We can admit it: The Golden State Warriors had us fooled. Or, to be more accurate, the Warriors got much better, much faster than any analytical system could have foreseen. Barring the kind of franchise-changing transactions that can reverse the fortunes of a team one way or another, projection models generally see teams moving up and down the success ladder a rung or two at a time. Under coach Mark Jackson, the Warriors have skipped to the top step, and no opponent will be happy to see them come playoff time.
Golden's State's improvement has been dizzying. The Warriors went 23-43 during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season, which, to put it into perspective, ended less than two years ago. However, it was worse than that -- Golden State was 18-21 when it shipped Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to the Milwaukee Bucks for oft-injured center Andrew Bogut. The trade moved Klay Thompson into the Warriors' lineup, but Stephen Curry was injured and missed the rest of that season with ankle problems that were beginning to seem chronic. After the trade, Bogut sat the remainder of yet another injury-marred campaign. With a short roster, Jackson's first team dropped 22 of its final 27 games.
Since then, the Warriors added Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green through the draft, and Andre Iguodala through free agency. Curry has gone from an injury risk to an MVP candidate. Thompson has emerged as one of the most feared shooters in the league. Bogut has stayed healthy and become a fixture in the lineup and the anchor of an ascending defense. With Golden State riding a 13-2 stretch in the past 26 days, is it time to altogether forget what the projections told us before the season?