When I pitched this idea to our editor, I thought that this kind of article reviewing the Warriors’ performances over the span of a single week would provide a lot of insight, specifically about areas where they did well, areas where they need to improve, and also as some sort of coping mechanism, something a bit light-hearted in tone to deal with a season that is bound to be full of ups and downs.
As I watched each game, the ups started to dwindle, and the downs started to stack on top of one another. And then, I kept thinking to myself: Should I just keep on rambling and write about the Warriors’ week of misery? Or should I just summarize this article in one concise GIF form, as my esteemed colleague Duby Dub Dubs put it in our Slack?
Well, why not both? Welcome to the first edition of the Warriors week in review, where I’m about to overdo the heck out of an article about a week that can be summarized into one GIF:
Grade the Warriors’ week
So how will this work? It’s simple: Based on a few factors — namely, the Warriors’ record within a given week, their performance on both ends of the floor, as well as circumstances happening in the periphery that could affect their chances as the season progresses — I’ll give the Warriors a letter grade.
This isn’t a scientific exercise, and there’s no carefully-crafted method to follow or use as a guide, mind you. Just a plain-old letter grade, just like that “A” the class genius gets on a daily basis and that “C” the rest of us average schmucks receive to remind us that we are all just ordinary and nothing special in school.
Well ... the Warriors this past week — the opening week of the season, for that matter — were neither that genius student, nor were they the average middle-of-the-pack students. They were that one student who received poor grades not because they slacked off, but because they had their lunch money stolen and went hungry, and because of that painful feeling of hunger couldn’t get anything done — studying, homework, projects, etc.
This past week has been the latest chapter in what has got to be one of the most destructive periods that an NBA team has gone through — and it all started back in last season’s NBA Finals.
- Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals: Kevin Durant ruptures his Achilles tendon
- Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals: Klay Thompson tears his ACL
- Fourth game of the 2019-2020 season: Stephen Curry breaks his left hand
- Fifth game of the 2019-20 season: Draymond Green tears a ligament in his index finger
Uhh yeah, I dare say that no other team in the history of the NBA has suffered this much in the span of a few games.
But let’s go back to the Warriors’ first 6 games to open the season. How did they fare? Not so good. They lost against the Los Angeles Clippers by 19 as a christening gift to Chase Center, then went to Oklahoma City to be blown out by the Thunder by 28. They then went on to New Orleans the next night and won by 11 against a Pelicans team who had injury issues of their own. Going back to Chase Center, the Warriors lost huge against the Phoenix Suns, and it was during that game where Curry broke his hand. Against the San Antonio Spurs, they managed to keep things interesting until Patty Mills proceeded to cook them on the barbie. And finally, last night against the Charlotte Hornets, the young Dubs — without Green and D’Angelo Russell, who was left out due to an ankle issue — showed spunk and fighting spirit, but ultimately could not close out the game.
All in all, a 1-5 record to start the season is not ideal ... that is, if the goal was to sneak into the playoffs. That goal has clearly been set aside. Curry will be out for at least 3 months. No one knows when Green will come back, and even if he does, he won’t be enough to tip the scales toward a playoff berth happening; same goes for Russell.
Forget about being geniuses, and forget about being average students — that A-C letter grade range is out of the question. But they did get that one win over the Pelicans, so the week wasn’t a complete failure.
I’ll give them a D, then. Safe to say, this probably isn’t the only D I’ll give this season. There might be several Fs sprinkled in. But there might be some Cs, maybe Bs if the team manages to pleasantly surprise all of us. An A? Improbable, but definitely not impossible.
Just don’t count on it happening.
State of the Warriors offense
Let’s look at some of the Warriors’ offensive stats for the first 6 games.
You’re probably thinking that this isn’t as bad as it has looked on the court. The Warriors are 1-5, and one would guess that with the way they’ve struggled on offense, they would be at the absolute bottom in some of these metrics, especially when it comes to shooting.
While being 24th in the league in field goal percentage is still pretty bad, there are six teams in the league who have shot worse than them from a pure made-shots-to-attempted-shots ratio. In terms of three-point field goal percentage, the same holds true: Pretty terrible, but not as terrible as it can be (and probably will be with no Curry and Thompson for the foreseeable future).
They’re still pretty up there in terms of assists per game (ranked 7th in the league). With Steve Kerr showing little indication of a major overhaul away from his motion offense, it’s not really a big shock. The real surprise, however, has been their turnovers. With a young and inexperienced roster such as theirs, you’d expect them to turn the ball over at a higher rate. But that hasn’t been the case — they’ve stayed within the top 10 in the league in terms of taking care of the ball. In fact, their assist to turnover ratio of 1.65 is ranked 3rd in the league. Not bad — in a season that’s most likely going to have a lot of ugly-looking stats, having one that looks all dandy is a nice bonus.
Now I’m not going to bother you with too many advanced offensive stats, but the three above are pretty indicative of how the Warriors offense has struggled out of the gate. No one expected them to be that same offensive juggernaut as they have been for the past five years, and it shows — their offensive rating is ranked 18th in the league, and it is bound to get worse with no Curry to be their lifeblood on that end. Their true-shooting percentage (TS%) is slightly better than their effective field-goal percentage, but that is only because they’ve been making free throws at a high rate. (TS% takes free throws into account, whereas eFG% does not.)
In short, the Warriors offense has only been slightly better than expected, considering that they lost a huge amount of their offense due to free agency, retirement, and injuries. At the same time, it can get a whole lot worse.
State of the Warriors defense
Now this is where things start to look very ugly. The Warriors offense has taken a huge step back compared to last year, but their defense ... well, see the numbers for yourself.
As you can see from the numbers above, the Warriors have been letting their opponents shoot the living daylights out of them. I hate to sound like a broken record, but a team that has lost a vast majority of its defensive identity due to free agency, trades, and injuries was expected to have these kinds of numbers. No one expected this team to perform as if they still had Andre Iguodala locking down their opponents’ best scorers, or Klay Thompson being that highly-versatile and switchable defender who can guard speedy perimeter players and who can hold his own against bigger men down low. There wasn’t going to be a Kevin Durant who could make opposing wings’ lives difficult with his freakish length, or to be that reliable weak side help defender who can rotate and swat away shots.
Speaking of swatting away shots, the Warriors are dead-last in blocks per game (2.8). Durant was their leading shot blocker for two of the previous three years. Now that he’s gone — and with no other reliable shot blocker on the roster apparent — the Warriors are giving up 53.3 points per game in the paint, which is third-worst in the league.
To top it all off, the Warriors’ defensive rating of 117.3 is the worst in the league. Just absolutely brutal.
Is it going to get any better? Again, not impossible — but don’t count on it.
One head-scratching moment in a week full of them
Now, to be clear, I’ve always been a proponent of Steve Kerr’s motion offense that is predicated on ball and player movement, especially with the personnel they once had: High-IQ playmakers who can pass and make good decisions during a fast-paced game of basketball. When it runs on all cylinders, you can’t convince me that other forms of offense — isolation, pick-and-roll, etc. — are more beautiful to watch than a fast-paced motion offense.
However, when it doesn’t work all that well, it’s not that pretty — and so far this season, it hasn’t been. I know that in the past, leveraging Curry’s gravity-warping nature to screen for others has largely worked, but only if the players he’s screening for are the caliber of a Kevin Durant or a Klay Thompson. Heck, even screening for Kevon Looney doesn’t sound that bad when the alternative is this:
That’s Curry screening for Omari Spellman, who misses a wide-open elbow jumper. There’s a reason that he was wide open though, and that’s because he’s not Kevin Durant shooting that mid-range jumper. He’s not even David West. Nope, not Looney either, who probably would have a much higher chance of making that shot.
Now that Curry’s out of the equation for the time being, Kerr has a lot more leeway in terms of experimentation with his young and inexperienced squad. The only question left is this: Will he simplify the offense?
Probably, but if they’re going to treat this year as a season to tank and develop their youth, then Kerr might as well get that motion offense ingrained into their very fabric. The playoffs are pretty much a lost cause — might as well go wild with all the motion and egalitarianism.
It could get wayyyy uglier than it already has been, though. But if you remember that this is a season of rebuilding and regrouping, then you won’t have much trouble absorbing what will happen the rest of the way.
The process will bear fruit ... eventually. Trust it.