The Golden State Warriors thrust themselves into the "greatest of all time" conversation with a 67-win regular season and 16-1 postseason run. They have four potential Hall of Famers, one of the best coaches in the NBA and an borderline-unfair appreciation for basketball's ultimate weapon, the 3-pointer.
How quickly we forget about the great teams of yesteryear, however.
The truth is we'll never really know if the Warriors are the collective GOATs. That uncertainty and the ensuing debate is part of what makes being a sports fan so much fun.
So rather than just throw out a hot take about Golden State's greatness, we decided to run through NBA history to consider how the Warriors would fare against some of the very best teams (as well as a few modern superteams for good measure).
1964 Boston Celtics
The Celtics were a great team for their time — a time that featured approximately 4.5 teams in the entire NBA.
Draymond Green would eat Bill Russell's lunch, Tommy Heinsohn would end up in the broadcast booth by halftime, and the Warriors would roll through the legendary Boston teams regardless of what era we're in.
Guys like Russell still would have been legends in the modern game if they had access to today's training regimens and nutrition. The rest of his Celtics teammates, though, probably can't keep up with the Warriors even in this hypothetical scenario.
Series result under 1964 rules: Warriors in four.
Series result under 2017 rules: Warriors in two, after two 100-point wins result in the cancellation of the rest of the series.
1986 Boston Celtics
As good as the Celtics were in the '80s, and as much as they went toe-to-toe with the Lakers (whom we'll get to in a minute), Boston doesn't have a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-sized threat in the middle.
And yes, I know that Kevin McHale is the man who wrote the book on post moves — I just don't expect him to have a ton of success against the strength and equal smarts of Draymond Green.
Golden State's 3-point assault would be too much for Boston in either era, unless Bird decides to go shot-for-shot with the Warriors by himself. In that scenario, anything is possible.
Series result under 1986 rules: Warriors in six
Series result under 2017 rules: Warriors in five
1987 Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers would expose the Warriors' greatest flaw: size.
Under the old rule set, Golden State wouldn't have a chance of slowing down Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The legendary big man would skyhook his way to MVP honors while Magic showed the Warriors what a real up-tempo offense looks like.
Roll this game out in 2017, though, and things might look very different. The Warriors could use the loosened zone-defense rules to try to deny the Lakers' entry passes; in fact, Golden State's sophisticated modern defense would flummox L.A.'s efficient yet simplistic offense.
Still, the Lakers have a ton of firepower; even in 2017, the Warriors would be in for a fight.
Series result under 1987 rules: Lakers in six
Series result under 2017 rules: Warriors in seven
1996 Chicago Bulls
It's the matchup we all want — the true kings of the NBA, the 1996 Bulls, vs. the only real heir to their throne, the NBA's superest superteam, the Golden State Warriors.
Once again, how this one plays out boils down to which rules we're using. In 1996, Michael Jordan would roast Golden State's best one-on-one defenders, and Chicago's defense would beat the living crap out of both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
Every bruise inflicted on Jordan by the Bad Boy Pistons and their "Jordan Rules" would be paid forward tenfold onto the "soft" Warriors. Under the old, traditional rules, I'm picking the Bulls in six.
In a modern setting, however, where Golden State can use multiple defenders on Jordan before he catches the ball, I'm taking the Warriors. The absence of hand-checking might make Jordan a better isolation scorer, but the elimination of illegal defense means Golden State wouldn't let him get to his spots.
Series result under 1996 rules: Bulls in six
Series result under 2017 rules: Warriors in seven
2001 Los Angeles Lakers
There's no stopping the Big Diesel.
You could play this game under either rule set; it hardily matters. A prime Shaquille O'Neal crushes the Warriors regardless of whether Steve Kerr goes to "Hack-a-Shaq" like his protege, Gregg Popovich, or draws up a zone to try to limit the Big Aristotle.
That latter adjustment would keep Golden State in the series if we play it in 2017, but I'm still taking the only other team to go 16-1 in the postseason. The Lakers have enough shooting to keep the Warriors from completely dominating the 3-point battle, and Kobe Bryant would relish breaking Stephen Curry's spirit.
They're left out of the discussion far too often because they coasted during the regular season, but this Lakers team might be the best of all time.
Series result under 2001 rules: Lakers in five (we'll give the Warriors one game on the strength of a hot 3-point shooting night)
Series result under 2017 rules: Lakers in seven
LA Times via Getty ImagesAnacleto Rapping
2008 Boston Celtics
The Celtics popularized the modern superteam concept, and like most forerunners they've been surpassed by today's examples. Their status as the godfather of this Warriors team warrants their inclusion on this list, but we'll be brief:
Golden State would win this series in no more than five games, which is just fine. We'd really just be here to watch Kevin Garnett and Draymond Green go to war until one got suspended for the remainder of the series.
Series result*: Warriors in four
*Today's rules were in place by 2008, although teams had yet to appreciate the importance of the 3-pointer. Twenty-five percent of Boston's field-goal attempts came from behind the arc, compared to 36 percent for this year's Warriors.
2013 Miami Heat
We couldn't go through this thought exercise without considering LeBron's other superteam, could we?
Oh, that's right; LeBron doesn't believe he's played on a superteam before. Sure, King. I like you, but that's nonsense, and you know it.
Anyway, the 2013 Heat would give the Warriors a stiffer fight than the 2017 Cavs. A younger LeBron might have pulled off playing all 48 minutes in this series, and Miami's defense-first roster was better built to face a team like Golden State. Right from the opening tip, this Heat squad would use the same game plan the Cavs finally turned to in Game 4 this year — once it was too late.
Chris Bosh could guard Kevin Durant for stretches to give LeBron a break, Dwyane Wade's slashing would give the Warriors problems, and Shane Battier would take up residence in Draymond Green's head before halftime of Game 1.
With all that said, the Dubs still get the win. They're just too good.
Series result: Warriors in six
2014 San Antonio Spurs
Your mileage may vary on whether this Spurs squad is an all-time team as well, and I understand that. I wanted to include them for two reasons, though.
First, this is the franchise that sent LeBron back to Cleveland, setting this current Cavs-Warriors rivalry into motion. Second, it finished off the Miami Heat era with some of the best basketball we've seen in NBA history. For five games, the Spurs clicked on an otherworldly level, elevating sport to art.
Unfortunately for San Antonio, this version of Tim Duncan doesn't give you quite enough on offense to punish the Warriors for going small, and while 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard was an outstanding player, he wasn't yet the stone-cold killer we know today.