Dec 13, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and forward Kevin Durant (35) against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 113-109. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Article continues below ...
There’s no need to worry about the Golden State Warriors yet, but the team has shown some noteworthy problems thus far in the 2016-17 NBA season.
The Golden State Warriors are 32-6, with the best record in the NBA by a game and a half over the annually-great San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors haven’t lost consecutive games all season, and they have four of the top 20 or so players in the NBA.
It could be argued that there’s no need to worry about any problems these Warriors have because they’re damn good as is.
It could also be argued that Golden State has shown some worrying signs this season, including a 3-3 record against teams currently first, second or third in either conference.
Finding problems with the Warriors could be seen as nitpicking, although it’s certainly fair to say a team that won 73 games and then added Kevin Durant should look even better than this.
That begs the question, what isn’t working exactly right in Golden State? There are five problems identified here with the Warriors, none of them crucial enough to stop the Dubs from rolling over most teams in the regular season and cruising to a 60-plus win season.
These problems might matter enough to prevent the Warriors from winning another title, though. We won’t know that until June, but we can figure out where the Golden State Warriors have struggled so far right now.
January 6, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors forward David West (3) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
This isn’t a new problem for these Warriors–it’s been around since their title run in 2014-15, and probably before then too. Teams that get very physical with Golden State have found more success with them.
The most recent and easiest example of this is the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies don’t have the talent the Warriors do, but they’re 2-0 against Golden State this year.
The most recent Memphis win over the Warriors was a dramatic comeback victory in a game where the Warriors led until the fourth quarter.
So how did Memphis win? They grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and took 20 more shots than the Warriors did. Even though Golden State was slightly more effective from the field, the sheer volume of extra shots the Grizzlies took made the difference.
Both of them went relentlessly at whoever was in front of them, and their covers for most of the game–Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry–combined to shoot six-for-21 from three-point distance.
Curry was a remarkable 10-for-14 from two-point range, but those are baskets the Grizzlies can live with. They can answer back with twos on the other end. By not letting Golden State get good looks from threes, the Grizzlies disrupted their offense late.
The crucial difference in this game, compared to previous matchups between these two teams, was that now Memphis can shoot too.
Between the emergence of Troy Daniels as a knock-down marksman and the addition of Chandler Parsons, the Grizzlies actually attempted and made more threes than the Warriors did.
More and more teams have their own outside weaponry now. That alone doesn’t matter to Golden State–nobody has better shooters than the Warriors.
However, now that teams like Memphis can throw Randolph at Kevin Durant down low and have open shooters outside the perimeter, that makes things tougher for Golden State.
Hounding Curry and Durant all night and making it tough for them to hit threes is going to be necessary to anyone hoping to contain these Warriors.
Making their lives harder on defense is a good way to help slow down Golden State, and that’s what the Grizzlies did by going through Z-Bo and Marc Gasol often in their win over the Warriors.
Nov 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) drives to the net against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) and forward Kevin Durant (35) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
No True Center
Much was made about Golden State letting go of their two centers from the last two seasons, Festus Ezeli and Andrew Bogut, in exchange for the cap space to sign Kevin Durant. Getting Durant was a great move, obviously, no matter the losses there.
The Warriors probably should’ve made a better attempt to replace their big men, though. As good as Durant and Green are at defending multiple positions, there’s not a damn thing the Warriors can do about this:
JaVale McGee has been floated as a possible solution to the lack of verticality present in Zaza Pachulia, but in that same game Rudy Gay glides around him effortlessly.
This is a real problem for the Warriors. Zach Randolph was unstoppable in that Grizzlies win over Golden State, missing just five of his 17 shot attempts and regularly getting wherever he wanted when defended by Pachulia …
… and Durant.
There’s just nothing the Warriors can do about that without sending help, and that’s when shooters open up around the perimeter.
Somehow Enes Kanter played just three minutes and change against the Warriors when they played the Oklahoma City Thunder. That has to change when these two teams next meet–Kanter is exactly the type of player the Dubs have no answer for.
When the Warriors are obliterating teams on the other end, it’s permissible to have a hole defensively. When games are close, like this one against the Grizzlies or the Christmas Day match-up with the Cavaliers, that deficiency can cost Golden State the game.
Dec 23, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) looks for an open man against Detroit Pistons forward Jon Leuer (30) during the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Lack Of Supporting Shooters
Believe it or not, most of the Golden State Warriors haven’t been all that good at shooting the basketball in the 2016-16 season thus far. Curry, Durant and Klay Thompson are all nailing at least 38 percent of their threes.
The only other Warrior doing that is Ian Clark, who currently leads the team in three-point percentage.
Next up is Patrick McCaw, who plays under 12 minutes per game and has sat out ten games already this year. Then comes Draymond Green, who is making just 33.3 percent of his threes. After Draymond is Andre Iguodala, making 31.3 percent. That’s it, as far as rotation players go.
Four guys are shooting the ball really well in Golden State, among rotational pieces. Five if you count McCaw.
Compare that to last season, when Curry, Thompson, Brandon Rush, Draymond, Mo Speights, Harrison Barnes, Ian Clark, Leandro Barbosa and Iguodala were all shooting at least 35 percent from deep, and it’s easy to see why the Warriors lineup of death isn’t as effective this time around.
2015-16 Death Lineup OffRtg: 142.0 points per 100 2016-17 Death Lineup OffRtg: 120.7 points per 100 Difference: 21.3 points per 100 worse
Even though Durant is miles and miles better than Harrison Barnes, the lineup of death worked because teams had to fear all five players on the floor.
They don’t have to anymore. Draymond and Iguodala especially haven’t been good enough to justify leaving Durant or Curry in single coverage this season.
Jarell Martin is not worried one bit about Iguodala on this buzzer-beating attempt by Curry. He’s helping out Conley instead, which probably helped a bad shot be even worse, percentage-wise.
Even though they’re two of the best shooters ever, Durant and Curry won’t be able to propel the death lineup to the insane level it operated at last season unless the Warriors can get Green and Iguodala making their threes, or find some players who can.
December 30, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) passes the basketball against Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Mavericks 108-99. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Too Much ISO
This right here is not the Golden State Warriors brand of basketball. Or at least, it isn’t the brand of basketball that got this team an NBA title and a 73-win season in the last two seasons.
Watch out outwardly angry Draymond is when he sees that Durant is going to try and win this game by himself. Curry looks disapointed too, although he can’t be too upset considering he did the exact same thing the last time the Dubs were on offense.
Look how far back Durant goes on this move by Curry. He’s out of the frame! There is no point in having both Curry and Durant if the Warriors are only going to use one of them at a time.
Of course for most of the season, the Warriors have moved the ball. They still lead the NBA in assists, and they dish more of them per game than they did last season.
That just makes the lack of passing in those two sequences all the more frustrating. Even if the lineup of death is not fully functioning, abandoning any sort of ball movement in late-game scenarios is a good way to lose those games.
It’s not very surprising that Golden State ISOs more effectively than anybody, considering the scorers present on the Warriors. Even still, the Dubs score 113 points per 100 possessions off of screens, compared to just 102 points per 100 possessions in isolation.
When the Warriors hit a cutter, they score a ridiculous 139 points per 100 possessions.
They’re not great at pick and rolls this season, but even looking at just cuts and shots off of screens it’s obvious there were better options for that Grizzlies game than taking a contested, isolation three-point attempt.
Golden State doesn’t run many ISOs normally, but resorting to them in crucial situations only magnifies the ineffectiveness of that particular play type.
Dec 17, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) pats guard Stephen Curry (30) on the head as a timeout is called against the Portland Trail Blazers during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 135-90. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
This is not a true problem yet. Draymond yelling at people is nothing new, as Ethan Sherwood Strauss chronicled in a piece this fall about his many, many outbursts. According to that piece, there is a very real worry that Green could be both the best and worst thing about Golden State.
His versatility on defense makes the lineup of death possible, and is a huge part of the reason the Warriors were okay with casting both Bogut and Ezeli away in pursuit of Durant.
On the other hand, he’s prone to making mistakes like getting suspended in the NBA Finals, which likely cost Golden State the series.
With Durant now thrown into the mix and having to adapt to a scheme completely unlike the one he was a part of in Oklahoma City, there was always a chance things went sideways for the Warriors.
One personnel move, like the one the Cavaliers made when they acquired Kyle Korver, could potentially right the ship. So far this season though, these have been real problems nagging at the Golden State Warriors.