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Notes & numbers: Five trends from recent Warriors games

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From Zaza Pachulia’s coin collection to the development of Jordan Bell, here’s a glimpse into a few recent trends from your favorite NBA team.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors
Hands up high!
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After spending the start of the season in Japan for work, it was great to be able to catch up on recent Warriors games, in their entirety, since returning home.

My knowledge of the team over the past month was relegated to news articles, Golden State of Mind and highlight reels on YouTube. But, like the Loch Ness monster or the Kardashian family, some spectacles are meant to be seen with your own eyes in order to absorb them fully — to discern fact from fiction.

With inspiration from Zach Lowe’s “Ten things I like and don’t like” series, here are five observations I made from the Warriors’ games against the Bulls and Pelicans.

#1. Zaza Pachulia, the artful dodger

I thought I had Pachulia’s game pretty much pegged. But then he went out and showed off some slick pick-pocketing skills that would make Linus Caldwell blush. His two picks during the Chicago game were a sight to behold considering they led to the fabled big-man fast break.

In total, Pachulia collected five steals across two games and poked away the ball at least three more times to disrupt the opponent’s possession. This skill proved to be the ultimate foil against DeMarcus Cousins and may be a nice tool for Pachulia to use down the road against similarly skilled and strong big men who aren’t the most athletic.

#2. Jordan Bell has all the tools, they just need refinement

Coming into the season, I was an avid believer that Bell would quickly supplant those ahead of him on the depth chart.

I saw some incredible displays of athleticism from him in a number of early-season highlights. But his first start in the NBA was eye-widening. A few of his six blocks had me off my couch and doing all sorts of weird dances in my living room (much to my downstairs neighbor’s dismay). Those chase-down plays in the Chicago game reeked of that LeBron James combination of speed, timing and leaping ability.

However, there were moments when Bell’s athleticism betrayed him. He became a victim to the pump fake on a number of possessions — even taking a nasty spill on this particular play.

Maybe he has been hanging around JaVale McGee too much (you’re still awesome JaVale!). But on a number of occasions I sensed Bell might have been looking for the home-run play instead of maintaining a sound defensive position. Against the Bulls, that wasn’t too much of an issue. But this is a vulnerability better teams would undoubtedly take advantage of.

On offense, Bell made all the right plays and you can see a hint of Draymond Green in his game in terms of how he sees the court. However, at some point, he’ll have to develop some semblance of a shot or at least look to score. There were a few possessions where the defense visibly sagged off of Bell, which lead to some awkward passing decisions.

But, all in all, he looks very promising and I’m super excited to see his development through the rest of the season.

#3. Curry’s midrange game

One of the things that stood out to me was the number of midrange jump shots Stephen Curry took. I wasn’t sure if this was simply an outlier of games, so I decided to do some digging into the numbers.

It turns out that Curry is indeed taking more shots from that region (~25% of his shots) than in the previous two seasons (~18% in 2016-17 and ~15% in 2015-16). That’s quite an uptick and it’s coming at the expense of the number of shots he’s taking at the rim (down ~6% from last season).

But there’s some solace to take in Curry heaving more shots from within the zone people consider least valuable on the court. He’s converting roughly the same number of shots from that region as he is from down low (~56%). That’s an incredible improvement upon his last two seasons, where he shot roughly 45% from that midrange area.

For most players, the law of averages will probably end up working against them at some point. But we all know Curry to be one of the best, if not the best, shooter to ever grace this sport. I’m much more inclined to believe he can maintain the midrange pace.

Considering his three-point shot has been less extraordinary than we are accustomed to seeing, I’m not against Curry taking those midrange jumpers in order to get going — especially since defenses are loading up on the three-point line and under the basket, leaving that midrange area more open for sharpshooters to leverage.

#4. Curry’s early foul troubles

I caught wind of some moans and groans when it came to Curry and early foul trouble. Then I got to witness it firsthand in that game against the Bulls. By the end of the first quarter, when the Warriors were losing to the worst team in the league, I couldn’t help but shake my head.

In the first 20 games of the season, Curry reached foul trouble in four of them, including the aforementioned Chicago game. The other three include the matches during opening week against the Rockets and Grizzlies, and then the matchup against the Celtics. And, the trend would continue.

Foul trouble throws everything into disarray and Curry has to be better at his risk assessment, especially early in games. We all know how important he is to what the Warriors do on the court — something his second place RPM can attest to. So, I’d rather he opt to create chaos for his opponents rather than for Steve Kerr’s rotation decisions.

#5. The Town jersey: I want one!

My, oh my, were those beautiful! I also thought it was terrific that the team decided to place the logo at center court for the game against the Pelicans. It just looked so damn cool.

Considering the team is only two years from relocating out of Oakland and across the Bay, I think it’s great that the organization can pay tribute to “The Town”, no matter how small you may consider the gesture to be.

I’ve never lived in a city that a sports team was directly affiliated with and, therefore, trust I’ll never fully understand the connection some people feel for their hometown organizations. But hopefully little things like these jersey-night tributes can help to soothe the sting of the team’s departure.

Sources:

NBA Stats.com

NBA Miner

Basketball Reference