David West Is Exactly What The Golden State Warriors Needed

Apr 2, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward David West (3) dribbles the ball against Washington Wizards center Ian Mahinmi (28) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward David West (3) dribbles the ball against Washington Wizards center Ian Mahinmi (28) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports /

With San Antonio Spurs on the edge of the first place in Western Conference and with Kevin Durant injured, the Golden State Warriors have found in David West to be an unexpected resource.

Veteran David West arrived during the last free agency period and is constantly growing. As a result, his minutes and numbers on the court continue to grow along with him.

The former Hornets and Pacers standout, desperate for a chance to compete for a ring, completed a transformation started with Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs last year. In fact, after a career built as a power forward, he switchd positions, becoming  a center with vision.

Indeed, after playing 89 percent of his career minutes as a power forward, he decreased that number to to 50 percent last year with Greg Popovich and the Spurs. This year, he’s pared down that number even more, tallying just seven percent of his minutes in that role.

Steve Kerr has decided to use his experience to provide a solid alternative to Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee in center rotation. By doing that, the Warriors created a second unit that, after the injury to Kevin Durant, was able to protect leads for the Western Conference leading Warriors.

Golden State’s system takes time to figure out, given the spacing and movement required by head coach Steve Kerr. Even David West needed few months to adapt. But since the All-Star Game, West seems to have figured it out.

We can find an early indication of that change by observing the playing time and rotations West was included in. Tracking the Steve Kerr rotations before the All-Star Game, David West was playing an average of almost nine minutes with Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson on the floor. This is a lineup strongly connected to Durant, who needed several isolation and shots out of blocks.

DAvid West
Mar 29, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors power forward David West (3) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs power forward David Lee (10) and LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

However, after the Durant injury, Golden State predictably changed their style. In fact, without a player who needed the ball and shot solutions, the Warriors have increased their up-spot shots of 1.6 percent.

It’s not coincidence that  the three players (Andre Iguodala, Patrick McCaw and Matt Barnes) who are playing Durant’s minutes are scoring over 30 percent in shot-up shots, while the rest of the team is at 14 percent (including Durant). Andre Iguodala’s shooting chart is particularly striking, with a big production from the corners.

In this change, David West has had a positive effect. In fact, the lineup changed with Draymond Green replacing the injured Durant when West is on the court. It is not just a change between two forwards, but also a change between two players with different skills.

With this new lineup, West started to become an important element with a lot of passes to the cutters. Playing center, the former Pacer manages to assert his technique, thanks to his teammates’ skills, too.

For a team that leads the league in assist for possession with 29.4 percent (the runners up are the Boston Celtics with 24.9 percent), David West is averaging 8.5 assists per 100 possessions, more than the double of his career average.

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His favorite targets are, incidentally, Livingston, Iguodala and Thompson. In fact, they are the three players who receive more than 15 percent of West’s assists.

This different feeling between West and Green instead of Durant can also be seen in points. With West and Green on the field, the plus / minus is +22.3 with +/- eFG% (the effective percentage of field goal minus the opposite field goal percentage) equal to +0.124, while with Durant the production drops to +4.3 (+/- eFG% of +0.087), which it means eighteen points and nine assists of difference.

The Warriors’ medical staff has just announced the return of Durant will be next week and it will be interesting to see what solutions Steve Kerr will choose.

The number 35 is, of course, a deadly weapon and his condition will be important during the playoffs. But Golden State needs to find a way to leave the chemistry of the second line untouched.