Lately we’ve been having some invigorating discussions around these parts about the Golden State Warriors, and it feels like the perfect time to fan the flames a little more. Because it’s fun, right?
So I wanted to take a look at how each player who was on the Warriors last year — or will be on this year — ranked in EPM a year ago. EPM — which stands for Estimated Plus-Minus — is an all-encompassing advanced metric from the website Dunks & Threes, and is widely viewed as the best catch-all NBA statistic.
It’s not perfect. No stat is. It needs to be taken with a big grain of salt, rather than as a strict ranking of players. Still, it’s fun to see where all the Warriors players rank in offensive, defensive, and total EPM. To add context, I’ve added the players next to them on the rankings, so there’s a barometer for what it means.
Have fun! Then argue in the comments!
No. 4 — Steph Curry
Offensive EPM: 5th: +5.4 (between Joel Embiid and LeBron James)
Defensive EPM: 48th: +1.8 (between Chris Paul and Derrick Rose)
Total EPM: 4th: +7.2 (between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant)
Well, we don’t need any stinkin’ numbers to tell us this: Steph Curry is one of the greatest players alive. Only the three finalists for MVP — Nikola Jokić, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo — graded out ahead of the chef.
It’s also fun seeing his defensive improvements show up in the metrics. As previously mentioned, this deserves a grain of salt — I don’t think Curry is one of the 50 best defensive players in the NBA — but it’s pretty clear that, at the least, he’s become a decent player on that end of the court.
No. 30 — Gary Payton II
Offensive EPM: 168th: -0.1 (between Jock Landale and Andrew Wiggins)
Defensive EPM: 2nd: +3.6 (between Draymond Green and Matisse Thybulle)
Total EPM: 30th: +3.5 (between Desmond Bane and Fred VanVleet)
GPII’s high ranking tells us two things. First, he’s really good, and his loss will hurt the Warriors. And second, advanced metrics can skew things a little bit, particularly with role players. Payton played a lot of minutes in favorable matchups, and limited minutes — sometimes none at all — in less-favorable ones. I would guess that this year, playing with the Portland Trail Blazers, Payton will see a notable drop in his EPM ... while still proving that he’s a really, really good player.
No. 36 — Draymond Green
Offensive EPM: 313th: -1.7 (between Reggie Perry and Isaiah Stewart)
Defensive EPM: 1st: +5.0 (between nobody and Gary Payton II)
Total EPM: 36th: +3.3 (between Anthony Davis and Deandre Ayton)
The greatest defensive player in the world, folks, and it’s not even close. Use the eye test, listen to teammates, listen to opposing coaches, or look at the advanced stats. Either way, you arrive at the same conclusion: no one plays defense like a healthy Draymond Green.
Unfortunately, for all his absurd playmaking and tremendous rapport with Curry, Green certainly doesn’t look the part of a good offensive player when seen through the EPM lens. Still a great player though.
No. 40 — Klay Thompson
Offensive EPM: 34th: +2.4 (between Terry Rozier and Jonas Valančiūnas)
Defensive EPM: 127th: +0.6 (between Avery Bradley and Royce O’Neale)
Total EPM: 40th: +3.0 (between Marcus Smart and Derrick White)
Klay Thompson’s placement on the EPM list is the most surprising. This feels like a fair ranking (okay, a little low, but close enough) for him in a normal year, but we can all agree that it wasn’t a normal year for Klay, as he shook off the rust of being sidelined for nearly 1,000 days.
Yet he still grades out as a borderline All-Star talent. I think that’s due to three things: First, he’s really good, and a down year for him is still good. Second, despite the lack of mobility, he has very solid defensive fundamentals. And third (and most importantly), he still carries the gravity of being arguably the second-best shooter in NBA history.
No. 85 — Jordan Poole
Offensive EPM: 41st: +2.2 (between Miles Bridges and Montrezl Harrell)
Defensive EPM: 300th: -0.7 (between Charles Bassey and Tyrese Maxey)
Total EPM: 85th: +1.5 (between Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond)
I don’t think there’s anyone on this list whose EPM feels more in line with the eye test than Jordan Poole. A very good, but not yet superstar performer on the offensive side of things? Check. Bad, but not bring-down-the-whole-team defense? Check. About the 85th-best player in the league? Check one more time.
This one just — pardon the pun — checks out.
No. 105 — Andrew Wiggins
Offensive EPM: 169th: -0.1 (between Gary Payton II and Dwight Howard)
Defensive EPM: 72nd: +1.2 (between Michael Porter Jr. and Kevin Durant)
Total EPM: 105th: +1.2 (between Alec Burks and Lauri Markkanen)
After Andrew Wiggins’ excellent season, he’s become one of the more polarizing players in the league. Some people think his high scoring total makes him a really good offensive player; others see him as someone who stagnates the offense with ball-stopping, and scores with middling efficiency. Some see his objectively stellar on-ball defense as making him an All-Defense type player; others see it as somewhat negated by his less-stellar help defense.
EPM seems to lean a little bit towards the more pessimistic view, though it’s worth noting that being the 105th-best player in the NBA is pretty darn solid!
No. 116 — Kevon Looney
Offensive EPM: 159th: +0.1 (between Malik Beasley and Gordon Hayward)
Defensive EPM: 118th: +0.7 (between Naz Reid and Kyle Lowry)
Total EPM: 116th: +0.8 (between Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkić)
I think we can all agree, stats aside, that Kevon Looney is more valuable to the Warriors than he would be to any other team. He’s a good player, and that shines in the Dubs’ system and with the chemistry he’s developed with the core players. He’s also very much a complementary piece, rather than a focal point.
No. 157 — Andre Iguodala
Offensive EPM: 409th: -2.7 (between Braxton Key and Bol Bol)
Defensive EPM: 9th: +2.8 (between Derrick White and Tony Bradley)
Total EPM: 157th: +0.1 (between George Hill and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope)
Iguodala surely has one of the largest discrepancies between his offensive and defensive EPMs. Now I don’t think that Iguodala is actually the 9th-best defensive player in the league, but let’s look at the top 15 in Defensive EPM: Draymond Green, Gary Payton II, Matisse Thybulle, Paul George, Rudy Gobert, Jarrett Allen, Bam Adebayo, Derrick White, Andre Iguodala, Tony Bradley, Josh Okogie, P.J. Tucker, Marcus Smart, Dillon Brooks, and Lonzo Ball.
That’s a list of really, really good defenders. It’s not full of noise.
No. 164 — Otto Porter Jr.
Offensive EPM: 208th: -0.7 (between Bruce Brown and Tre Jones)
Defensive EPM: 111th: +0.7 (between Paul Reed and Derrick Walton Jr.)
Total EPM: 164th: +0.1 (between Kevin Huerter and Evan Fournier)
Porter fit excellently with the Warriors system, and he’ll certainly be missed. These numbers might not look great, but they’re super solid for a bench player. Remember, there are 150 starters in the NBA!
No. 221 — Nemanja Bjelica
Offensive EPM: 266th: -1.2 (between Davis Bertāns and Cody Martin)
Defensive EPM: 150th: +0.4 (between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope)
Total EPM: 221st: -0.8 (between Jaylen Hoard and Damian Jones)
I think we can all agree that Nemanja Bjelica grading out as a positive defensively and a negative offensively is not what any of us expected when the Dubs signed him. I do wonder what the offensive numbers would look like had he shot threes at a clip closer to his career average.
No. 289 — Juan Toscano-Anderson
Offensive EPM: 391st: -2.5 (between Marquese Chriss and Troy Brown Jr.)
Defensive EPM: 122nd: +0.6 (between Bradley Beal and Domantas Sabonis)
Total EPM: 289th: +1.8 (between DeAndre’ Bembry and Jonathan Kuminga)
This one feels about right for JTA: bad offense, good defense. I’ll be curious to see how he does if given a bigger role with the Los Angeles Lakers.
No. 290 — Jonathan Kuminga
Offensive EPM: 223rd: -0.8 (between Isaiah Livers and Reggie Bullock)
Defensive EPM: 359th: -1.1 (between Goga Bitadze and Svi Mykhailiuk)
Total EPM: 290th: -1.9 (between Juan Toscano-Anderson and Nerlens Noel)
I don’t think it’s worth reading too much into the numbers for rookies. Not only do we expect them to be bad, but they improve so much as the year goes on. I’m guessing Jonathan Kuminga was greatly outperforming these numbers by the end of the year, though it’s clear he still has a lot of developing to do before he’s a consistent contributor in the rotation.
No. 338 — JaMychal Green
Offensive EPM: 293rd: -1.5 (between Derrick Jones Jr. and James Ennis III)
Defensive EPM: 347th: -1.0 (between Cole Anthony and Austin Rivers)
Total EPM: 338th: -2.5 (between Keita Bates-Diop and David Nwaba)
The Warriors are betting on two things with JaMychal Green: that he’ll rebound to his earlier career performance, and that they’ll unlock some magic by going to a small ball lineup with him. Those are fair bets.
No. 357 — Donte DiVincenzo
Offensive EPM: 356th: -2.2 (between Moses Moody and Kris Dunn)
Defensive EPM: 289th: -0.6 (between Xavier Moon and Darren Collison)
Total EPM: 357th: -2.8 (between Dylan Windler and Jared Butler)
I’m excited about the Donte DiVincenzo signing. But it’s hard not to look at the massive discrepancy between his numbers and Payton’s, and wonder just how much that downgrade will hit the Dubs. Still, it’s a good reminder that there’s no one stat that tells the whole story, and that context matters. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, one of the top names in NBA analytics, has repeatedly said that DiVincenzo was his steal of the offseason. So just because he looks bad here doesn’t mean he looks bad everywhere ... and more importantly, doesn’t mean he’ll look bad here next year.
No. 366 — Damion Lee
Offensive EPM: 349th: -2.1 (between Jordan Nwora and Eric Bledsoe)
Defensive EPM: 332nd: -0.9 (between Yves Pons and Jake Layman)
Total EPM: 366th: -3.0 (between Kris Dunn and Frank Jackson)
Lee will be missed, but probably more for his personality and locker room presence that what he did on the court. I still think Dub Nation criticizes him too severely, but these numbers feel about right.
No. 394 — Moses Moody
Offensive EPM: 355th: -2.2 (between Wesley Matthews and Donte DiVincenzo)
Defensive EPM: 382nd: -1.2 (between Damian Lillard and Josh Jackson)
Total EPM: 394th: -3.4 (between Austin Rivers and Devin Cannady)
Moody was a rookie. Don’t expect big numbers.
No. 454 — Quinndary Weatherspoon
Offensive EPM: 385th: -2.4 (between Taj Gibson and DeAndre’ Bembry)
Defensive EPM: 482nd: -2.1 (between Wenyen Gabriel and Kessler Edwards)
Total EPM: 454th: -4.5 (between Jordan Nwora and Keifer Sykes)
Weatherspoon returns to the Warriors on a two-way contract, though he’ll fight for a roster spot. The Dubs seem decently high on him, so hopefully they see something that EPM doesn’t.
No. 497 — Chris Chiozza
Offensive EPM: 503rd: -4.4 (between R.J. Hampton and Ed Davis)
Defensive EPM: 376th: -1.2 (between Trevelin Queen and Sam Merrill)
Total EPM: 497th: -6.6 (between Tony Snell and Terrence Ross)
Well ... I don’t think these numbers surprise any Warriors fans.