The Warriors are in the mix. They aren’t special, but they’re not scrubs, either. At 8-7, they sat in seventh place in the Western Conference standings as of Friday morning.
And after the way this season started, that status is an accomplishment.
Since their uninspiring start the season, the Warriors have picked up big wins over the Clippers and Lakers. But being blown out by the Knicks on Thursday takes a bit of wind out of the team’s sails.
The Warriors might be a work-in-progress, but this first month of the season has shown that the work is worth the effort.
The way I see it, there are three stats that explain where the Warriors are heading into Saturday’s test against the Jazz. Three numbers that highlight the ups, downs, and harsh realities of this 2021 season.
Let me explain:
» That’s the Warriors’ assist percentage (number of field goals that come from an assist) in the games Draymond Green has played this season, the third-best mark in the NBA.
In the four games that the Warriors were without Green to begin the year, they had an assist percentage of 57 — the seventh-worst mark in the league.
While this big shift could be chalked up to small sample size, I think it goes to show the value Green — the defensive savant — has on the Warriors’ offense.
No, he’s not an outstanding shooter, but he’s an ace distributor, outstanding screener, and has court-vision that few others can boast. Yes, Green is the team’s defensive quarterback, but he plays the same role on offense, too.
The addition of Green has let the Warriors be more dynamic in their offensive looks. Golden State coach Steve Kerr can play Stephen Curry off the ball because Green can play point guard, or he can keep Curry on the ball and use Green and now center James Wiseman to set high screens for him, breaking down the connective tissue of the opposing defense.
When Green is on the floor, the ball and players move around. When he’s not — as we saw early in the season and again on Thursday with his first-half ejection against the Knicks — the Warriors become direct and predictable.
The numbers bear it out: The Warriors cannot be the Warriors without Green.
» That’s the Warriors’ starting lineup’s net rating in 146 minutes played this year, the worst mark of any NBA lineup that has played more than 100 minutes so far this season.
In fact, it’s more than twice as bad as the next-worst five-man lineup, the Suns’ starters.
Ironically, the Warriors’ best serious-use lineup (more than seven games played, more than 20 total minutes played together) is their starting lineup (Steph Curry, Kelly Oubre, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, James Wiseman) with Kevon Looney subbed in for Wiseman.
It’d be unfair to chastise a 19-year-old for not immediately dominating in the NBA, and Wiseman’s talent is spellbinding, but his inclusion in the starting lineup — the Warriors’ most frequently used five-man unit — has created a disjointedness.
Golden State has never had a true 7-foot center who can score at all three levels — it’s not immediately evident how such a player is supposed to fit into the team’s side-to-side motion offense. Wiseman is being used in his optimal form, as a rim-runner, but that creates spacing issues for a Warriors team that lacks catch-and-shoot options on the perimeter.
The Wiseman fit with wing Kelly Oubre has proven to be particularly thorny — Oubre is shooting 25 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers this season, the plurality of them being wide-open looks.
While there’s likely to be a further uptick in that percentage — Oubre is shooting 33 percent on such shots in the last 10 games, 40 percent in the last five — the issue remains that Oubre is being quarantined in the corner when Wiseman is on the floor, unable to cut to the basket without running into three defenders, and he’s not a lights-out shooter from the corner.
And that uptick might be minimal at best. Before coming to the Warriors, Oubre was a 28 percent shooter from the corners.
Oubre has found value in anchoring the Warriors’ second unit along with Eric Paschall. Wiseman is playing only 20 minutes per game. The two can co-exist on the Warriors roster — they’re both valuable, talented options for Warriors coach Steve Kerr, but he might need to prevent them from ever being on the floor together for the sake of the team.
» The Warriors’ motto this season isn’t really “Joy In Buckets” or “We Still Believe” — it’s “Welcome to the Real NBA”.
And the “real” NBA is a make-or-miss league.
Specifically, it’s a make-or-miss 3-pointers league.
Only fifteen games into the season, the Warriors should have a clear understanding of that.
Golden State is making 34 percent of their 3-pointers this season, which isn’t all that great (22nd in the league, as of Friday morning), but when they are making them, either through a Steph Curry flurry or an all-around great game from his supporting cast, they win.
When they miss, they lose.
It really is that simple.
In wins this season, the Warriors are attempting 40 3-pointers per game and making 40 percent of those shots.
In losses, though, Golden State has the worst 3-point shooting percentage in the league: 27.4 percent.
This is how 29 other teams have been living for years now. For squads without a preponderance of talent (aka “we don’t have Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson”), the 3-point shot is the harbinger of offensive success or failure.
The Warriors have learned that the hard way, and while the percentages might change, the make-or-miss nature of the league won’t.
Contributed by local news sources