2016-17 Golden State Warriors Season Preview: Invincible or Not?

Clippers Warriors Basketball

Anytime you get the chance to add Kevin Durant to your roster, you absolutely must do it. Right?

The Dunkyard examines the cost and benefits to the Warriors and tries to guess whether it’ll all be worth it.

Last season by the numbers

  • Record: 73-9 (1st EVER)
  • Offensive rating: 112.5 (1st)
  • Defensive rating: 100.9 (4th)
  • Pace: 101.6 (2nd)
  • True shooting: 59.3% (1st)
  • Turnover rate: 13.5% (19th)
  • Offensive rebounding: 23.5% (19th)
  • Defensive rebounding: 76.0% (15th)
  • Giveashitameter: 7th
  • Highest PER*: 31.5 (Curry)

(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.

At a glance

(Converts the above rankings into a rating out of 10).

gsw

Recap

You would think that a team that just set the all time regular season record for wins would have no real weaknesses, right?

Wrong.

The Warriors had plenty of weaknesses. The problem for everyone else was that their strengths were so overwhelmingly insane, that it really didn’t matter about the rest… until LeBron came along.

Everything you need to know about the Warriors’ offense was that they ranked 2nd all time in three point field goal percentage and 1st all time in three point field goals made. In other words, no matter what you did, you simply could not stop Curry and Thompson from nailing three after three after three after fucking three all over you. Between the two of them, they hit 678 threes (good enough to outgun 14 other entire teams) out of 1,536 attempts – at an obscene 44.1%. Meanwhile, the NBA’s second best team for threes made was the Cavs with 880. You’ve got to be kidding me.

And when Curry and Klay weren’t doing their thing, Green was there to piss everyone off with his 100 threes at 38.8%.

The main catch to the Warriors’ offense was that they were hopeless at looking after the ball, ranking 19th overall. While it obviously wasn’t a problem during the regular season, it became a bigger issue in the playoffs. While Curry’s injury seemed to slow him down, it wasn’t his shooting and ability to create that suffered most (regular season: TS 66.9% and 32.6% usage rate vs post season: TS 60.3%* and 32.1% usage) – it was his ball handling that went in the tank (10.2% vs 13.8% – 26th out of 32 post season point guards).

Elsewhere, the offensive production of Bogut (53rd among 60 centers on turnover rate) and Green (69th among 74 power forwards) also came at a significant cost.

So while these things could be glossed over against teams like the Lakers, LeBron was having none of it.

The only other thing to criticise the Warriors’ offense on was their ability to get to the foul line, which ranked 25th in the league for FTA/FGA (yes, free throws hit an an NBA-average rate are still more efficient than the Warriors’ historically great three point shooting). When the pressure’s on in the finals and your threes aren’t dropping, getting to the line becomes a critical supplement for any offense – and the Warriors simply didn’t have this.

The Warriors’ defense was also stellar, ranking 4th overall. With the likes of Thompson, Green, Iguodala and Bogut, the Warriors were able to hawk the perimeter (2nd in three point percentage allowed) while also keeping things tight inside the arc (4th in two point percentage allowed). That said, there were some obvious weaknesses:

  • 17th in FTA/FGA allowed.
  • 22nd in turnovers forced.
  • 15th on defensive rebounding.

What it meant was that when LeBron came knocking, they couldn’t take the ball off him or stop him from getting to the rim – or from having another go when he missed.

Reasons to be optimistic

Kevin Durant.

Steph Curry.

Draymond Green.

Klay Thompson.

Want me to paint you a picture?

Reasons not to be

The Warriors’ entire defense hinges on Green. If he gets injured or goes loco for any prolonged period of time, then the whole house of cards comes crashing down. There’s no chance the leftovers will be able to stop anyone or anything on defense and their offensive prowess simply won’t matter.

Even with Green there the whole time, the Warriors’ defense is suspect to say the least. Replacing Bogut, Barnes and Ezeli with Durant and Pachulia is not like for like when it comes to stopping to opposition. Which then begs the question: is improving the offense from 99.8% awesome to 99.9% really worth the defensive regression?

Major Ins 

Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia.

Major Outs 

Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Marreese Speights, Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli.

The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup

  • Curry
  • Thompson
  • Durant
  • Green
  • Pachulia

Dave’s Lowdown

Should we just hand over the Larry O’Brien trophy now? Adding this guy to a team that went 73-9 seems about as fair as allowing Usain Bolt to run in the Paralympics. I honestly have a hard time seeing any team, Lebron’s Cavaliers included, beating this team 4 out of 7 come playoff time, but I always enjoy playing Devil’s Advocate so let’s try and predict where it could go wrong:

  • Whenever the Warriors stars struggled last season they could count on Bogut, Barnes, Speights, Ezeli, Barbosa and Rush (along with Iguodala and Livingston) to play their roles perfectly and change the momentum of games they had no business of winning. All six of these guys have gone to make room for KD. Who can they call on from their bench to provide a spark this season? James Michael McAdoo? Ian Clark? 34yr old Anderson Varejao? 36yr old David West? The human absurdity that is JaVale McGee? I’m not convinced.
  • While it’s still early days it certainly appears that Durant isn’t here to be a supporting actor. He’s want to be 1st option, he wants to be the main man. How do Curry, Thompson and Green react to this? It’s the Destiny’s Child corollary – everybody wants to be Beyoncé, not everybody just wants to be Kelly Rowland….and absolutely nobody wants to be, ummm, the other one.

Realistically, this team will two step their way all the way to the title, but that’s what we all said about last season’s team. It’s championship or bust with no shortage of volunteers lining up to lick the salty tears from their crying Scott Tenorman faces should they fail.

Forecast record: 65-17

The regular season will be a cakewalk, with a few hiccups along the way as the team decides who the real Alpha male is. Once they get that sorted out, it’s then only a matter of whether any team in the West has a way to stop them… and then whether LeBron and Kyrie do.

 


(*) Curry’s 60.3% true shooting in the playoffs was more or less the same as the year before (60.7%).