If the 2016 season taught Golden State Warriors fans anything, it's that you can't take anything for granted. With that in mind we're looking ahead at the teams most likely to cause the Warriors problems during the regular season.
Part two of “The Warriors Biggest Threats” three-part series, will be looking at the San Antonio Spurs, another team with a good chance of defeating the Warriors and their new Death Lineup that includes Kevin Durant in the regular season.
Warriors Threat No. 2: San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have been a thorn in the Warriors side for a while now. Despite the Warriors having some sporadic success against them recently, the Spurs remain one of the biggest threats to the Warriors in the regular season for a few reasons:
- They have elite perimeter defenders in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The former being the first non-center to win back-to-back defensive player of the year awards since Dennis Rodman.
- They were also one of the best defensive teams overall. On top of their league best DRtg the Spurs boasted one of the best defensive field goal percentages (DFG%) on shots within 6ft as well as the second best DFG% on three point shots.
- There were few teams as adept as the Spurs at rebounding and preventing second chance opportunities (which their DRB% supports).
- They were a Top 10 team in taking care of the ball, finishing with the 9th lowest turnover percentage (TOV%) in the league. This is important because the Warriors often rely on their stifling defense to fuel their high-powered offense, as they thrive on forcing turnovers and running out on the break. But with the Spurs being able to take of the ball so well these chances will be limited.
At first glance, it looks as if the Spurs have the same prerequisites for defeating the Warriors that I listed in Part 1 of this series. Despite this, there are still some questions.
Tim Duncan has retired and was replaced by Pau Gasol, a solid rebounder and scorer even at his advanced NBA age. Though, he’s also a questionable defender. In fact, the Spurs most glaring weakness is that they no longer have a rim protector. Neither Aldridge or Gasol can do what Duncan did, even in his older years (maybe he wasn't blocking as many shots but he was still altering them and forcing players off balance).
However, the Spurs coaching staff do a better job at tiring out the Warriors than any other team in the league. Much like Golden State, the Spurs put a heavy emphasis on ball and player movement.
On offense, they will have Parker (or whoever Curry is guarding) constantly in motion. They will force Curry to work as a defender. It's no secret that the best defense to slowing down Curry is to be physical, but that doesn't necessarily mean being physical defensively, it also means offensively. Whether it's having Curry chase his man around the perimeter and along the baseline or running him through a gauntlet of screens, the Spurs do a great job at tiring out the reigning MVP.
You can't bail the Warriors out with stagnant offense, allowing them to catch their breath, you have to keep their defenders moving, which the Spurs do remarkably well.
The last time the Spurs won less than 50 games in a season was 1999 (in a shortened lockout season where they went on to win the championship). They hold the record for the most consecutive 50-win seasons with 17.
Coach Gregg Popovich has instilled a culture of winning and team work that the Warriors have successfully mimicked under the tutelage of Steve Kerr (being a former Spurs player who is close friends with Popovich, this makes a lot of sense).
The greatest power forward in NBA history may have laced up his sneakers for the last time but his apprentice is already picking up from where the master left off. Leonard and the Spurs should not be taken for granted.
If there's one thing they know how to do, it's win. At all costs. And there's a good chance the Warriors will be a victim of the Spurs success at least once this season.
All statistics are from the 2016 season and taken from Basketball Reference unless otherwise stated.
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