With 1,330 career wins, Warriors coach Don Nelson is only two wins away from tying the NBA’s all-time record for wins and three wins from breaking the record. The current owner of the record, Lenny Wilkens, had a career record of 1,332 wins and 1,155 losses (.536 winning percentage).
Nelson’s current record stands at 1,330-1,059, a winning percentage of .557. Nelson’s career winning percentage isn’t on par with some of the other great coaches in NBA history, but that means nothing. Nelson is one of the greatest NBA coaches ever and deserves to be celebrated for an incredible accomplishment. Among coaches with more than 900 wins, Phil Jackson, at .705, has the highest winning percentage. Other notable coaches include Red Auerbach (.662), Pat Riley (.636) and Jerry Sloan (.602). Before the past two seasons with the Warriors, which has negatively impacted Nelson’s resume, the legendary coach’s career winning percentage was .573 — not that far off from his most successful peers.
The Warriors have nine games remaining this season. If they continue to play at the level they have during the season (a winning percentage of .288), the team will win exactly 2.6 games. We’ll round up and figure that before this season is over, Nelson will own the prestigious record. Here’s a look at the Warriors’ remaining games:
Tonight, at Utah: The chances aren’t good here. Utah is tied for second in the West with 49 wins and beat the Warriors, 100-89, on Feb. 19, the only meeting between the two teams this season. In that game, the Jazz used a 31-10 second quarter to beat the Warriors in a game that was not as close as the final score. Prediction: Loss.
Friday, April 2, vs. New York Knicks: This is the first of five games in a row in which the Warriors will have the best chance of winning. The Knicks have a better record than the Warriors (26-47 vs. 21-52) but this game is at Oracle Arena, which should give the Warriors an advantage. The Knicks are only 10-25 on the road; the Warriors are 16-22 at home. The Warriors beat the Knicks 121-107 back on Nov. 13. In that game, the Warriors had Stephen Jackson and Kelenna Azubuike in the starting lineup and Stephen Curry played about two minutes off the bench. Obviously, times have changed, but I still like the Warriors in this game. Prediction: Win.
Sunday, April 4, at Toronto Raptors: This is probably a loss. The Raptors are a playoff team in the East, have a better record than the Warriors (36-37), and are playing at home, where their record is 23-13. Considering the Warriors’ 5-30 road record, it’s tough to predict a win here. The Warriors did beat the Raptors 124-112 on March 13 behind 66 points from Monta Ellis and Curry, but that was at Oracle Arena. Home court gives the Raptors the advantage here. Prediction: Loss.
Tuesday, April 6, at Washington Wizards: Let’s see. The Wizards traded away most of their talent at the trade deadline and have lost 16 in a row. Their record (21-52) is identical to the Warriors, but the Wizards have the look of a team that has completely quit on the season, while the Warriors are still playing hard. The Wizards beat the Warriors earlier in the season, but that was a completely different team, so the result is not relevant to this conversation. This contest has an interesting subplot, because the loser of this game will probably earn a better spot in the lottery sweepstakes. But tanking is not an option. You play out the season to the end and leave your lottery chances to fate. I think this is the game in which Nelson ties the record. Prediction: Win.
Wednesday, April 7, at Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves have 14 wins and like the Wizards, have lost 16 in a row. Even though this game is on the road, it’s not really an advantage for Minnesota; the T’Wolves are putrid at home, too (9-27). This game is a must-win if Nelson wants the record. From here on out, the schedule becomes significantly more difficult. If Nelson doesn’t have the record by the end of this game, I don’t think he’ll get it. The Warriors are 2-0 against Minnesota this season; I don’t see the Timberwolves reversing that trend in this game. Prediction: Win.
Saturday, April 10, at Los Angeles Clippers: Like I said, I think the Warriors have to secure the record for Nelson by the Minnesota game, or the likelihood of it happening reduces drastically. This is the last game of a four-game road trip and I don’t see the Warriors beating the Clippers on the road. The Clippers aren’t bad at home (19-17) and like we mentioned before, the Warriors are bad on the road (only five wins). The Warriors are 2-1 against the Clippers this season, including a 121-103 win in Los Angeles on Sunday. But because it’s the last game of a road trip and the last defeat against the Warriors is still fresh on their minds, I like the Clippers in this one. Prediction: Loss.
Sunday, April 11, vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: The Warriors are back home for this game, but the Thunder are a very tough opponent. I don’t foresee a win here. The Thunder (45-28) are a surprisingly good road team (21-15) and have Kevin Durant, who has averaged 34 points in three wins against the Warriors already this season. Plus, considering the playoff race in the West, the Thunder will still be playing for something. Prediction: Loss.
Tuesday, April 13, vs. Utah Jazz: Again, the Warriors don’t match up well with the Jazz. I think the deciding factor in this game, like with the Thunder, is that the Jazz will probably still be playing for playoff seeding. The best chance Golden State had here was if the superior Jazz were resting their starters. I don’t see that happening, so I don’t see a win happening either. Prediction: Loss.
Wednesday, April 14, at Portland Trail Blazers: Maybe … maybe if this game was at Oracle Arena, I could predict a small chance at a win. The Warriors have been trouble to the Blazers in Oakland. But this game is at the Rose Garden and like with the previous two games, the Blazers will probably still be playing for something. Brandon Roy has proven in the past two games between the two teams (both Portland wins) that the Warriors don’t have a player who can guard him and the Blazers are too big and physical for the Warriors. Prediction: Loss.
I think if Nelson is to earn the record, it will have to come on that four-game road trip. It gives us something to watch to close out this forgettable season. I do think Nelson gets the record. My prediction stands: Nelson will become the NBA’s all-time leader in career wins on April 7, on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
What do you think? Does Nelson get the record this season? Does he fall short? If he gets it, when? Post your thoughts below.