The day is finally here, the stars have aligned and the Golden State Warriors have new ownership, but they also made one extremely good move this off season in acquiring David Lee. The future looks bright for the Golden State Warriors.
I. New Ownership
First off I would like to say that this is a very exciting time to be a Warriors fan, soon there will be a new owner announced and hopefully this will allow the Warriors to spend the big bucks they need to become a perennial playoff team, if not a championship caliber team. Congratulations Joseph Lacob!!!
For purposes of this post I have made a few assumptions that may not turn out to be true. One is that Don Nelson will be the coach of the Warriors next year. Another is that Udoh will get very little playing time due to his injury. Also Tolliver will be resigned(I have no idea if he will be) and C.J. Watson will be resigned. I also assume that the players on the team will miss only a minimal amount of time and that Stephen Curry will be the main point guard and Ellis will not play point as often as last year and finally production will average out(no one will get significantly better or worse.)
II. Cynicism Towards Past Front Office and Ownership
Because of years of incompetence it is easy as a fan to look at the moves that the Warriors front office make and simply state that you oppose any and every move. Many Warrior fans have done just that during this off-season. But I have examined what the Warriors have gained and what the Warriors have lost and I have come to the conclusion that the Warriors will be a much better team this year than last if they stay healthy. I will do this by examining last season's failings combined with the 2007-2008 team that won 48 games. Why was that team better than last years team?
III. The Truth About True Shooting Percentage
First there has been a lot of talk recently about TS% lately, dso has an excellent post about this very topic here is the link.
TS% is an important part of basketball as it shows how efficient a player is with the shots that he takes. TS% however is absolutely not as much of an indicator of overall team performance as one might think. Look at the 2007-2008 team overall that team had a .548 TS% and scored 112.2 points per game. Where as the 2009-2010 team actually out performed the 2007-2008 Warriors with a .555 TS% yet only scored 108.8 points per game. Not only did the 2009-2010 team perform better at TS% but they also forced slightly more turnovers.
How is this possible? It is possible because the 2007-208 team was better at rebounding and better at not turning the ball over, therefore they were significantly better at offense despite a lower TS%.
Below is a chart showing the past 10 years of Don Nelson's teams for which he coached a full season, and their TS% difference as compared with their opponents is contrasted with the amount of wins the team accumulated.
IV. The Importance of Rebounding
Brandan Wright missed the whole year, Anthony Randolph missed much of the year at the PF position. Forcing Maggette, Radmanovic and Tolliver to fill that role all of whom are not great rebounders. At the center position Biedrins missed significant time and played while injured. Hunter, Turiaf and Tolliver filled his role when he was gone all of whom were significantly worse at rebounding.
Now with Biedrins supposedly healthy and the acquisition of David Lee the Warriors have two elite rebounders, who give the Warriors a chance to actually out rebound their opponents. I would expect a team with 3400-3600 rebounds next year. If I extrapolate from career numbers the Warriors would have approximately 3730 rebounds next year, this probably won't happen because there will not be enough rebounds available for the team to grab. If the team remains healthy look for individual players to have slightly lesser rebounding statistics, but look for the team to be hugely improved rebounding wise.
Last year the Warriors had a pathetic 753 offensive rebounds compared to 2007-2008's 1045 offensive rebounds. Look for this number to reach upwards of 1000, and therefore around 250 more possessions to score. Also being better at defensive rebounds reduce the amount of possessions that opponents will have, this makes the team better at defense just as creating more possessions make us better at offense.
The ability to produce possessions and take away opponents possessions is why rebounding is so important. Even if a player does not have a good TS% but can rebound efficiently he can be an important part of a team. David Lee is offensively elite because he has a TS% pretty much equivalent to Corey Maggette yet when he plays power forward he is not out of position and grabs a good amount of both offensive and defensive rebounds. This is something that Anthony Randolph cannot do for the team next year that David Lee will be able to do.
Below is a chart comparing the last 10 full seasons that Don Nelson coached and the difference in rebounding with their opponents and the amount of wins the team accumulated.
Another way the Warriors will get better is the reduction in turnovers. The Warriors last year had two players who committed over three turnovers per game. These players where of course Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. If Stephen Curry becomes the main ball handler and Ellis goes back to only playing limited minutes at the point the team would have a little more than 100 less turnovers than last year and therefore 100 more possessions where they can potentially score. If efficiency remains constant from last year this will add an additional point and a half to their team PPG total in theory, which is actually makes quite a bit of difference.
Just like the rebounding chart and the TS% chart I made a FGA to drive home the point that there are multiple ways to win basketball games. There is no real "X factor" and all of these statistics are not worth anything unless compared with the opponents ability to do the same thing. If your team has a .600 TS% you can still lose if you are bad enough at the other categories.
VI. What has been gained? What has been lost?
Adding up the possessions gained from offensive rebounds and less turnovers the Warriors would have 350 extra possessions from last year. With those extra possessions last year's warriors would have scored 114.4 points per game based on their efficiency. With the loss of Morrow and Maggette the Warriors lose efficiency as those two players had excellent scoring efficiency. They have added David Lee who does score extremely efficiently and takes slightly more shots per game than Maggette, but they lose of Morrow. The team may make up for the lost efficiency if Ellis plays more along the lines of his career averages than his inefficient scoring last year.
With the loss of Turiaf, and Randolph the Warriors do lose significant shot blocking. David Lee does not block very many shots. Udoh would have softened this dramatic decrease in blocks if it were not for his untimely injury. With most of the shot blockers out last year for significant time the team only accumulated 340 blocks, which will probably be even less but not dramatically less next year baring any new signings. I personally believe that steals are more important than blocked shots. A steal results in a possession all the time where as a blocked shot can sometimes be deflected back to the opposing team or knocked out of bounds. The block represents good interior defense but does not necessarily mean a team is bad at interior defense if they do not block a lot of shots.
It should also be noted that David Lee has been significantly more healthy than any of the players that were traded for him. Last year is an example that having at least one consistently healthy front court player is extremely important towards winning basketball games.
VII. Defensive Improvement?
The largest problem the Warriors had last year was obvious to anyone who watched. In 2009-2010 Opponents had a .570 TS% against the Warriors. The 2007-2008 Warriors were actually less efficient than their opponents, as their opponents had a .554 TS% and they had a .548 TS%. The reason they had 48 wins is because they had more possessions to get their scoring done. So it is not necessary to completely close the TS% gap between the Warriors and our opponents in order for us to win. A big help should be Dorell Wright who has the length and athleticism to guard elite perimeter and wing players. Also playing two large players in Biedrins and Lee should help(although Nelson coaching does not guarantee this) guarding down low we will improve from last year(although I wouldn't exactly call us "good" either.) Overall I expect the Warriors to be improved defensively from last year but not dramatically so. I would expect the Warriors of next year to have a TS% around .545-.550, and opponents to have a TS% of around .550-.560.
VII I. Next Years Performance
Our team next year is all but guaranteed to improve on defense and in the areas of obtaining more shots for ourselves and limiting the shots of our opponents. Therefore we are all but guaranteed to have improved offensively as well as defensively. How much is uncertain, but I think that Warrior fans will be pleased with the results.
Last year the worst record in the West to make the playoffs was 50 wins. Although some talent has left the Western conference(Boozer, Stoudemire), some talent has also crossed the lines to the West from the East (Mainly David Lee.) Some teams are aging, but some teams are up and coming still(Oklahoma City) in the West. It could possibly take 50 wins to make it to the playoffs again this year. I think we could score about 110-112 points per game, and give up 108-110 PPG. This leaves us with around 41-48 wins, we could barely make the 8th seed maybe, but with the competition how it is, it is possible we might upset someone in the first round. Among the top teams in the west the difference between the best and worst team was seven wins.
I am not the only one who thinks the Warriors might be a contender next year. The "Wages of Wins" journal has this article titled "Warriors Stumble on 50 Wins?"
IX. Projection Charts
I made perfect world projections for the team before the David Lee trade and after the David Lee trade. In every single category the team with David Lee is better, most significantly in the case of defensive rebounds. One must realize that last year the Warriors were not nearly as bad as their record. If no one had been injured the 2009-2010 may have been a .500 team. At this point if no one else gets injured the Warriors are looking like they have moved from a .500 team to a few games above .500. As players like Radmanovic and Gadzuric are replaced for more productive players this team with David Lee has a much higher ceiling than the previous team. A healthy 2009-2010 team would have been filled with productive players, but none in the front court as productive as David Lee. Now with a less deep but more talented team who has plenty of money freeing up in the future to replace players like Turiaf, Azubuike and Randolph with equal or better choices.
The first chart shows projected performance if we had not traded for David Lee, the second Chart shows projected production with David Lee. These are only offensive projections. I have put up the amount of wins projected if we had the same defense as last year and the amount of points we would have to hold opponents to in order to reach 50 wins for both teams. Sorry for the blurriness of the charts, just click on them to see them more clearly.
on the amount of minutes I projected each player to get “in a perfect world” then I added them up and multiplied them by 82 games. For Stephen Curry’s numbers I used his numbers from January when he started being the primary ball-handler. I rated Ellis’s statistics by looking at his career scoring numbers and adjusted his turnovers so that it accounted for him only playing point for about six minutes a game.
What I found is that David Lee’s offensive production for 36 minutes a game far outweighs Randolph, Azubuike and Turiaf’s production. In the end we have a team that is slightly better at pretty much everything but blocked shots.
I rated each team’s per game FGA based on the projected number of FGA they would have based on lack of turnovers added offensive rebounds and forced turnovers.
X. The Future
I would recommend the Warriors sign a cheap shot blocking center, and another back up shooting forward or shooting guard who can hit three pointers well. I have confidence the Warriors will be able to do this as every year it seems the Warriors find some promising player out of nowhere.
As far as the more distant future is concerned getting closer to the playoffs is good, we could attract more players to play in the Bay Area. Don Nelson cannot coach in the NBA for much longer due to his age and although we will most likely to continue playing up tempo basketball we will no longer have Nelson, in my opinion this is both a good thing and a bad thing. This means that down the line Monta Ellis will probably be abandoned for a larger shooting guard. I suspect that depth will be added and the role players will get better. It is my opinion with the acquisitions we made this summer and the ownership change the Warriors are on the precipice of becoming a perinatal playoff contender. We as Warriors fans have waited for this day for a very long time and I think it is finally here.
*All Statistics obtained from basketball-reference.com