The second half of the 2020-21 NBA season officially kicks off tonight, though the Golden State Warriors aren’t in action until Thursday, when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers. With teams resting, recuperating, and planning for their second half runs, let’s see where the Warriors stack up in the NBA landscape across many different areas.
All rating stats are courtesy of Cleaning The Glass, which uses garbage-time adjusted stats.
Record: 19-18 — T-13th in the NBA
The Warriors have only the schedule makers to blame for not being .500 at the break. Had they played an even amount of games, it feels like it was destined to happen.
That record puts Golden State firmly in the play-in category. In case you’ve forgotten, the NBA is opting for a new playoff format this season, given the reduced games on the schedule. Instead of the top eight seeds in each conference getting playoff berths, the top six seeds will be in, while the next four will battle for the final two spots.
The Dubs are firmly in that grouping. They’re currently ninth in the West, 2.5 games behind the sixth seed, and 3.5 games ahead of the first team out.
Net rating: -0.9 — 19th in the NBA
The Warriors spent a while playing catchup in the ratings after a pair of blowout losses to open the season. They dug themselves out of the hole pretty well, but the end to the first half — three straight losses by a combined 50 points — did them in.
Record is what matters when the season is over, but net rating is the most predictive basic metric in the NBA. If you want to gauge how the Warriors are playing, this is where to look. And the answer is a little grim.
That said, the Warriors have had some stretches of really good basketball. If you just look at the stretch from Jan. 3 (when Draymond Green had his minutes restriction removed) until Feb. 26 (their last win pre-break), the Warriors net rating is +3.0, eighth in the NBA during that span. But if you have to squint that hard to find reasons for optimism, it tells you everything you need to know.
Offensive rating: 109.7 — 22nd in the NBA
Teams in the Warriors neighborhood: Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Washington Wizards
Part of my optimism for the Warriors this season stemmed from a belief that any offense with Steph Curry in it would be a top 10 offense. I was pretty wrong there.
That’s not a knock on Curry. He is having a magical season, and his gravity is as strong as ever. Instead, it’s an indictment of the Warriors roster construction and coaching, a reminder of how unlucky they got when Klay Thompson tore his Achilles, proof that Andrew Wiggins has been having a disappointing year, and a strong data point that defenses are improving (the Los Angeles Lakers, for example, are also sporting a below-average offense, and they have LeBron James and Anthony Davis).
On paper, the Warriors defense was always going to be better than their offense. Still, seeing the Dubs offense lagging well behind the likes of the Charlotte Hornets and San Antonio Spurs is a bit jarring.
Defensive rating: 110.6 — 9th in the NBA
Teams in the Warriors neighborhood: Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder
Steve Kerr has maintained, from the start of training camp, that the Warriors should be a top 10 defense. He’s right, and with that in mind, being ninth-best is probably pretty disappointing territory for the Dubs. They surely feel that they should be closer to fifth or sixth in the league, and that’s a realistic expectation.
Golden State is winning games with their defense, and the more that defense trends away from “great” and towards “good,” the less successful the team will be.
Turnover rate: 14.5% — 20th in the NBA
Well, here’s a decent reason why Golden State’s offense has struggled so much this year: they keep turning the ball over. Interestingly, Steph Curry’s turnover rate is the second-lowest mark of his career. But the team as a whole is struggling, with Kevon Looney, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Kent Bazemore posting very high marks, and Draymond Green posting an almost comical turnover rate, that not only leads the Warriors but leads the NBA by a sizable margin.
Steve Kerr has said time and time again that the Warriors would be pretty decent if they could stop turning the ball over and stop fouling. He’s probably right.
On that note ...
Fouls per 100 possessions: 20.9 — 25th in the NBA
Teams in the Warriors neighborhood: Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards
You might notice that the teams in the Warriors neighborhood in these last two stats are not good basketball teams. That’s not a coincidence.
Fouling and turning the ball over are basic fundamentals, and it’s rare to see good teams that are bad at those things.
If there’s one big takeaway at the halfway mark for the Dubs, it’s that they’re a talented team capable of playing really well, but they need to clean up the simple things to have a chance in a stacked Western Conference.