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The truth behind "There's only one ball"

Exploring the Warriors’ offensive numbers and debunking a common argument from the doubters.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

While Warriors fans spent the off-season rejoicing at the newly formed "super team," the skeptics gathered in the shadows and harmoniously chanted their mantra over and over: "There's only one ball, it will never work. There's only one ball, it will never work."

Since the moment this team was formed, the argument has been that the Warriors have too many all-star caliber players who need the ball in their hands and not enough touches to go around. However, it appears as if the cynics may have been wrong.

I plan on keeping track of this and writing more about it as the season goes on, but for now let's look at exactly how much the Warriors’ players are sacrificing to fit Kevin Durant into the team.

Field Goal Attempts

First of all we need to take a look at their field goal attempts per game.

Interestingly, Durant has sacrificed more shots on a per game basis than both Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Most pundits and fans were predicting that it would be either Green or Thompson who would have to sacrifice the most. While both Green and Thompson are taking less shots, they're not sacrificing as many shots per game as Durant and Stephen Curry. To me, this says a lot about the mentality of both Curry and Durant. They are willing to sacrifice more to win big in the long run.

Points Per Game

Now we know that in regards to shot attempts, all of the core four are sacrificing to some extent. But how does this translate into the amount of points they're scoring?

This is more along the lines of what people expected. There is a pretty significant drop-off for Green, who has gone from averaging a respectable 14 points per game last season to a little over 10 points per game.

The drop-off is not as severe for Curry and Thompson. Curry is averaging 27 points per game as opposed to 30 and Thompson is averaging 21 points per game as opposed to 22.

Curiously, both Curry and Durant are averaging around 27 points per game each. If both manage to finish the season with 27 points per game — or more — the Warriors would become just the second active franchise to have two players average 27 points per game or more in the same season.

In case you're wondering, the other franchise is the Los Angeles Lakers (Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain; Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant; Elgin Baylor and Jerry West).


Now let’s take a look at offensive efficiency by seeing how Curry’s, Green’s and Thompson’s true shooting percentages have fared so far this season compared to last.

(For those who don't know, TS% is known as "true shooting percentage." It is simply a more accurate measure of scoring efficiency as it takes into account 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws.)

Last year Curry shattered records on his way to becoming the most efficient league leader in scoring the NBA had ever seen. While it was always unlikely that he would maintain that insane level of efficiency, it seems that Curry and Thompson have managed to keep up their high level of efficient scoring.

There has been a significant drop off in Green’s efficiency. First of all, he is shooting a lot worse from deep this year; last season he averaged 38.8% on three-point shots and this season he's averaging 28.3%.

Part of that might be due to him expending more energy on defense this season. With Bogut missing and center production proving to be average at best on defense, Green has had to do a lot on the defensive side. If he is tiring himself out on that end of the floor, it could explain his poor shooting since tired legs affect long-range shots.

So how about Durant? Unsurprisingly, playing beside the reigning MVP and two other all-stars has resulted in a spike in his efficiency. At 68% his TS% has never been higher. By comparison, his TS% last season was 63.4% and his MVP season was 63.5%.

Final Thoughts

As the Warriors’ pace has increased, so has the number of assists per game. This is a trend going back to the beginning of the Steve Kerr era.

This isn't surprising, as an increase in pace simply means more possessions and more possessions means more opportunities for assists and more touches to go around. On top of that Coach Kerr’s emphasis on player and ball movement means easier shots are being created. All this may be part of the reason the Warriors have managed to retain similar field goal attempts and points per game for their four stars.

The question now is whether this will continue. Can the Warriors keep up this pace? Will Green see an improvement on his shooting efficiency? Will Curry and Durant continue to have similar field goal attempts and points per game? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, one ball is more than enough for these four all-stars.

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