The Golden State Warriors Aren’t Perfect, But They Remain a Superteam

Nov 4, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) attempts a shot defended by Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) during the fourth quarter at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Lakers won 117-97. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 4, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) attempts a shot defended by Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) during the fourth quarter at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Lakers won 117-97. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

After two wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Golden State Warriors lost against the Los Angeles Lakers, causing the reaction of many detractors on the web.

Against the Lakers, it seemed the Golden State Warriors played too poorly to be real. But, the loss offered some ideas about what it is working and what isn’t working in this moment.

Until a few months ago, we were talking about the creation of a new court with the four-point shot, because Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were scoring from every corner of the field. Now things sounds different. Against the Lakers, the Warriors shot 20 threes and made just two of them.

If the Splash Brothers had maintained their reputation and, for example, they had made nine of those 20 attempts, the Warriors would have won. Sure, the reasoning could sound farfetched, but it means that Golden State does not have a problem creating offensive opportunities, but converting them.

After six games, the Warriors are shooting with 29.8 percent behind the arc, while last year they were best in the league with an unbelievable 41.6 percent. In the two defeats this year, the Warriors hit just 12 of 65 attempts from three.

The shooting from long distance remains the key for this team, for better (the game against the Thunder) or worse (the last game against the Lakers).

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  • For a team composed of exceptional shooters, free throws are easy and important points that help you to score a lot. Nevertheless, Golden State can not seem to find an opportunity to shoot any.

    "“They were killing us in the paint. They are a bigger, stronger team. Which is fine. But we have to compete, we have to attack at the other end and get some free throws instead of just launching jump shots when we’re not hitting them. It was not our finest hour.” Steve Kerr"

    At the beginning of the season, Steve Kerr had asked Thompson to improve his average of 2.8 free throws attempted per game. The stats now?Thompson shot 1.8 free throws per game, and in Golden States’ two losses, he has attempted zero free throws.

    This is linked to what we said about the shots from long distance: the team is struggling (except Durant) to get it to the rim and take a foul that would ensure easy free throws.

    Without Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights and Festus Ezeli, the bench lost several elements. If we compare the points scored by the Warriors’ bench with the opponents, we can see the Warriors have a better score only once against Portland, thanks to the great performance of Ian Clark.

    Vs San Antonio Spurs54-16 Spurs
    Vs New Orleans Pelicans39-23 Pelicans
    Vs Phoenix Suns29-17 Suns
    Vs Portland Trail Blazers54-39 Warriors
    Vs Oklahoma City Thunder29-27 Thunder
    Vs Los Angeles Lakers61-31 Lakers

    Golden State, at this moment, is still waiting for the return of Patrick McCaw from injury. The rookie emerged during the preseason but, during his absence, there has been a lack of alternatives. For this reason, when Curry and the others run into a bad day, it’s next to impossible to hope for help from the bench.

    The presence of Shaun Livingston was one of the main factors during the early games won in the Finals last year against the Cleveland Cavaliers. His contribution off the bench was essential and his shots guaranteed an important solution for the Golden State rotation.

    This year, something seems to be broken. The plus/minus of the Warriors with and without Livingston on the court is night and day . When he is on the field, the plus/minus is -7.9, and when he is out it’s +7.6.

    The other main man from the bench is Andre Iguodala, who has the opposite trend. In fact, the plus/minus is +13.1 when he is on the field and -10.6 when he is out.

    The different performance is more emblematic if we consider defensive rating (number of points that a player allow on defense over 100 possessions): Livingston is at 110.7, Iguodala 97.0. Looking into the lineups, the plus/minus of the famous Death Lineup is +2.0. But replace Curry with Livingston and it collapses to -5.0.

     Curry – Durant – Green – Pachulia – Thompson+0.3
    Curry – Durant – Green – Iguodala – Thompson+2.0
    Curry – Green – Livingston – Looney – Thompson0.0
    Durant – Green – Iguodala – Livingston – Thompson-5.0

    Who remembers what happened in 2012 during Chris Mullin‘s jersey retirement celebration? The Warriors had just traded the local hero and leader Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, the first pick in the draft 2005. The fans during the ceremony booed and blatantly contested the management.

    History will side with owner Joe Lacob, who had secured the rim protector able to defend and allow the perimeter game in Bogut. This summer, with the signing of Durant, the Australian center’s experience in Bay Area was over.

    Along with Durant, Zaza Pachulia was also brought in during this offseason. However, he is not a rim protector like Bogut, and it is not surprising that the defense is allowing too many offensive rebounds. Golden State today is second-worst in defensive rebounds percentage (better than only New York Knicks) with 72 percent.

    This all allows the opponents to have too many second chances to score. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Warriors’ opponents score 14.8 points after offensive rebounds, relegating the Warriors to the 24th in the league.

    In last year’s playoffs, Oklahoma City and Cleveland understood the best approach to take against Golden State. Curry is, theoretically, the worst defender of the starters and, for this reason, he need help in doubling his man. During the series with Oklahoma City, Kerr put Curry on Andre Roberson (the worst Oklahoma City scorer) and put Thompson on Russell Westbrook.

    The opponents know this situation and, for this reason, they create a lot of pick and roll situations, trying to put pressure on who between the two big men will help the MVP. During the last few games (in particular against the Thunder) Green played like a sort of “goalie” in the paint without a fixed man to defense, but ready to move along the sideline to double.

    Against the Lakers, this strategy failed because Luke Walton, former assistant coach of Golden State, knew the system very well. It is not a coincidence that the Lakers played fast (Golden State is 26th in opponent fastbreak points), with many extra passes in the paint and cuts to the lines that created mismatches.

    Well, have we witnessed the biggest bluff in basketball history? Are these Warriors just a wild patchwork of players? Keep calm. Before rushing to that conclusion, it is necessary to watch the situation rationally.

    Does anyone think this team finish the regular season out of the first three in Western Conference? Who said this franchise had to realize a record of 82-0? Obviously, nobody.

    Considering the superteams of the past, these are the results:

    • Miami Heat 2010-2011: 4-2. It is the first year of the Big-Three era, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The debut in Boston is not one of the best: 88-80 for the men in green. After that defeat, the Heat won four straight before losing again 96-93 against the New Orleans Hornets. Something like this year in the Bay Area, no?
    • Boston Celtics 2007-2008: 6-0. The trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen allowed to Boston to create one of the greatest team of the last years. With the star Paul Pierce, the Celtics run a memorable season finished with the title against the Los Angeles Lakers in six epic games.
    • Los Angeles Lakers 2012-2013: 2-4. Put Steve Nash in a roster with Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant. Is a new dynasty coming? No, it’s not. A tremendous start with only two wins is the prelude to a terrible season. Between injuries, internal fighting and tactical shortcomings, this team was not able to win more 45 games and was defeated in the first round of playoff by the San Antonio Spurs, 4-0.
    • Los Angeles Lakers 2003-2004: 5-1. Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and Kobe Bryant. What then? Does it make sense ro follow a season with a team so powerful? Yes, because despite the great start with only one loss during the first six games, the Lakers lost the Final against the Detroit Pistons led by Rasheed Wallace.

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    In the last sixteen years, the most famous superteams, except for the Boston Celtics, have never won the title in the first year they were created. For this reason, the equation “Barnes out, Durant in = sure and easy title” is incorrect.

    Sure, Golden State remains the favorite for the title, but Kerr has to find the right solution to let these players play. Meanwhile, the Warriors are playing and, meanwhile, the haters are expecting the new fall.