The Warriors went 1-5 to open the season, and saying that it wasn’t the ideal way to start another long 82-game season is one massive understatement, considering the unfortunate series of events that happened within the span of only six games.
Kevon Looney, who is the Warriors’ most reliable center, is out for an indefinite period of time due to a neuropathic condition. Stephen Curry broke his left hand, and is out for at least another three months. Draymond Green has a torn ligament on his finger, and his status is uncertain. Add those to the already shaky foundation that was built by the Warriors front office during the offseason, and one would assume that the Warriors would just outright crumble and fall.
Sure, this past week — like the week before it — hasn’t been ideal at all from a win-loss perspective. But there are a few positives that stood out, and they will be glaring positives if you get out of the “MAKE THE PLAYOFFS” mindset and switch toward the “TRUST THE PROCESS” state of mind. Because if you’re still holding out a lot of hope that this iteration of the Warriors will make the playoffs, then I hate to break it to you, but you’re setting yourself up for a huge bout of disappointment.
On the other hand, if you’ve been enjoying watching these baby Dubs compete night in and night out and trying to win without necessarily garnering the victory, then you might be sleeping better at night, knowing that someone like Eric Paschall will have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, D’Angelo Russell (maybeeeee…?), and Giannis Antetokounmpo as his teammates in 2021.
(If there are any Bucks fans reading this, I’m just kidding … partially.)
So how did the Warriors fare in their second week of the season?
Grade the Warriors’ week
In four games this past week, the Warriors went 1-3. Not good at all for their playoff chances. (I’m looking at you, “Warriors can still make the playoffs, WE BELIEVE” guy.) They started off the week with an unexpected win over the Portland Trail Blazers, who continue to lose to Curry even while the two-time MVP is sitting at his home with a cast over his left hand. They then went to Houston to face the Rockets, where they managed to keep things competitive during the first half before succumbing to James Harden’s second half onslaught. In Minnesota, the Warriors spent most of the game with a lead that they eventually gave up, losing in overtime to the Timberwolves despite Russell’s career-high 52 points. The next night in Oklahoma City, the Warriors were down by as many as 23 points against the Thunder, before a commendable comeback effort allowed the Warriors to take a brief lead in the the second half, eventually succumbing to a 6-point loss.
While the record isn’t good to look at, we’ve well established at this point that the goal of this season has shifted toward a player development perspective. The win against the Blazers gave the young Warriors players plenty of confidence that they, too, could be winners if they set their mind to it. More importantly, it showed all of us the kind of player Paschall is. The rookie out of Villanova exploded for 34 points and 13 rebounds despite being “only” a second-round, 41st-overall pick. While he put in relatively modest performances afterward, those still don’t take away from the fact that the Warriors may have another draft steal on their hands.
Also, the emergence of Russell as this version of the Warriors’ go-to guy has been entertaining to watch. He scored his career high of 52 against the Timberwolves, then proceeded to score 30 against the Thunder the following night.
Has it translated to wins? Heck no! But hey, at least it’s been fun to watch! The young guys are making mistakes, but they’re also learning and showing signs of improvement. The Warriors still have a scorer who they can depend on to make things close and interesting like they did last night against the Thunder and against the Timberwolves the night before.
All in all, not as bad as it could be. I could give the Warriors another D like last week because of their 1-3 record, but because their youth showed signs of promise, I’ll bump them up slightly to a C-.
State of the Warriors offense
Has the Warriors offense improved from last week? To quickly recap, the Warriors ranked 18th overall in offensive efficiency, which wasn’t good but not as bad as expected, considering that the Warriors had lost Curry and Green to injury. They managed to stay within the top ten in the league in turnovers, which was a pleasant surprise. Their 7th-ranked assists per game showed that they still put a large emphasis on moving the ball around.
However, they shot the ball poorly, ranking 24th in the league in overall field goal percentage, 19th in three-point field goal percentage, 23rd in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) and 20th in true shooting percentage (TS%). Their only redeeming factor in the shooting department was their free throw percentage, which ranked 2nd overall.
So in the four games last week, did their offensive numbers improve?
The Warriors’ live-ball shooting metrics — FG% and 3P% — improved by an incremental amount, but they moved down the rankings in both of them. As sample sizes increased and most teams in the league shook off the rust, it was simply a matter of everyone else getting better at shooting across the board. The only saving grace, like it was last week, is their FT%, which improved from 2nd to being the best in the entire league. Getting themselves to the line and knocking down their free throws at a reliable rate has certainly helped them be competitive in most of their games.
As for their assists per game, they went from 7th to 11th overall, probably due to the slightly increased amount of pick-and-roll and isolations they ran in crucial stretches of this past week’s games. Their turnover rate improved (10th to 9th), which means that they continue to do a good job of taking care of the ball, an amazing feat especially for a team as young as the Warriors.
As for the Warriors’ overall offensive efficiency, it slightly improved from 18th to 15th. Their games against the Blazers, Rockets, and Timberwolves were offensive slugfests, which certainly helped in them getting a slight boost in efficiency.
But they continue to shoot the ball poorly, which the advanced shooting metrics support. Their eFG% slid from 23rd to 27th, while their TS% remains more or less the same. (A reminder: TS% takes free throws into account, while eFG% does not.)
To summarize the Warriors offense: It’s still nothing special, and it certainly isn’t anywhere close to being a playoff-level offense — but considering that this is a team full of rookies, role players, and G Leaguers, being the 15th-ranked offense in the league isn’t bad at all.
State of the Warriors defense
Has the Warriors defense improved from last week? Has Glenn Robinson III evolved into Andre Iguodala? Did Jordan Poole show that he can be the next great 3-and-D shooting guard in the mold of Klay Thompson? Did the Warriors’ big men suddenly develop into shot-blocking, rim-protecting behemoths?
The short answer to all of these: Nah, not really.
Largely nothing has changed for the Warriors in terms of defense. They still are at the bottom of the proverbial trash heap in most defensive metrics. They still let their opponents shoot the ball at a high rate, both from the perimeter and in the paint. Their lack of rim protection is alarming. And in terms of efficiency, they continue to be the worst defense in all of the NBA.
This is nothing short of surprising, considering that the Warriors’ youth and lack of wing depth portended their defensive performance so far this season. While there is certainly room for improvement on offense, there is a considerably larger room in terms of defensive improvement. Ron Adams and the rest of the Warriors’ player development staff certainly have their work cut out for them this season.
The Warriors fun fact of the week
D’Angelo Russell scored his career-high of 52 points against the Timberwolves last Friday. Russell became the 14th Warrior in franchise history to score at least 50 points.
D’Angelo Russell finishes with a career-high 52 points, becoming the 14th player in franchise history to score 50 points in a game. Previous 13 players to do so via @bball_ref: pic.twitter.com/2tznOsm4QZ— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) November 9, 2019
But those 52 points weren’t enough for a win. I got curious, so I went ahead and checked the results of the games in which the Warriors’ recent stars — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant (formerly a Warriors star but recent enough to include him) — had their regular season career-high in points.
Curry’s career high is 54 points, scored against the New York Knicks on February 27, 2013.
However, the Warriors lost to the Knicks, 109-105.
Durant’s career high with the Warriors was 51 points against the Toronto Raptors on November 29, 2018.
But the Warriors would end up losing to the Raptors by a score of 131-128.
Thompson’s career high is 60 points against the Indiana Pacers on December 5, 2016.
The Warriors would win that game by a score of 142-106.
Green’s career high of 31 points came against the Chicago Bulls on December 6, 2014.
The Warriors would win that game by a score of 112-102.
Adding Russell’s career high, the Warriors have a record of 2-3 in games where each of their modern stars have scored their regular season career-high points. Curiously, two of the best to have ever donned a Dubs jersey — Curry and Durant — could not lead their team to wins in the games where they scored their career-high in points.
What does that tell us? Besides the fact that a star’s career scoring performance doesn’t necessarily translate to a victory ... nothing else, really. In Russell’s case, it could be an indication that he isn’t just a transitional and fleeting Warriors star, but someone who can be a part of the team’s long-term plans.
Or alternatively, it could go a long way toward increasing Russell’s stock for a future trade for another big-name superstar.
I wonder what Giannis’ career-high is going to be with the Warriors...
(Again, just kidding, Bucks fans ... or not.)