The Golden State Warriors, even with Stephen Curry back, are trying to rediscover themselves. It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far, and there’s still about three-fourths of it to go. And while no one doubts the Warriors in the playoffs, there are still some holes the regular season has revealed that will need to be fixed before April.
3. Developing an Interior Presence
The Warriors knew they’d have a different look at center this year with Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, and David West departing. But the three young big men that replaced them haven’t replicated last season’s center success.
Damian Jones was having a decent growth year before his injury ousted him. Jordan Bell has regressed from his promising rookie campaign. A bright spot, however, has been Kevon Looney, who continues to hustle, rebound, screen, and score when needed. He’s been making the smart play, which contrasts to previous years when he would, at times, look lost out on the court.
Collectively, though, the three young centers haven’t put up great numbers. And for a team looking to three-peat, their production will have to improve.
Through December 7, according to teamrankings.com, the Warriors are dead last in the league in points in the paint per game.
It’s true that the Warriors’ strength is their shooting, but they’re going to need some kind of scoring from their centers to complement their three-point threats. Just the ability to finish off of dump-offs or lobs would be sufficient. Last year, Zaza, JaVale, and David West helped the Warriors finish 22nd in the league in points in the paint per game. While not exhilarating numbers, it was enough to get the job done en route to a championship.
In addition, the Warriors’ toughness on the glass will have to improve. The Warriors currently rank 21st in the league in offensive rebounds per game. They also rank 26th in the league in their opponent’s team rebounds per game, and 28th in the league in their own team rebounds per game. The Warriors’ centers need to do a better job of boxing out and getting in position to fight for rebounds. Rebounding is often referred to as a chance to show who wants the ball more and the Warriors’ big men still have to prove their toughness down low if the Warriors want to make a deep playoff run.
Of course, the sample size this season is a bit flawed. Draymond Green, arguably the toughest player on the team, has missed several games with an injury. And DeMarcus Cousins, an All-NBA center, is targeting sometime after Christmas to be able to play. Their additions, seemingly, will have an enormous impact on righting the ship down low, where the Warriors have struggled thus far.
2. Picking Up the Pace
The Warriors have also played at a slower pace compared to years past. In the Warriors’ pace-and-space offense, it’s much more difficult to create open looks when they’re not out and running. Part of the problem of the muddled slog their offense can get stuck in is the absence of Steph Curry and Draymond Green.
Regardless, the Warriors haven’t been able to get out and run as much. According to NBA.com, they rank 27th in forcing opponent turnovers in the league. Turnovers turn into fast breaks going the other way, where the Warriors thrive. It’s much easier to find open shooters or attack the basket before the defense is set up. And with their personnel, the Warriors usually get a good amount of open looks on fast breaks.
At least in past years, they have. This season, the Warriors rank fifth in the NBA in fast break points per game, which might be acceptable for any other team out there. But compared to the fact that the Warriors have led the league in fast break points per game every year since Steve Kerr took over, fifth in the league means there is room to improve.
NBA.com also measures PACE, or a team’s possessions per game, which can be an indicator of how fast a team gets up and down the floor. While the Warriors usually pride themselves on being one of the fastest-paced teams out there, they currently stand 18th in the league at 100.85 possessions per game. But the pace of teams throughout the league has gotten quicker compared to previous years, which has resulted in the scoring explosion this season. The Warriors will need to pick it up a little bit to keep pace.
1. Taking More Three’s
It’s no secret the Warriors are a three-point shooting team. They boast two of the best to ever do it in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. However, this season, the Warriors have passed up an uncanny amount of three-point looks in favor of long mid-range shots. According to Anthony Slater, the Warriors have even attempted 110 less three’s than their opponent, as of December 1.
Warriors have now taken 110 fewer 3-point attempts compared to their opponents this season. https://t.co/fZ7MS18JuB
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 2, 2018
Their league ranks follow suit. The Warriors are 19th in the league in three-pointers attempted per game, which doesn’t sound like a team that counts the three-pointer as one of their strongest offensive threats. Whether it’s a coaching issue or whether the players just aren’t getting open looks is something the Warriors will have to get sorted out.
Steve Kerr did take the time to discuss the Warriors’ three-point shooting strategies, as previously noted by Clutch Points.
And again, just like with the other two issues, injuries have played a role. The team lacks the floor spacing necessary to get open looks with Curry having been out for a few weeks. They also are in dire need of Draymond Green’s services facilitating and directing the offense.
The Warriors are also still looking for consistent and reliable three-point threats outside of Steph and Klay. Durant can knock down the occasional three, but he’s one who needs to shoot it more from the outside. Jerebko can knock down an open three, as can Quinn Cook and Alfonzo McKinnie. But other reliable options from deep are still something the Warriors are searching for a quarter of the way into the season.
At the end of the day, the Warriors may still be fine. Every team has issues and that includes the Warriors, as each of the past four seasons they’ve been to the Finals have all presented different problems. But this season, with the Warriors dealing with internal drama and uncertainty, the problems are a bit more pronounced.
It’ll be on both the players and the coaches to show resiliency and to start to make adjustments as they march through what is shaping up to be their toughest regular season in the Kerr era.