Under Steve Kerr, the Golden State Warriors have one of the most intricate offenses in NBA history.
Loaded with plenty of great passers and fabulous off-ball cutters, the Warriors’ system finds open looks and dozens of assists each game. The Warriors get a bunch of open shots and nail them at a great rate.
But the downsides have reared their heads in ugly ways. The Warriors are a turnover-prone team, and many of the passes they choose to make are risky and must be extremely precise. Other times, when the off-ball movement fails to get anybody open, the Warriors have little rhythm to their offense.
The Warriors have a simple answer to this: the pick and roll. In 2015 and 2016, the Stephen Curry-Draymond Green pick and roll made the Death Lineup unstoppable. Now, with Kevin Durant on the team as well, the Warriors have even more possibilities in the pick and roll than ever before.
Putting the ball into Curry’s hands is generally the best offense this team can muster. He stretches defenses, involves everybody else, and is able to get mismatches at will. Draymond Green is the best screener on the team and is a master at passing on the short roll. Kevin Durant is a solid distributor as well, and of course, a tremendous isolation scorer.
In addition, the Warriors have wreaked havoc with other pick and roll combinations. The Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson pick and roll has been successful before, and the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green combination is dangerous too. One of my favorite wrinkles is Durant as the ballhandler and Curry as the screener: Curry is a surprisingly stout screener for his size, and the defense gets terribly confused about who to focus their attention on.
Even if the pick and roll doesn’t work initially, at the very least it causes mismatches the Warriors can exploit. Stephen Curry can take any big man, and Kevin Durant can take any guard in isolation. It might not involve the rest of team as much, or get easy shots as per Kerr’s preference, but these two are among the best in the world at hitting tough shots.
According to NBA.com’s Stats, the Warriors score .97 points every pick and roll possession, the best in the league. But the Warriors run the pick and roll less often than any other team in the league.
Stephen Curry is the most efficient pick and roll ballhandler of any starting point guard in the league, and Kevin Durant is actually not far behind him. Yet they run the play far less frequently than others in the league. Damian Lillard, for example, is slightly less efficient than Curry in the pick and roll, but runs twice as many of them per game.
Steve Kerr is already implementing more pick and rolls into the offense. Against the Clippers on Thursday, they ran the same staggered pick and roll repeatedly to great success. Watch Eric Apricot’s video breakdown of the play here.
The Warriors’ offensive rating is second in the league, so it’s not as if the Warriors are struggling there. But getting repetitions on different kinds of pick and rolls now will greatly benefit them in the playoffs, where it should be their primary offensive weapon, like it was in last year’s Finals.