Before 2013, casual NBA fans probably do not have much expectations for the Golden State Warriors.
In the 2014/2015, the Golden State Warriors took the NBA by storm and clinched the Larry O’Brien trophy.
In 2015/2016, they raised the bar and bested their own performance by ending regular season with a 73-9 record.
In 2016/2017, like adding wings to a tiger, the dubs became even more formidable with the addition of MVP Kevin Durant, thereby bagging their second trophy.
It is great news for the owners Joseph Lacob and Peter Guber that the Golden State Warriors have progressed a whole lot since Bob Myers and Steve Kerr took the helm. For the 29 other NBA teams, not such a good news.
As teams scramble to find an answer to the Warriors, general managers and front office staff crack their heads to rebuild their teams from ground up.
Some seek to emulate the “small ball” brand of basketball that is made fashionable by the Warriors. Some tore their teams apart to free up cap space to trade for star players in an attempt to form their own “super teams”. Others even resort to sacking their coach or bringing in new management.
As they gameplan and strategize, all teams pour in their resources trying to chase the seemingly invincible Warriors team.
The Warriors are well-known by casual fans for their high octane offence. Warriors’ own fans may pride themselves with the dub’s choking team defence. Fervent fans will perhaps know of their switching ability and great pace too.
There is, however, an under-the-radar strength of the Warriors that many may have overlooked. That is the stellar shot-blocking performance of the team.
Kevin Durant is currently sitting at top two in the league for blocks per game at 2.3 within his 34.8 minutes per game average usage. His growth into a defensive force has been tremendous ever since he commited himself to bringing up his game on the defensive end.
The lanky Slim Reaper combines athleticism and length, hounding anyone trying to make a drive or dunk. The ex-MVP makes a decent case even for top five defenders in NBA.
The recent Christmas game had been a classic showcase of Durant’s rim protection prowess. Controversial no-call but still does the job to bring on the defensive pressure in late game situation.
With just two years working on his blocking ability, Durant has already reached NBA pinnacle in shot-blocking. Give him another season and we might even see Warriors as the only team in modern NBA history to have two players in All-NBA Defensive First Team or better yet, have two Defensive Player of the Year winners.
Reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Draymond Green, is a top-14 shot blocker with 1.4 blocks per game within a reasonable 32.5 minutes of average game time. His rim protection adds on to Durant’s swats to form a two-layered shield.
For Green, his impact on the opponents game goes way beyond the numbers in the stat sheet. Intangibles such as deflected passes, diverted shots and rim presence bring caution, if not fear into opponent players trying to jostle down low for a shot.
As the heart and soul of the Warriors, Draymond’s impact on shot blocking is critical in providing the spark for the Warrior’s defense.
Jordan Bell, a second round draft pick rookie this year, is also making waves straight out of the gate. Draymond has taken a personal interest in mentoring, and “torturing” Jordan in an attempt to nurture his defensive capacity. That is great news for Bell but scary news for the league. Imagine a Draymond number two in a few years to come, how terrorizing can that be?
In just 14.1 minutes of action per game, Bell delivered a decent 1.1 blocks per game. Imagine what he could do if he plays regular minutes that are closer to 30 minutes? 2.2 blocks each match? That’s pretty incredible for a rookie.
Apart from the blocks, Jordan Bell is not any “one-trick-pony”. At 6’9 and 224lb, Bell may not out-reach bigs. However, his sheer energy and quick feet is always a problem for opponents even before they could reach the rim vicinity. His chase down blocks brings speed and power that are intimidating for smaller guards.
What’s even more scary is that Bell has yet to develop his full potential and only going to get better under the pedigree tutelage of championship coaches and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Let all these sink in and let us take a moment to appreciate the greatness that the Warriors have shown us.
If these three players continue their potent ball-swatting vigour, the Golden State Warriors are definitely going to take it a notch higher as the absolute force to be reckoned with come playoffs time.