Golden State Warriors: Evaluating Steve Kerr Through First Four Games


Back in June, I wrote an article about the hiring of Steve Kerr and the changes he would bring to the Golden State Warriors. Although vague (it’s relatively difficult to predict the style and tendencies of a coach without any prior experience), my predictions seem to be carrying some truth.

I thought that Kerr would use his personnel more effectively, encourage an up-tempo offense, and implement a coherent offense. Through four games, he seems to be doing just that.

Before we delve into specifics, it is also important to note that what the Warriors are doing now may not continue for the rest of the season; Kerr could introduce new wrinkles into his system, the players could perform differently once they become more comfortable with the new system and teammates, or perhaps the opposition will find a way to exploit the rookie coach.

For that, we must wait and see. For now, however, let’s evaluate how he’s done through his first four games at the helm.

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While the box score from Opening Night against the Sacramento Kings looks good (a 95-77 victory on the road), a few aspects of the game were concerning.

Struggling shooters cannot be pinned on Kerr because, for the most part, Golden State’s offense got them good shots. For much of the game Stephen Curry (7-for-17), Klay Thompson (4-for-14), Harrison Barnes (3-for-10), and Andre Iguodala (1-for-6) struggled from the field. The offense began to click in the third quarter and subsequently put the game away.

It is unfair to judge Kerr harshly on the team’s efforts in his first game, but that fact that Golden State committed 22 turnovers is very disconcerting. Under Mark Jackson, last year’s Warriors committed the fourth-most turnovers per game (14.9) and the offense struggled mightily at times because of it.

This trend continued in Oracle Arena against the Los Angeles Lakers. The 20 turnovers the Warriors committed is hidden from view because of the offensive barrage they put up on the Lakers (127 points on 55.4 percent from the field), but if the Warriors want to live up to their potential, Kerr and company must find a solution. It is easy to blame the turnovers on new players and a new system and expect it to get better with time, but I’m sure Kerr and offensive-guru Alvin Gentry are working hard to fix their turnover problem.

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In regards to turnovers, Golden State made some improvements during their trip to the Pacific Northwest. Against the Portland Trial Blazers, the Warriors committed 17 turnovers — which is not ideal, but better — while another problem arose.

It is easy for a team with the shooting ability of the Warriors to get lazy on offense. In the early third to late fourth quarters, Golden State seemed to rely on jump shots too often. Thompson and Curry could not hit from the outside for a stretch, and the Blazers eventually tied the game after three full quarters and took the lead early in the fourth.

The Warriors were limited to 17 third-quarter points, which begs the question: what and who will Golden State turn to on nights when Thompson and Curry cannot hit from the perimeter? The Warriors faced this question for much of the Jackson-era and still must deal with it during the Kerr-era.

Like I predicted in June, I expect Kerr to completely understand his personnel and put his players in positions to succeed.

He has shown he has the capacity to do this by starting Barnes instead of Iguodala. Last season, Barnes played many minutes with the entire second unit (which was nowhere near as good as this season’s second unit) and was expected to take control. Kerr, however, is surrounding Barnes with the starters, taking the pressure off and allowing him to maximize his athletic ability by playing off the ball and slashing to the basket.

Kerr has also utilized big man Andrew Bogut more often than Jackson ever did. Thanks in large part to Bogut’s passing ability, the Warriors (albeit early in the season) have risen from last in the league in passes per game to one the NBA’s best.

Understanding the unique skill sets players such as Barnes and Bogut possess is one way to compensate for struggling shooters on any given night.

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Klay Thompson has blunt response to fourth-quarter benching by Steve Kerr
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  • The Warriors’ turnover problem persisted against the Los Angeles Clippers in Oakland and was once again overshadowed by their lights-out shooting. Kerr did not have to experiment with other offensive identities on Wednesday night but will soon have to when matched up against elite defensive teams.

    Regarding my predictions from June, we have already established that Kerr knows his personnel well. He has encouraged his players to get out in the open court, which is evident in Golden State’s 20.8 fast break points per game, which currently is first in the NBA. In terms of a coherent offense, it is hard to tell whether Kerr’s system has been fully implemented as of now, but it is easy to see the offense is much more fluid than it was under Jackson last year.

    After four games and four wins, Kerr deserves some praise, but the Warriors have not played their best basketball yet — which I am sure he knows. If Golden State can fix their turnover problem among other things, the rest of the league better take notice.