The Golden State Warriors, with a much different roster than last season’s record-setting squad looked like less than championship caliber on opening night — but the team has begun to find its identity.
After the Opening Night loss to the San Antonio Spurs 129-100, the Golden State Warriors won back to back games against the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns. Despite consecutive wins, the difficulties Golden State had in the first game remained.
Their opponents continue to score easily in paint. Though this was also an issued for Golden State last season, the substitution of Andrew Bogut with Zaza Pachulia has seemingly further complicated the situation.
The search for a rim protector is not easy and Steve Kerr has not yet defined the second unit. In fact, after Anderson Varejao struggled against the Spurs, Kerr decided to give more minutes to Kevon Looney. The bench is looking for the right balance: against New Orleans they scored just 23 points against the 39 of the Pelicans reserves, while they put up just 17 against Phoenix while the Suns scored 29.
Blue Man Hoop
Part of the problem is that the superstars are still getting to know each other. Kevin Durant is keeping a high level on offense, scoring 94 points on 53 shots, 1.77 points for shooting (first in the league). And Stephen Curry is shooting threes at 42.9 percent so far in the early going — slightly lower than his career average of 44.4 percent.
The problems are at team level: the Warriors are shooting threes with 26.7 percent accuracy — 26th in the entire NBA. In the three preceding seasons, the Warriors scored with 41.6 percent accuracy behind the arc.
One of the keys to understanding this dropoff is that Klay Thompson, who is shooting with a terrible 14.3 percent from three point range. So far, Thompson missed a large number of shots — including some wide open. Though, to be fair, others came from tough spots while he was still running out the screen.
He is also shooting 25 percent on six catch-and-shoot three-point attempts per game, while for his career he has never shot under 40 percent from three overall. It’s all about rhythm, it’s all about timing.
Nothing dramatic, as we said before — these Warriors need a little time to find the right chemistry.
"“You’ve got guys here with no conscience. You miss shots, you shoot the next one” – Kevin Durant"
For now, the team is just changing the way they are going about winning games. There are fewer three points and more pick and roll and isolation. It’s something simple and something predictable, considering how many superstars on the roster have the ability to play one-on-one.
The problems seem to be more serious on the defensive side of the ball. Golden State, at this moment, is last in the league in giving up offensive rebounds to their opponents — nearly 15 per game.
Last year, with Bogut as the team’s rim protector, the average was 11.7. The Opponent Points in Paint Game is 52.0, while last year it was 44.5: this is the third worst record in the league.
Opposing teams have more space in transition this year, and for this reason, Golden State is currently twenty-seventh in Fastbreak Points Opponent Game, a number more than three points worse per game than the last year (17.7 versus 14.6).
The rebounding issues also mean there is a problem with the opponent percentage floor — which is the ratio of scoring possessions to total possessions. Golden State is currently 28th in opponent percentage floor with 51.4 percent.
The next two games are against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. That means they’ll be facing two premier scorers in Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. It will be two interesting games as they square off with point guards who love to take it to the rim.
In particular, the game with Oklahoma City will likely be especially emotional for Kevin Durant, who will face his recent past. It will be another test to see if the Golden State Warriors are focused on solving the issues they’re having at the start of the season, and how far they’re coming in developing their identity.