It’s safe to say that, offensively, the Golden State Warriors are becoming what we all expected and maybe even more.
Through 21 games, the Warriors are 18-3 and are starting to gel in a way that we’ve never seen before.
Klay Thompson, who for the early part of the season had been struggling to his standards, is clearly starting to find his groove as the best third option in basketball coming off a game in which he scored 60 points in 29 minutes. Newcomer Kevin Durant looks as comfortable as ever as he is averaging 27 points per game while more importantly shooting a career high 56.5 percent from the field, 42 percent from three and 87 percent from the foul line. Steph Curry is averaging 26 points per game shooting 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from three with the scary part being that he’s really yet to find his shot this year. Suffice to say, this deadly three piece combo with Draymond Green as a prime playmaker is starting to turn into more than what we thought on the offensive end at a much quicker rate than we expected it to happen.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the one thing that no matter what, the Warriors could always hang their hat on was defense, and with the arrival of Durant came the departure of an elite defensive system that was the main reason why they have reached two straight NBA Finals and won in 2015. This fact gets lost in the shuffle due to the arousing numbers the team is putting up offensively.
So let’s put these number into perspective on each end of the floor.
Offensively, the Warriors rank first in efficiency (115.4), pace (103.3), effective field goal percentage (57.3) and true shooting percentage (60.9), all of which are fancy numbers that showcase how consistent and efficient they have been offensively this year. In some of the generic stats, they still reign supreme: Points per game (120.2), Field goal percentage (50.3), and 4th in Three point percentage (38.5).
Stellar numbers, but in the long run, especially playoff time, they won’t tell the full story. Their defense will and that has taken a major hit with the loss of defensive anchor Andrew Bogut in return for offensive juggernaut Durant.
Defensively, the Warriors rank 21st in the league in points allowed per game (106.4) and while they are doing great in holding other teams to low field goal percentages (43.3) and three point percentages (32.6), at the rate they play at and the number shots they take, the opposing team will also take just as many shots and have just as many possessions. These facts may not mean anything during the regular season, but when playoff time comes and you have to face teams like the Spurs and Clippers who are proven on BOTH ends of the floor, the Warriors can’t afford to have average to bad nights for four out of seven games in a series or else they will lose.
Facing the Clippers and Spurs means that you have to face the third and sixth best defenses in the league in terms of how many points they give up per game (each under 100). So it’s very likely that you won’t be able to go off for your average 120 points per game against these teams and will have to rely on stops on your defensive end to keep you in games when the three ball isn’t working.
Now these problems aren’t new to the Warriors. They have always been a team who has been questioned due to their high volume of three point shots taken and the quick rate they are taken. They have more than proven that they can win this way and there’s nothing to deny there. What we may forget is that in combination with this quick pace, three point driven offensive attack was always a stout defense behind it on the other end that would be able to hold opponents and keep them in their place which allowed the offense to correct itself at times when it seemed lost and shots weren’t falling.
What was their saving grace and their ultimate secret weapon in times of trouble has now become their fatal flaw.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. We’ve seen players like Durant who have traditionally shied away from the defensive in because of his prolific offensive skill set, make the effort on that side of the floor and improve their team defensive ability for the betterment of the team. It hasn’t exactly shown it’s face yet, but while this experiment is still in the works, the offense has been carrying them through the first quarter of the season which is fine as of now.
We will ultimately see if this defense will improve, because it has to in order for them to get back on top, especially if they have to face a Cavs team that features a now legitimate big three with Kyrie Irving taking an even bigger step becoming the primary scoring option and Kevin Love playing like his old Minnesota self with supreme confidence on the offensive end and rebounding at a great rate.
Do you think the Warriors will make it to a third straight NBA Finals? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.