NBA Stock Market: The Golden State Warriors Found The Nuclear Codes
The theoretical team that we were all terrified off back in August is now the very material team that is running rampant through the NBA in December.
There is a scene in Fifth Element where Gary Oldman completes a weapon exchange but then continues to gripe how a true professional should know every element of his weapon. It turns out, his business “partners” didn’t ask about one tiny yet significant detail on their newly acquired munitions. The little red button. This was inevitably their downfall as they disintegrated into multiple pieces while Oldman casually had a smoke. The Golden State Warriors on the other hand know exactly where their self-destruct button is. It’s a huge, giant, red knob with Draymond Green’s face plastered over top. It’s the other multi-colored fun switches they had to figure out and when to flip them.
Last night the flipped the mono-chromatically generic looking one and Klay Thompson popped off for about 60 points in 29 minutes. He had the efficiency of a Hollywood kill squad not just burying the Pacers, but digging up the surrounding area, putting it on to a space ship and then firing it at the moon. My guy was putting up shots at angles math hasn’t thought of yet.
And that is Golden State in a microcosm of their existence. While most teams have one, maximum two of these “hit the button then find shelter” players who can go off. Golden State has four and they don’t even need to do it every game for the team to be effective. Twenty one games into the season and they have two games over 140 points and two more over 130 without needing OT to get there. They’re breaking individual (most three pointers in a game for Curry) and team (most team assists in a game) records on a whim and most importantly they’re having fun again.
Which also means the organization, the fans and the Twitter handle are insufferable again. Joe Lacob’s erection has now lasted for longer than… well, you should go see a doctor Joe.
In short, it’s great to hate the Warriors again, but that won’t stop them from being good.
For those worried that the team would have trouble sharing the ball? They haven’t. While Durant has the highest usage on the roster (27.3) Steph (29.1) and Klay (26.3) aren’t far behind. Draymond Green’s mark is the lowest of the big four at 15.6, but he manages to remain hyper efficient and we also need to account for the fact that it’s only a 3.2 drop from the 18.6 he boasted last year. The ball is still moving and the offense is flowing, except that it’s incredibly more efficient now. They’re 1st in offensive rating and 3rd in pace, not really deviating from the formula that brought them success last season.
The scariest thing about Golden State 2.0 was how seamlessly Durant fit into their scheme on paper. He was the long-lost piece of the puzzle that slides right into their hyper efficient offense and it’s true. Durant is shooting way more uncontested and catch and shoot shots than he ever did at Oklahoma City and is still putting up very impressive numbers. In other words, he is killing it. Still able to pour in 27 points per game he is putting up career highs in rebounds (8.4), steals (1.5), blocks (1.8), turnovers (2.2), FG% (57%) and 3PT FG% (42%). He’s also making close to the same amount of shots he made last year while averaging three less attempts per game. Plugging Durant into Golden State was always going to be like plugging a woke Neo into the Matrix. It just took him a few weeks to get to his own “I know Kung Fu” moment.
Of course Golden State are still prone to moments of isolation and hapless basketball that cost them a 3–1 series lead last year, but blowing teams out like they are sometimes it might not matter. Coming from isolation heavy Thunder, Durant is very much enjoying the freedom of not having to run a variety of solo plays each game. Sure, sometimes they just come to him, but that’s mostly because he’s more capable of handling them than Harrison Barnes ever was, even before his suicide by NBA Finals. When you trade up your Pontiac for a Ferrari, the world will understand when you want to take it for a solo spin.
The rest of the Warriors are very much slotting in around each other in the same way they always used to albeit with a reduced load. Curry has experienced the most major drop in statistical categories as he’s not required to be the magic eraser that covers up all play quite as often, they have two of those now. Klay is on par with his averages from a prior year (60 point game may have done something with the points situation) while shooting under 40% from three, a stat that will course correct itself sooner rather than later.
We always predicted that the biggest change will be for Draymond and his point totals have dropped by a grand 3.8 per game, but if Curry (-3.9) can suffer so can Dray. Green’s value to this team always went beyond his offensive prowess, which is a good thing because he’s shooting below 30% from three. He is the team assist leader with 7.5 per game and he’s putting up a monstrous 2.3 steals and 1.6 blocks defensively. Those are mesmerizing stats when you consider all of the factors around him.
Realistically, outside of the occasional Durant iso, Golden State aren’t really showing us anything new or out of the ordinary this season. They still sport the same tight ball movement and small ball play that gave coaches nightmares during a record season, it’s just they swapped one of their old parts for a significantly more luxurious upgrade. They’re humming now. I imagine they may even get more efficient as we get closer to the culmination of the Cavs — Warriors Trilogy.
Obviously we will still look for detractors such as Green’s volatility or the defense that has been significantly impacted by losing Andrew Bogut and having Andre Iguodala’s body remember that it’s supposed to age. Still, Draymond and Durant are phenomenal defenders capable of shifting across nearly every position on the floor. Draymond can guard bigs in a pinch and with the NBA’s move towards having its behemoths shoot more threes, that assignment becomes less challenging when centers hang around further and further from the rim.
The trick to pulling off the absence of their most essential defensive post fulcrum from last year is smart switching and help. Between Klay, Draymond and Durant, they can chase almost anyone around the perimeter, the trick is covering for when Curry gets beat without having an Australian obelisk stand tall in front of the rim. It’s an interesting equation, but having three above average (I would argue elite) defenders should go a long way in stopping it. Besides, when you’re putting up numbers that look like area codes rather than final scores, you don’t need to be exceptional on defense, you just need to be good enough, and right now, the Dubs are.
Last year, the Warriors were undone by their own confidence (and Draymond’s flailing feet, but about that later) that slowly but surely evolved into an unhealthy arrogance. We’ve seen it before. They were blowing past teams and having just a little bit too much fun. Errand passes, theatrical two-step moves and overall lackadaisical approach to winning games. It’s easy to get complacent in blowouts. In the Finals the spaces got tighter, the defenses got closer and the gaps were no existent. When the Warriors needed to rally they fell apart, throwing errand passes and relying on the same unhealthy plays that went down all year. One would think they would learn from their mistakes, but judging from what we’ve seen? We might have to wait until the Finals to find out.
Sell: Draymond Green’s Shaolin Basketball
For Draymond’s benefit I will admit that I am not a kiniseologist, but I am an amateur basketball historian. To be frank, if I didn’t have Colombo-esque mountain of evidence of his body kicking out in a variety of geometrically improbable angles I would maybe even give him the benefit of the doubt. But I still think of Steven Adams as a distant yet dearly beloved member of my immediate family and I would very much want him to extend his lineage. Also, I don’t think there’s a viable way to explain this:
At some point we have to look at the evidence at hand and come to conclusions that basketball isn’t in fact kung fu. There really isn’t a precedent for someone going all Liu Kang on the opposition, but it’s time we introduce one?
Buy: Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Tzatziki Terror
The Bucks have always been a somewhat weird team in limbo. A few years back they made the playoffs and were seemingly ready to take the leap. Then they pulled off a few weird trades and were right back in NBA purgatory. The Khris Middleton injury may have been a blessing in disguise. The Giannis development curve was always the most important hypothetical graph for the Bucks. The human Swiss Knife that also hides a light saber, his combination of length, strength, ball handling ability and to not as much walk as to glide across the court like a Nazgul is a truly unique proposition in the modern NBA. Not to mention a wingspan that can link two continents together.
Without Middleton and with Greg Monroe yo-yoing in and out of Kidd’s graces, Giannis had to unlock yet another chamber of basketball powers in himself so he would be able to do this.
Okay what? I’m pretty sure gravity doesn’t work like that. Anyways, Giannis can start his euro step motion from the outer fringes of the BMO Harris Bradley Centre and finish under the rim like some sort of space bending ghoul. His range of motion bends physics space to his will. At 22, he is now fully familiar with his science fiction body and is nearly unstoppable.
Hold: Clippers — Title Contenders
A few weeks back, I was buying up all of the Los Angeles Clippers stock while any of it was still on the market, now I’m just sitting here thinking “why.” Stop me if this sounds familiar: we start the season feeling really good about this Clippers team as they appear to be doing a lot of things right and pushing their fringe bench players to at least pretend for periods of time to be NBA caliber reserves. Eventually, a variety of unfortunate results and possible internal drama derail what some of us have deemed to be the season. I’m guilty of this too.
After years of crashing out at the most inopportune times, the Los Angeles Clippers look ready to take another serious…medium.com
One year they’ll figure it out.
???: JR Smith
JR Smith is a national treasure. He is the cherry on top of the cherry on top of the NBA cake. He has given us timeless moments of NBA narrative and has continuously pushed himself to do more, to be more. There needs to be a weekly 30 for 30 on this man.
Buy: DeMarcus Cousins
Anyone, like literally anyone, please free Boogie. While this team appears to at least have the semblance of functionality down, the Kings are still caught in a woeful season with little to no gateway into the playoffs but DeMarcus Cousins has once again emerged as one of the top players in the League. Adding threes to his arsenal, the only way he could do more for this organization is if he somehow bought some of Vivek’s shares and became an owner erasing the epicenter of sadness from the team’s control booth. I need DeMarcus Cousins on a playoff team, we all do.
Hold: The Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz are still hip, as in, not everyone believes they are about to make the leap into contender category. That’s understandable when they’re sitting at 13–9 and looking up at actual contenders. They’re still a very good team, 8th in both defensive and offensive efficiency, but something is missing. Sure there are a plethora of ready reasons such as Derrick Favors prolonged absence or the fact that Hayward and Hill haven’t played together all that much due toe variety of injuries and dark magic, but I would wait for them to start clicking before yelling “all aboard.” On paper, they’re an exceptionally good team, they just need to translate that to on-court results.