Golden State Warriors: Breaking down the team’s block party

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 25: Kevin Durant
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 25: Kevin Durant /

The Golden State Warriors, for the fourth straight season, are leading the NBA in scoring. But their defense deserves attention, too.

While defense is a complex topic, one statistic to consider is blocked shots. And the Golden State Warriors are having a block party so far this season.

In fact they lead the league in blocks by a large margin, averaging 8.4 blocks per game (all statistics through games of January 10).

To give you a little perspective, the team with the second most blocks – the Toronto Raptors – averages just 6.1 blocks per game.

Or put another way, the Warriors average a whopping 37 percent more blocks than their closest competitor.

The team with the third most blocks – the San Antonio Spurs – averages 5.5 blocks per contest, meaning the Dubs are blocking nearly 53% more shots than the third best team in the league in this metric.

So how are they doing it?

It starts with having the surprising league leader in blocked shots in Kevin Durant.

Why surprising? In Durant’s first nine seasons in the league with the Sonics/Thunder, he never averaged more than 1.3 blocks per game, despite his athleticism and height.

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But once he arrived in Oakland, and was put in de facto defensive coordinator Ron Adams’ scheme, Durant blocked shots at a career high rate of 1.6 per game last year.

That number has jumped again with Durant notching 2.3 blocked shots per game through the first 41 contests of the 2017-18 campaign.

But one solid shot blocker does not an elite shot blocking team make.

In fact, the four other players in the top five in blocks per game Myles Turner (2.2), Kristaps Porzingis (2.2), Anthony Davis (2.1) and Joel Embiid (2.0) teams are outside the top quartile of shot blocking squads: Indiana Pacers (20th), New York Knicks (11th), New Orleans Pelicans (12th) and Philadelphia 76ers (9th).

So who is else is propelling the Warriors to their lead in blocks per game? Damn near every player.

Eight Warriors have more than 20 blocks at the season’s midpoint:

As a point of comparison, the top five teams in blocks have far fewer players with more than 20 blocks: Toronto Raptors (5), San Antonio Spurs (5), Memphis Grizzlies (3), Portland Trail Blazers (4).

One other way to look at the Warriors’ prodigious block output is to consider blocks per 48 minutes. The Warriors dominate this category with five of the top eleven players in the NBA:

  • McGee is second with 4.31 blocks per 48 minutes
  • West is third at 3.76
  • Looney is fifth at 3.66
  • Bell is sixth at 3.61
  • Durant is eleventh at 3.14

The flip side of blocking shots is not having shots blocked on the offensive end.

And how do the Warriors rank in this category?

The team is third best in the league, with just 3.9 of its field goal attempts rejected per game – bested only by the Spurs (3.6) and Milwaukee (3.8).

Next: 5 Key Numbers Through The First Half Of The Season

Looking at the difference between shots blocked defensively, and shots blocked while on offense, the Warriors lead the league by blocking 4.5 more shots per game than their opponents, far outdistancing the second best team San Antonio (+1.9).

Clearly, the Warriors and their fans hope the block party continues through the second half of the season and contributes to a third NBA Championship in four years.