make between the 2004-2010 Suns and the current iteration of the Warriors. But you might also notice that some of the key components of each team do not match up.
The Suns used a paint-dominant and defensively limited power forward in Amar'e Stoudemire. The Warriors, on the other hand, have Green, who spaces the floor and contributes on the defensive end in a major way.
And there's that brute of a rim protector the Warriors have in Andrew Bogut. Bogut anchors the prodding defense of the Warriors, allowing Curry, Thomas, Iggy, and Green to make riskier plays. The Suns defensive anchors were 6'9 Kurt Thomas and a 36 year-old Shaquille O'Neal.
These differences are ultimately what will make these Golden State Warriors better equipped for a title run than the Suns ever were. Green gives the Warriors more flexibility on offense and defense than what Stoudemire gave the Suns. Of course, STAT was great for the Suns. But the Suns may have been better off with a player like Green (see: David Lee is Stoudemire's closest comparison on the Warriors. He's the highest paid player on the team, and he didn't even see the floor in the first round. Granted, he's been dealing with a back injury, but his minutes are wayyy down this season. Green is just a better fit for the system).
It's impossible to say for sure if the Suns would have been a better team with a player like Green over Stoudemire, but they certainly would have been better off putting more emphasis on defense. Bogut is what makes the Warriors an elite defensive team; something the Suns never even sniffed. It does make you wonder if Steve Kerr was onto something when he traded for Shaq, though. Just a slightly fresher Shaq may have pushed those Suns teams over the hump. Maybe Kerr wanted the SSOL Suns to look more like what the 2014-2015 Warriors turned out to be.
The Warriors won five more games than the 2004-2005 Suns, the most successful Suns regular season team of the era. Those five extra wins are a result of a league best 101.4 DefRtg from the Warriors. A top two offense and a league best defense equated to an average margin of victory of 10.10 points for the Warriors. The best MOV mark for the Suns was 7.3 in 2006-2007. These Warriors are onto something the Suns never quite figured out.
Phoenix Suns fans should look at this Golden State team and feel proud. It is the natural progression of the SSOL Suns teams. It's clear that Steve Kerr learned from the woes of the 2004-2010 Phoenix teams. He realized a blistering offense alone wasn't going to cut it; the defense needed to be just as much as a priority as the offense.
The Suns revolutionized the league with the way they played offense. The Warriors are playing the same fast-paced, fast breaking, 3-point heavy offense the Suns played. They've just figured out how to play the rest of the game. But at least we get to see the legacy of the SSOL Suns revitalized in the 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors.