Perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers are not the league's biggest enigma. It could be another Pacific Division team.
Despite being without their starting center and two other significant contributors, the Golden State Warriors are the NBA's biggest surprise so far this season.
A bigger surprise than the New York Knicks (in a good way), and a bigger surprise than the Lakers (in a bad way).
Golden State has shown this the toughest way possible, by winning outside Oakland. The Warriors won the first five games of a seven-game road trip, including a 97-95 victory last Wednesday against the world champion Miami Heat, and at 15-7 was off to its best start since 1991-92.
Two days later, Golden State laid an egg in Orlando and abruptly ended the franchise's third-longest road winning streak.
Having advanced to the playoffs only once since 1993-94, this is foreign territory not only to Golden State players, but also to many in the team's fan demographic.
“So much fun, finally, to be winning!” two-year owner Joe Lacob wrote in an email.
The night of the Miami victory, rookie forward Draymond Green returned to the locker room and found 83 congratulatory text messages on his phone, which soon grew to about 130 total.
All this has transpired without center Andrew Bogut, the No. 1 draft pick of 2005 who had microfracture ankle surgery last April. He remains out indefinitely, potentially all season. Veteran forward Richard Jefferson is out indefinitely with a strained right calf. Forward Brandon Rush, a top defender, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game.
The Warriors have five players averaging double-digits points and nine active players averaging double-digit minutes.
Forward David Lee (19.2 points; 11.5 rebounds) remains a double-double machine. Guard Stephen Curry leads the team in points (19.8), assists (6.3), steals (1.6), 3-point percentage (.433) and free-throw percentage (.891). Second-year guard Klay Thompson (16.1 ppg; 4.2 rpg) is a budding star.
So far so good for the Warriors, but more than 70 percent of the regular season still remains. The key will be if Golden State is able to hold court inside rowdy Oracle Arena after playing 15 of its 24 first games on the road.
WARRIORS BY THE NUMBERS
1 — Number of team nicknames — Warriors
3 — Number of franchise locations — Philadelphia (1946-62), San Francisco (1962-71), Oakland (1971-present)
3 — Number of NBA championships — 1946-47; 1955-56; 1974-75
13 — Number of Hall of Famers who have played for franchise at various times
28 — Playoff appearances (in 67 seasons)
47.2; 41.5; 25.1 — Career averages in minutes, points and rebounds per game for all-time franchise leader Wilt Chamberlain
807 — Career games for franchise leader Chris Mullin
4,855 — Career assists for franchise leader Guy Rodgers
5,010 — Career free throws for franchise leader Paul Arizin
12,771 — Career rebounds for franchise leader Nate Thurmond
14,392 — Career field-goal attempts for franchise leader Rick Barry
1978 — Year the Warriors last won five straight road games until this year
1997 — Year the last time a Golden State player was selected to the All-Star Game (Latrell Sprewell)