The 2015-16 Warriors and the 1995-96 Bulls: A Statistical Look at Two of the Best Teams in NBA History

In the 1995-1996 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls won 72 of their 82 games, a record which has been understood as virtually untouchable. Led by Michael Jordan, who scored over 30 points per game and Dennis Rodman, who averaged an outlandish 15.5 rebounds per game, their 72-10 season was thought as being a record that would stand the test of time. However, at the halfway point of the 2015-2016 season, the Golden State Warriors seem to be within grasp of this historic record. Led by sensational shooter, Steph Curry, the Warriors sit at 53-5 overall, 13-0 in their division and 24-0 at home. For the first time since the Bulls originally set the record, people are now legitimately asking: can it be beat?

I argue yes, it can be beat. So long as no major injuries occur for the Warriors, they will surpass the 72-game season win-record. Plain and simple, the Warriors are a better team than the Bulls were. This can be seen through team statistics as well as the breakdown of the distribution of individual statistics.

As a team, both are structured similarly in having a wide distribution of scoring led by two key-players who fill up the stat sheet: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for the Bulls and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson for the Warriors. Curry averages just over 30 points per-game, with Thompson right around 20. Additionally, both teams utilize their whole bench and collectively produce at the highest level of efficiency, shooting above .475 from the field and above .400 from three-point range. However, the Warriors are even more efficient than the Bulls were. Golden State shoots the ball at .488 from the field and .420 from three, while Chicago shot it at .478 from the field and .403 from deep. The Bulls averaged 104.1 points per game, the Warriors average 115.4. The Warriors also average  two more rebounds, five more assists and two more blocks per-game.

Looking across teams, rebounds and assists are fairly equivalent, with each team having four players that average five or more rebounds and three players that average three or more assists. The greatest differences arise in the breakdown of the teams’ scoring. Chicago only had one player averaging over 20 points (Jordan), while the Warriors have two (Curry and Thompson). Overall, the Bulls had six players averaging six or more points, while the Warriors have nine. Another notable difference occurs at the individual level, looking at how Curry compares to Jordan.

Both Steph and Michael are phenomenal, however, I argue that Curry produces even greater numbers than Jordan. Steph is averaging 30.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game, while Jordan averaged 30.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Arguments could be made that either player is performing at a higher level depending on the weight one gives to each category. However, I believe that Curry’s play is superior because of his increased shooting efficiency and numbers per minute ratio. While Jordan shot an incredible .495 from the field, .427 from deep and .834 from the line, Curry is even better. He is shooting .515 from the field, .468 from deep, and .910 from the line. Even more impressively, he is producing roughly the same numbers (at even better percentages) while playing almost four minutes less per game. Jordan averaged 37.7 minutes of playing time, while Curry only plays 33.9.

As February comes to a close, the Warriors sit at 53-5 overall. Looking back to the Bulls’ season, they suffered their fifth loss at the beginning of the month, February 6. The Bulls went into the month of March at 51-6, two less wins and one more loss than where the Warriors currently are in the standings.

Leading the Warriors to the promise land, head coach Steve Kerr actually was a member of the Bulls during their historic season, where he was the fifth highest scoring player on the team, at 8.4 points per game. I hope no serious injuries occur for the remainder of the Warriors’ season because I truly believe that their high-scoring, high-efficiency offense, led by Steph Curry, will stay on pace and beat the Bulls’ historic record. Curry is virtually unguardable. Thompson is his right hand man, dually named as a “Splash Brother.” Their role players are the best in the game at helping fill the stat sheet and producing highly skilled and carefully executed offense. It only seems fair the team which beats the 72 game record be the product of Kerr’s great coaching, a key player of the original ‘95-’96 Bulls.