The 2007 "We Believe" playoff run by the Golden State Warriors will always hold a special place in the hearts of diehard fans. All the pain and agony fans endured for the previous 13 years was seemingly forgotten as the Don Nelson-led Warriors pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NBA history, defeating the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in six games.
What followed that historic run was more losing seasons, more heartache for the fans and a return to NBA irrelevance.
After new ownership and management took the reins of the team, they cleaned up a few of the mistakes that Golden State's old regime left behind. Slowly but surely, they trimmed the fat and built a playoff-caliber team in 2012-13.
Of course, plenty of teams have playoff-caliber teams. Actually getting them to the dance is a completely different challenge.
Head coach Mark Jackson embraced that challenge and even took a few more challenges along the way—losing Brandon Rush early in the season, having to deal with Andrew Bogut constantly shuffling in and out of the lineup—and propelled this team to a No. 6 seed and a playoff berth.
The Warriors have only made the playoffs twice in the past 19 years, which magnifies the postseason appearances of the 2007 team and the 2013 team exponentially. Thinking about the two teams poses an interesting and fun question—which of the two teams is better?
With the two teams being so different, it's a tough question to answer, so let's break it down by some of the most important aspects of both teams to see if we can come up with a quantifiable answer.
Point guard: Stephen Curry vs. Baron Davis
When the 2007 playoffs rolled around, Baron Davis went to another place both mentally and basketball-wise. He was straight-up dominant in the Mavericks series, posting averages of 25 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 5.7 APG, and in the process, he reintroduced himself to the NBA world.
Although the Warriors went on to lose to the Utah Jazz in the second round of the playoffs, Davis proved that not only was he the best player on that team, but he was one of the best players in the league.
Oh yeah, and he sort of ruined Andrei Kirilenko's life while also showing everyone that playing with a back brace is one of the coolest things known to man:
If the 2013 Warriors were to have any type of success in the first round of the playoffs against the Nuggets, Stephen Curry would have to summon a little bit of his 2008 Davidson-NCAA-tournament self. That proved especially true once it was determined that David Lee would miss the series with a torn hip flexor.
Curry found a way to conjure the spirit of the 2008 version of himself and left the Nuggets scratching their heads, wondering how on earth they could slow him down. Six games later and a 24.3 PPG and 9.3 APG average—as well as a scintillating performance from three-point land—and the Baby-Faced Assassin helped the Warriors take down the third-seeded Nuggets.
Curry or Davis?
Both were the stars and leaders of their respective teams, but this one has to go to Curry. Although the rest of his postseason has yet to be determined, what he has done to this point for the Warriors has been nothing short of incredible.
To lead this team with three rookies playing integral roles and keeping the team afloat despite losing their No. 2 scorer is almost unheard of. Although Baron's playoff performance was unforgettable, he did have a good amount of help surrounding him. And while that may be unfair to hold against him, it cannot be ignored.
Starting Five: 2007 (Davis, Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis/Matt Barnes, Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins) vs. 2013 (Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Lee/Festus Ezeli/Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut)
These were two vastly different lineups. However, one similarity between the two teams' starting lineups is that there wasn't exactly a set five for the entirety of a series. Don Nelson loved to mix and match his lineup based on what the opposing coach was throwing out there, while Mark Jackson has had to piece together a starter at the power forward position in light of David Lee's injury.
The 2007 team's lineup was a constant threat on offense, with four guys who could stretch the floor and shoot combined with a mobile and energetic big man in Biedrins (remember those days?). Defensively, however, is where the team was constantly exposed, and that was its downfall against Utah in Round 2.
2013 brings more of a "conventional" lineup by basketball standards. Again, without Lee as a starter, this unit isn't exactly whole, but his replacements (Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green) provide more stability on the defensive side of the ball, while Curry, Thompson, Barnes and Bogut keep the offense flowing.
2007 starters or 2013 starters?
I'd have to go with 2013, simply based on the fact that they play much better defense than the "We Believe" team. While they aren't exactly the biggest and baddest defensive team on the block, it's been above-average, and with the offensive firepower it possesses, that's more than enough to put this team in a position to succeed.
Radio host Damon Bruce also brought up an interesting point that this 2013 team is "all born and bred Warrior" versus the 2007 team—which was a team off "castoffs."
Even if this current version of the Warriors suffers the same fate as Baron Davis and co., their potential to grow and become more than just a one-hit wonder is reason enough to give them an edge when doing a comparison.
Coach: Don Nelson vs. Mark Jackson
In Don Nelson's second stint with the Warriors, he figured out a way to sneak them into the playoffs and then upset a 67-win Mavericks team in the first round. He seemingly pushed all the right buttons. His matchups caused all sorts of chaos on Dallas' end, and then-coach Avery Johnson just couldn't make the proper adjustments to Nellie's unorthodox methods.
Mark Jackson's first playoff trip as a head coach didn't get off to the hottest of starts. He lost his second-leading scorer about three quarters in to Game 1 (and subsequently for the rest of the series), and then went on to lose that game in heartbreaking fashion—thanks to Andre Miller defying age, athleticism and logic.
Those two losses might have shaken any other first-time playoff coach but not Jackson. Despite the deck stacked against him, he's still figuring out ways to keep his team believing that it can win. Considering the team and head coach on the opposite end of the sideline, that's not an easy thing to do.
Nelson or Jackson?
While the former point guard doesn't have the longevity that Nelson enjoyed in his career, Jackson has done a better job coaching in the playoffs so far. While he's shown a little bit of inexperience in the series against the Spurs, getting the team to this point has been no easy task.
His ability to motivate and instill confidence in his players cannot be understated. The Warriors could've easily hung their heads and folded after the demoralizing loss in Game 1 against Denver, but they didn't, and the same goes for Game 1 against San Antonio. The fact that the Warriors firmly believe they can hang with high-caliber teams like these is a big factor in their playoff run.
Taking into account the above criteria, it seems that on paper, this current version of the Golden State Warriors is the better of the two. With a more traditional lineup taking the floor and an actual presence of defense and stability, 2013 stands out as the superior Golden State team.
After doing my own analysis and comparison, I decided to take to the streets—or in this case, the Oracle Arena concourse—and see who some of the fans thought is the better team.
No matter if you believe this current team is better or the 2007 one, they both defied the odds, proved a ton of people wrong and are beloved by every fan who worships Warriors basketball.
So whether you're "Team 'We Believe'" or "Team 'We Belong,'" I'm sure both sides can agree that it feels good to utter the words "Warriors" and "playoffs" in the same sentence again.
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