On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins dropped on amazing profile of LeBron James' journey through the 2016 NBA Finals and Cleveland's dramatic upset of what some at the time believed to be the greatest basketball team ever assembled, the Golden State Warriors. With the Cavaliers on the precipice of defeat after Game 4, head coach Tyronn Lue chose not to show game footage of their seemingly invincible opponent: "Our guys were tired of seeing Golden State, hearing about Golden State."
Well, if the Cavs—not to mention the rest of the league—were tired of Golden State before, one tidbit toward the end of Jenkins' piece will almost certainly add fuel to the fire:
"One NBA front office ran simulations, based on player values, for the upcoming season. Cleveland came out with 64 wins, second best in the league. Golden State came out with 83, better than undefeated. They broke the system."
That's right, folks, at least one statistical model has the Warriors winning 83 games. Unless there have been some secret changes made to the NBA schedule, that is literally impossible in an 82-game season. As far as regular-season records go, 83-(-1) is the equivalent of dividing by zero. Then again, maybe Kevin Garnett was right after all.
Consider this, as well: As great as the 2015-16 team was in the regular season, they only finished six games higher than the San Antonio Spurs. This model predicts Golden State to finish 19 games better than the second-best team in basketball. That...that would really be something.
But we shouldn't necessarily laugh at these projections. NBA teams employ some of the top minds in their fields to create these models. In all likelihood, the model worked well for them, at least until the Warriors came along.
Welcome to the brave new world of Bay Area basketball, where last season's 73-win team swapped out Harrison Barnes for Kevin Durant and laid waste to the laws of the NBA universe. Not only are opposing coaches and general managers racking their brains trying to think of ways to compete; front office math nerds are running out of useful algorithms to predict the threat emanating from Golden State. It is, to quote famed scientist Dan Akroyd, "real wrath-of-God-type stuff."
Now does this mean the 2016-17 Warriors are going to challenge for 73 wins? Maybe, maybe not. But the talent is there to steamroll the entire NBA, perhaps on a scale we've never before seen.