The Golden State Warriors have been an offensive juggernaut the last couple of seasons. However, it is their defense that is largely responsible for the team’s recent success.
In the past two seasons, the Golden State Warriors posted defensive ratings of 98.2 points and 100.9 points per 100 possessions, which ranked first and fourth in the NBA, respectively.
Although the Warriors did sign one of the top-three players in the league in Kevin Durant during the offseason, they also lost key players that helped anchor their defense such as Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli.
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With a number of new faces on the roster, head coach Steve Kerr warned that his team may have its fair share of defensive struggles this season.
“The thing that’s different will be a lack of rim protection,” Kerr told CSNBayArea.com. “We had great rim protection from Bogut and Ezeli, and both those guys are gone. Zaza’s a very good defender, but he’s more of a positional guy than a shot blocker.
“So there’s definitely adjustments we’ll have to make, even schematically. We’ll have some growing pains, especially on defense, as we try to make sure we get everything right and comfortable.”
That sentiment was reaffirmed when the Warriors were routed by the San Antonio Spurs 129-100 on the opening night of the season. They would follow that up with a disappointing 117-97 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers just 10 days later.
And just last week, the Warriors were tied for 14th with the Brooklyn Nets in defensive rating, giving up 104.6 points per 100 possessions.
So in spite of the fact that they won eight of their first 10 games, the Warriors were not considered a great defensive team by any stretch of the imagination.
Over the course of their undefeated, four-game road trip though, the Warriors were successful because of how well they have played from a defensive standpoint. For example, in their 120-83 win over the short-handed Indiana Pacers, the Warriors blocked 10 shots.
That’s right. I said 10 shots, folks.
That phenomenal effort on the glass pushed their blocks-per-game average to 6.1 — which represents the fourth-best mark in the league.
Secondly, after allowing opponents to convert 54.4 percent of their shots at the rim through the first 10 games, the Warriors limited the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and the Indiana Pacers to a 39.6 percent conversion rate at the rim.
As a result, the Warriors’ overall defensive field goal percentage at the rim improved to 49.8, the seventh-stingiest number in the league (per NBA.com) and is better than the 50.4 percent they posted last season.
Yes, four games is a small sample size. But the overall numbers aren’t too shabby either.
For starters, the Warriors are currently holding their opponents to 43.7 percent shooting from the floor — the eighth-best mark in the association. It is worth noting that this number is right on pace with the 43.5 percent they yielded in 2015-16.
Additionally, the Warriors have the NBA’s second-best point different at plus-10.3, trailing only the Los Angeles Clippers, who lead the league with plus-13.3.
As was the case with their opponents’ field goal percentage, the point differential this season isn’t a big drop off from the plus-10.8 they posted a year ago.
In other words, the defense may not be as bad as previously advertised.
“It’s not quite the same as it was,” Green said, via The Mercury News. “But I still think we have a great defense, a lot of good defenders. We fly around and do what we can, try to cover for each other.”