With 46 games down, we’ve gathered enough evidence to begin evaluating the players on the Golden State Warriors.
These are as unbiased as I can make them but, as Plato argued, it is difficult to distinguish between real truth and subjective knowledge. I’ll do the best I can to use evidence where possible, but please try not to get too mad at me when I slap an arbitrary letter grade on players.
Also, there will be no “Incomplete” or “TBD” grades — we are evaluating how these guys have performed on the court to present. How have they performed against expectations? To what degree have they fulfilled their designated roles? Answer: Full stop.
If an injury or emergence of a new player bumps them down the depth chart, then that should rightly be reflected in the grade for both players.
Let’s start with the starting lineup.
Stephen Curry — A+
27.7 PPG / 4.7 RBS / 6.5 AST / 1.6 STL
This is an easy A.
After a somewhat rocky start to the season, Curry has recently found his way back into peak-Steph formation. He is currently playing the most efficient basketball of his career, leading the Warriors to their rightful place atop the NBA West.
After a slight dip last year while incorporating Kevin Durant, Curry leads the team in scoring again this season and is the unquestionable “it factor” that turns the Warriors from a great team to an “all-time great” team. He has missed some time with an ankle injury, but those missed games only served to further reinforce the importance of Curry’s presence on the court.
Curry is shooting at a career-best efficiency rating, right up there with his unanimous MVP season. As insane as that 2014-15 season was, Curry has begun to force watchers to ask yet again if we have even seen his best yet.
There really aren’t any complaints here. We are watching the prime years of a player who has literally revolutionized the game of basketball.
Kevin Durant — A+
26.2 PPG / 6.9 RBS / 5.4 AST / 2.1 BLK
Another easy A for a superstar.
Durant is everything that he was advertised to be, and more, for the Warriors. Primarily known as an offensive player, he has indeed been excellent in that capacity. His 26 points per game put him second in scoring on the team, but he always seems to be there to take over a game when needed.
Beyond that, his passing and defense have been a revelation. While he can still get bogged down by double teams and traps, Durant has seamlessly integrated himself into the Warriors’ pass-up-a-good-shot-for-a-great-shot culture. When he isn’t Euro-stepping halfway across the court with ease, his ability to draw defenders and then use his height to dump a pass over the defense has added yet another dynamic element for opponents to puzzle over.
I don’t know if he’s quite ready for Defensive Player of the Year (which should probably go to Draymond Green), but his emergence as one of the leaders in blocks per game has started an awareness that may redefine what people think of when they remember Durant’s game in 20 years.
Klay Thompson — A+
20.9 PTS / 4.0 RBS / 2.5 AST
Now, hear me out: I’m not going easy on these grades. But, as I’ve said earlier, Klay Thompson may very well be having the best year of his career. On a team populated by Super Duper Stars like Curry and Durant, it’s all too easy to overlook Thompson’s contributions.
He has become the video game create-a-character for those bygone years of the Warriors built around Monta Ellis: an efficient, high-scoring wing player who can dribble, pass and shoot while covering the opposing point guard if needed. Oh, and he’s beefy enough to hold his own in the post defensively.
Thompson still doesn’t rack up huge counting stats in categories besides scoring, but my eyeballs tell me he is an elite defender, excellent passer and savvy rebounder.
Draymond Green — A+
11.1PTS / 7.9 RBS / 7.6 AST / 1.3 BLK / 1.3 STL
Green has been excellent — beyond excellent, really. The biggest knocks I have against him are his three-point shooting percentage, and the fact that he is the biggest obstacle in front of Durant for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
He does a lot of everything, from anchoring the defense to being the team’s assist leader, all while serving as a safety-release valve for all the pressure put on Curry and Durant.
But he doesn’t score a lot of points, so the media and players voted him out of the All-Star game starters. Even though he came in second in the fan vote, he got bumped in favor of DeMarcus Cousins, who will dunk a lot ...
Zaza Pachulia — A
5.6 PTS / 4.7 RBS / 1.7 AST
Our first non-A plus out of the starters!
For Pachulia’s evaluation, the most important element to understand is the relative role and allotment of minutes that he operates in.
In order to function to maximum effect, the Warriors’ shooters need a large screen-setter to scrape off defenders that would otherwise scratch and claw their way back into defensive position. The team also needs “beef” — a big dude to shoulder some space out of the middle in order to claim a rebound, or to bump back into a large center who may be trying to bull his way through the paint.
I’m going to also go with a flat-out appeal to authority with this one: The fact that Kerr plays him as the team’s starting center speaks volumes on the overall merit of Pachulia’s presence. Sure, he has also garnered a few “DNP — coach’s decision” designations, but he has overall been excellent. His shooting has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season, with Pachulia shooting a career-best .634 TS% so far this season. That’s nearly .100 better than his career average.
Up next: The bench players
I’ve got an F to hand out, and we can all argue about Iguodala later, but that’s it for now. Stay tuned for Part II, shortly!