This season has already brought a series of big challenges and opponent adjustments, and Steve Kerr, Alvin Gentry, Ron Adams and the rest of the coaching staff (henceforth referred to as KerrCo) have done an outstanding job responding. It's a testament to the power of having three top NBA minds -- each of whom could run their own team -- collaborating and sharing credit.
Below I list what I see as the big challenges so far. Most of the article will be on #1. I hope to write follow-up articles on the other challenges.
- Learning the New Playbook. (A little more detail below, with a big deep dive into the Warriors Weave.)
- Opponents Pass Denial. As teams have begun to scout out the W's playbook, they have started to recognize basic play structures. Teams are now trying to deny the pass into the first option. The main W's counter has been an increase in backdoor cuts. This has been very effective and beautiful.
- Opponents Blitzing Double Team of Curry. Cut off the head of the snake, the snake dies. The W's took all of last year's Clippers playoff series to figure out how to counter the double-team blitz of Curry. The Xmas Clippers game showed the W's were not (yet) ready to counterpunch the Blitz. The Raptors, Pacers and Hawks, among other teams, have adopted this strategy against Curry. The Warriors' counter has been improved spacing and quick cuts when your defender leaves to double team. This has worked with some mixed positive results.
- Juggling Personnel. Just juggling minutes and lineups has been a challenge. Andrew Bogut has missed 12 games and David Lee missed much of the season. Festus Ezeli is in and out. Bogut begins missing time on December 8th vs. MIN; despite this, the W's extend their streak to 16 in a row. During this phase, KerrCo starts Marreese Speights at C even though Lee returns. Just getting Andre Iguodala and Lee to come off the bench has been a masterpiece of player sacrifice and coach motivation. (Others have written well about this, so this won't get an expanded piece.)
- Trying to Activate the Bench. The W's have been challenged getting the bench players into their offensive sweet spots -- Shaun Livingston in the post, Leandro Barbosa driving and taking very open threes, Justin Holiday cutting and spotting up for three, Speights taking elbow jumpers, Lee attacking the post in motion, getting Andre to take any shot. The easy diagnosis is that there's no spacing on the bench, and I think the easy diagnosis happens to be true. KerrCo has tried bench mob and also mixing in bench players with Curry/Klay. This is an ongoing project with more misses than hits so far.
Learning the New Playbook
Understanding The Warriors Weave
1. The Basic Weave
2. Weave, Defenders Switch on PnR
3. Weave, Defenders Double-team on PnR
4. Weave, Defenders ICE the PnR
Final Exam Question
- Mo does not make contact on his screen. He slips it way too early.
- It doesn't matter that Mo missed the screen because Barbosa puts his head down and turns on the jets to go by everyone. I'm not sure what he would have done if he were cut off -- it's the good and bad of LB in one second.
- This play should not work. In slow-mo, the correct play is for Wes Matthews to help off of SL in the corner and to cut off LB in the paint. This connects to the basic problem for where to play SL. If it's not in the post, then his man can double team.
- Andre goes way out of his way to NOT make contact on the screen in the dribble-pitch. I hadn't quite realized how much he avoids contact on screens, but in the dozens of Weaves I watched, Andre did not set a screen with contact ever. This makes sense if you believe his health is fragile. On the other hand, if this pattern holds (Andre never screens), this will make it a little difficult for him to play with the full range of the offensive playbook, because KerrCo's system really goes better if EVERYONE screens or threatens to screen on plays. This deserves its own post...
The Weave has a lot of elements that KerrCo wanted to see in the offense. The ball switches sides multiple times, the pick and roll/pop happens in motion and with deception, every player is involved in the play, and good spacing makes the play possible. It's also fun to watch, but it isn't really much more complex than a simple high pick and roll with shooters spaced. As the Weave is scouted, the Ws will have to find counters to the counters. In fact, the Ws also have a variation on the Weave where Green does a fake Weave and drives instead. But to keep the article short, we skipped that -- maybe next time.
So, this is my first post as an official staffer! I'd like to keep doing these occasional deep dives into the playbook and into various issues of import. I have ideas for a few more of these features, as I listed above. However, I am always interested in getting guidance from the community on what other topics to handle, or whether to increase/decrease the technical level or otherwise make this an enjoyable read for you. I also really like it when people point out things in the videos that I didn't talk about or notice, so don't be shy. I'm learning too.