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The Warriors’ defense is elite again

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After struggling early in the year, the Warriors’ defense has regained its intensity. Their rim protection in particular is among the best the NBA has ever seen.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors started off the season struggling to play up to their talent level, and dropped a few games due to sloppy and uninspired play early on. Most of the problems were on the defensive end, where the team simply didn’t play with the intensity and discipline it had shown in the past.

The Warriors are known worldwide for their sweet shooting and electric offense. But in fact, their defense has been more reliable for a longer period of time. The Warriors have been top five in defensive rating over the last four years per Basketball Reference, led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green.

Finally, after more than thirty games in the 2017-2018 season, the Warriors’ defense is up to speed. They’re the top defense per NBA Stats and Cleaning the Glass, and the fourth best according to Basketball Reference.

Like in years past, the Warriors have so much defensive versatility: so many of their players can defend multiple positions. This allows the team to switch assignments on screens and force teams to score via isolation possessions.

But one dimension of the current Warriors’ dominance is somewhat new: their rim protection. Many were skeptical of the Warriors’ ability to defend the rim last season when they lost Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli. While they were decent in that department last season, they’ve risen to ridiculous levels recently.

Kevin Durant, the nominal starting small forward, leads the league in total blocks. Jordan Bell and Draymond Green are monster rim protectors in their own right, while Zaza Pachulia and David West are sturdy as well. The team is averaging 8.6 blocks per game, on track to break the NBA record.

KD’s progress as a weakside shot blocker is especially fantastic. Although I think his Defensive Player of the Year buzz is misguided since Draymond is the better and more valuable defender for the Warriors, his recent play has been remarkable. Even LeBron James feared going into the lane against the Warriors on Christmas

The Warriors’ offense has been inconsistent and a little sluggish with Stephen Curry out. But the defense has kept the Warriors as good as ever, only losing once during his absence. With Steph expected back on Saturday, the Warriors have to be very happy with where their current position.