Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson said after his team lost to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday that “we don’t value the ball and it’s hurting us bad.”
Jackson made that comment during his postgame press conference that was aired on CSN Bay Area after the Warriors turned the ball over a whopping 24 times in a 104-102 loss to a Spurs team that played without Tony Parker (injured shin), Tim Duncan (night off) and Manu Ginobili (night off).
Golden State lost at home to the Spurs’ role players and they did it in part because Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson seemed lackadaisical, at best, on the defensive end and because the Warriors treated the basketball as if it were coated in some sort of grease.
Kent Bazemore turned the ball over by merely dropping it out of bounds while he was by himself in the corner—no defender was really in the same area code. Stephen Curry turned it over five times, as did Thompson. Andre Iguodala gave it away four times. Barnes turned the ball over three times in just 19 minutes, while scoring zero points.
By the numbers, the Warriors are 28th in the league at “valuing the ball,” averaging 17.3 turnovers per game. The only teams less enamored of maintaining possession are the Houston Rockets (17.4) and the woeful Philadelphia 76ers (17.9).
But when one factors in pace of play, the Warriors are actually the second-worst at possessing the ball, committing turnovers on 17.4 percent of their possessions. Only the Rockets are worse at 17.5 percent. That’s based on Golden State’s pace of 98.94 possessions per game.
Last season, the Warriors turned the ball over 15.5 percent of their 96.81 possessions per game, tied for 15th in the NBA. So they are playing faster this season, but much less efficiently.
Curry is taking a lot of heat for his turnovers, and rightfully so, as he averages 4.2 per game, way up from last season’s 3.1 average.
But Curry is actually the Warriors’ most efficient player with the ball—if one were to use the term “efficient” very loosely. His 16.1 percent turnover ratio is the lowest on the club.
By comparison, David Lee turns it over 16.3 percent of his possessions, Thompson is at 16.8 percent, Iguodala is at 17.3 percent, Barnes at 17.4, Andrew Bogut checks in at 17.9 percent, Draymond Green 18.3 percent, Jermaine O’Neal was at 18.6 percent before his injury, Marreese Speights is at 18.2 percent, Toney Douglas 19.9 percent and Bazemore is the team’s worst ballhandler at 22.6 percent.
Golden State underwent a fairly substantial reshuffling of their rotation this offseason, allowing veteran reserves Jarrett Jack (Cleveland) and Carl Landry (Sacramento) to depart via free agency and bringing in Iguodala in a sign-and-trade deal with Denver, with the Jazz participating as a facilitator (taking on the toxic contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins).
Throw in the injuries the Warriors have dealt with—Iguodala missed 12 games with a hamstring, Douglas 14 with a stress reaction in his leg, while Barnes has also missed four games and Curry three, while O’Neal is currently out and has missed 10 games—and there have been a lot of moving parts in the rotation this season.
But Thursday’s 24 turnovers matched a season high first set on Halloween night in a loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles. Eight times this year, Golden State has turned the ball over at least 20 times and their record in those games is, not surprisingly, just 3-5.
The Warriors had 23 turnovers in a win over the Pistons on Nov. 12, but that was a game in which they simply shot Detroit into submission—hitting 60 percent overall and going 8-of-16 from 3-point range while the Pistons did a better job of ball control (12 turnovers), but shot just 37-for-87 (42.5 percent).
At Philadelphia on Nov. 4, the Warriors beat the 76ers with 22 turnovers, in part because Philadelphia had 24. And in their win at Minnesota on Nov. 6, the Warriors’ 21 turnovers were mostly offset by the Timberwolves committing 19 while shooting only 37.8 percent for the game.
The Warriors play fast—their pace of 98.94 possessions per game is the sixth-fastest in the league—and turnovers are often a byproduct of a faster pace. But Golden State won’t go far this season—they are currently ninth in the Western Conference at 14-13, one game behind the Nuggets—until they learn to, as coach Jackson put it, value the basketball much more than they have shown through the first third of the season.