This is the second part of a special edition of The Golden Breakdown, where we take a look at a few of the notable numbers that have defined the Golden State Warriors during the first half of the season. Read the first part here.
The importance of the Warriors’ Big Four of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green has perhaps been never more pronounced this season. With the team’s supporting cast being arguably at it’s weakest point, the burden placed on them is much heavier — and with a heavier burden comes with it more expectations and more scrutiny.
Let’s take a look at the numbers that have defined each of the Big Four’s seasons so far at the halfway point of this rigorous season.
7.3 — Draymond Green’s points per game
Green isn’t known for being a scorer, but the Warriors often count on him being a low-key scoring threat, especially since teams will virtually ignore him on the perimeter, opting to guard Curry, Thompson, and Durant off the ball. The threat of Green knocking down a three or driving inside for a layup adds a subtle, yet deadly dimension to the Warriors’ offense.
But that dynamic has changed for the worse. Green is shooting 24.2 percent on threes this season, the lowest since his rookie season, when he shot 20.9 percent. Green was never considered a bona fide shooter, but he was able to make defenders regret leaving him alone on the perimeter. Nowadays, those decisions by opposing defenders are well-justified.
Green’s 7.3 points per game is on track to be the first single-digit points average of his career since his sophomore season, when he averaged 6.2 points per game.
Furthermore, Green seems to be missing more at the rim nowadays; what were once easy drives and point-blank layups for him in the past have become difficult, point-blank misses. A lot of reasons can be pointed out for his declining point production: his ailing body, his increasing reluctance to score, and his horrendous shooting form. The Warriors will need him to be the unexpected scoring threat he once was and can still be.
35.6 — Klay Thompson’s three-point field goal percentage
As one half of the best shooting backcourt in the history of the league — and already considered one of the best shooters to have ever graced a basketball court — Thompson will always do what he does best, and that is to shoot the three ball. However, he is navigating uncharted waters: a sub-40 percent three-point shooting season.
A career 41.7 percent shooter from beyond the arc, Thompson is currently shooting 35.6 percent, on track to be the worst of his career by a country mile. His struggle in that department has been so well-pronounced this year that his 52-point game against the Chicago Bulls — during which he broke his Splash Brother’s single-game three-point record with 14 made threes — feels like it was an eternity ago.
However, if there is one thing that has always been consistent with Thompson, it’s the fact that his shooting always recovers toward the mean. With nowhere to go but up, his three-point shooting is already returning to him.
Thompson is 20-of-39 from three-point range during the past five games (51.2 percent), capped off by a 7-of-16 line against the New York Knicks. His threes came off of a variety of sequences, such as catch-and-shoot, pin downs, flares, reloads, and in transition.
6.1 – Kevin Durant’s assists per game
Perhaps the most gifted scorer of this generation — or of all time, for that matter — Durant’s acquisition by the Warriors was a no-brainer. The relationship between Durant and the team turned out to be a mutually-beneficial one — the Warriors winning more championships with the help of the former MVP and four-time scoring champion; and Durant’s game evolving from merely being known as a pure scorer into a more well-rounded player.
Being integrated into the Warriors’ pass-heavy scheme has rubbed off on Durant, who is averaging a career-high 6.1 assists per game. More so than before, he has been actively looking to make plays for his teammates, especially out of the post. He also takes advantage of the gravity he generates during his drives, drawing defenders onto him and kicking out to a shooter on the perimeter, or dropping the ball off to a cutter or roamer under the rim.
He recently made history against the Sacramento Kings by dishing out 9 assists that all resulted in three-point shots. This piece of history certainly wasn’t lost on our very own GBK, and he made sure to remind everyone that it shouldn’t be lost on all of us.
Kevin Durant with 9 more assists tonight. KD with 9+ assists in a game:— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) January 6, 2019
-This season = 7 times in 40 games
-Last sason = 5 times in 68 games
(KD is averaging a career-high 6.1 assists per game this season)
65.2 – Stephen Curry’s true shooting percentage
Curry is having another stellar statistical season, averaging 28.9 points on a shooting split of .483/.443/.913, with a true shooting percentage of 65.2 percent. Early this season, his TS% went as high as 68 percent, while flirting with the possibility of going for the first-ever 50-50-90 season — both of which would have extremely strengthened his case for winning a third MVP award.
Missing eleven games due to a groin injury — as well as succumbing to the law of averages — might have hurt his chances of garnering votes from the media. Regardless, Curry continues to have the largest impact on the Warriors, who sport a record of 22-8 with him playing.
“It’s that balance between — it’s all narrative stuff,” Curry said when asked about his chances of winning the MVP award. “(Availability) should definitely be factored. But I don’t know what the cut-off is to say you had a ‘complete’ season. Is it 72, 65, 60? Like, if those 60 games were head and shoulders above the rest, a significant injury shouldn’t discredit that. … It’s crazy that whatever the narrative is, whatever the criteria for that season, you’re battling through not just productivity on the court, but the spottiness of games and minutes. But I don’t know what the cut off is. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
As much as Warriors fans want Curry to win another MVP award, chances are that he’ll get passed over in favor of the more attractive candidates. But as long as Curry maintains his current level of play, being the MVP of the Warriors will most certainly be enough for the team to win their third straight championship.
Forty-one down, 41 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.
*Stats are current as of Jan. 8, obtained from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com