Last night, ESPN insider Tom Haberstroh raised an interesting question: Are the Golden State Warriors better than the Portland Trail Blazers—if healthy? It’s a fair question to ask and a fair question to answer. His answer was yes. I cannot honestly say with 100% confidence that he is wrong, as the Warriors are an impressive ball club and the question is, by nature, unanswerable from an empirical standpoint. I can, however, raise some rebuttals for the sake of discussion.
1) The “if healthy” card is applicable to the Trail Blazers as well. It’s easy to forget that the highest college scorer of the 2013 NBA draft class has been waiting on Portland’s sidelines from day one. CJ McCollum is most definitely a wild card. He has not yet played for the Trail Blazers (though his debut appears imminent), so we cannot yet quantify a “healthy” Portland team.
2) The Warriors aren’t exactly in the same injury boat as the Lakers or the Bulls. Haberstroh focused on the availability of Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Andrew Bogut. Curry has missed just three games, and Bogut only one. While Iguodala did miss 12 games, he was only absent for 7 of the Warriors 13 losses. Saying that the Warriors are 15-3 with all three of these players active is true, but it holds the Warriors entirely unaccountable for nearly half of their season thus far.
3) The Trail Blazers defeated the Warriors in Oracle on November 23rd. Portland trailed substantially in the third quarter, and even lost Wesley Matthews and Mo Williams to ejection after the infamous brawl. The only Warrior to be ousted after the altercation was bench pawn Draymond Green. The absence of Iguodala that day was more than balanced by the loss of Williams and Matthews, yet the Trail Blazers beat the Warriors on their own turf 113-101.
I’m not going to say that “if healthy” Portland is the better team, because we have no way of knowing at this juncture. The Trail Blazers and Warriors have faced different adversities and cannot be compared in such a broad, hypothetical capacity. Haberstroh knows this as well as you or I do, so the speculation is welcome. Feel free to read the portion of his piece that is publicly available and offer your own opinion and reasoning on the matter in the comment section below. Who do you think is the better team if healthy?