Andre Iguodala is known mostly as the lockdown wing defender around these parts; diverting most of the primary responsibilities to himself and leaving the secondary chores to solid defenders in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But almost the moment he was re-inserted into the starting lineup, the passing became what it was when the flying circle of three-point shooting daggers were functioning at full force to start the season. Which is to say, not only can the Golden State Warriors shoot, but they can pass the hell out of the ball.
The Warriors average the seventh-most three-point attempts (23.9 per game) in the league, while shooting the second-highest percentage only behind Portland. Since Iguodala returned in the New Orleans Pelicans game, the #FullSquad (h/t Jordan Ramirez of WarriorsWorld) lineup has attempted 25.3 attempts per game. And while they're only shooting 32.7 percent in that span, the small sample size projects improvement. The Houston Rockets lead the league with 26.4 attempts per game.
The starters came into this game knowing they should full well dominate the opposing team's lineup. And when Orlando's best player, and interior presence Nikola Vucevic sprained his ankle and left the game, it was easy pickings from there on out. The Curry-Lee pick-and-roll worked to perfection. The midrange game was a success for what seemed like the first time this season, Lee abused Big Baby in the post, and the swing pass from the top of the key was open all day long for wing shooters like Thompson and Iguodala.
On defense, the Warriors closed out hard on every jump shot, even Lee going out against Davis, and successfully funnelled every Magic player to Bogut in the middle. As usual, Bogut swallowed every rebound and contested and changed every shot. It was the essentially what the coaches draw up - or whatever they do in locker rooms - and the Warriors starters and even bench executed.
This is the perfect matchup for Lee. With an undersized Magic front line, Lee eviscerated player after player on the glass and on post-ups. When the midrange is rolling, Lee is one of the better offensive forwards in the Western Conference. Confidence is a big part of any player's game but Lee's roll has been symptomatic of the overall Warriors offense since Iguodala's return.
The highlight didn't come on a made basket but on a Curry-Lee pick-and-roll that worked Lee into the mid-post. He took one dribble, saw Iguodala open in the corner and flicked a behind-the-back pass for a wide-open three. Iguodala didn't make the shot but had a Jermaine O'Neal free throw timespan to shoot that shot. Mark Jackson's substitutions and some strategies remain a bit wanted but the offense is second to none when everyone is rolling. And to think, the Warriors aren't even shooting threes well right now.
1. The Harrison Barnes struggle continues. As does the backlash. I guess that comes with the territory when news in the offseason hit that he played very well against Iguodala in workouts. Barnes is essentially playing like the same guy from last season - unassertive, inconsistent but still possessing some talent. The difference is that Iguodala is on the team and Green has played himself into a starring role. Barnes hasn't gotten worse so much as expectations have risen unreasonably higher.
2. The Draymond Green success story continues. Is enough made of him and Lee going full Jenny Craig in the offseason? Only one player came back significantly improved and Green has made a living working on the boards, defense and nailing big-time jumper after big-time jumper. I watched a ton of Michigan State basketball in college - because of Green's ability to control an offense and play his passion to crazed college crowds - and there was no indication Green would be able to translate any of his game beside the passing to the big leagues. He was a decent shooter but struggled mightily last season, and didn't play enough nor handle enough touches to make tangible plays on offense.
What has surprised the most has been the transformation on defense. Slow-footed and a bit round coming into the Association, Green has developed into a nasty defender capable of locking down point guards while meeting power forwards at the rim. Short story short, Green has been the heart and soul of the otherwise nonexistent bench.
3. The bench played the whole fourth quarter and didn't screw anything up. So there's that. Kent Bazemore, Toney Douglas and Green hounded ball handlers all over the court. Speights and Barnes crashed the boards aggressively on missed shots. Most importantly, they kept the turnovers at a minimum and played Orlando to a standstill.
Regardless of their "success", Jackson won't be able to toss this *insert whatever bench name* lineup out there when the minutes start ratcheting up. But I think, more likely than not, he knows this and is just managing the minutes of the starters while trying to inject some confidence for bench players that might have to play more minutes in desperate situations. Come March and April? Expect very little Bazemore and Speights and only a smattering of Douglas with Iguodala manning the backup point when he's healthy.
Happy New Year's people. Stay safe out there. Don't do anything Marreese Speights in the midrange would do.
Statistical support for this piece provided by NBA.com, unless stated otherwise.