The Golden State Warriors stand alone at the peak of the NBA with a record of 10-1. How have they been able to turn back the clock and dominate their opponents?
The Warriors spent their offseason building up their bench. They stood pat and didn’t make a huge move out of desperation. This stubbornness has paid off early on, as the Warriors own the best record in the NBA.
One of the main issues with last season’s team was the lack of basketball IQ. Kent Bazemore, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Brad Wanamaker pissed off Warriors fans all last season.
Wanamaker played more fourth-quarter minutes than Steph Curry, and at one point, he led in fourth-quarter minutes. He frustrated Warrior fans by taking ill-advised shots and attempting layups with three defenders draped all over him, along with constantly missing wide-open threes.
Bazemore’s stats weren’t particularly bad. He actually shot a career-high from three at a 40.8% clip. BUT his stats don’t truly show how frustrating Bazemore was to watch last season. From bone-headed fouls to waving off Steph in crunch time. Then to add insult to injury, the Warriors offered Bazemore a similar deal to the one he received from the Los Angeles Lakers. He would reject the Warriors as he was enticed by the idea of competing for a championship with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis.
Kelly Oubre Jr. was another frustrating player from last season. In his breakout season with the Phoenix Suns, many Warrior fans were excited about the idea of having Oubre holding the starting spot down while Klay Thompson was recovering from a tragic ruptured Achilles. But Oubre had a historically bad start to the season. He shot 1-25 from three to start the season. Although he did improve from three, as he improved to 31.6% by the end of the season.
Oubre didn’t have a particularly happy season last year in the Bay. “I want to continue to show all the things I’m capable of and not be put in a box,” Oubre said. “I felt like the universe was trying to put me in a box last year. It’s something that always clashes because it’s a big deal whenever I’m trying to be put in a box, because I can’t be put in a box.” Oubre continued, “I’m going to continue to show you and prove to you why you shouldn’t put me in a box. I think that just fueled me to work harder this summer and to come back next year and be a better all-around player.”
This obviously frustrated a lot of Warrior fans. The Warriors continued to start Oubre, even through all of his struggles. He would end up leaving the Warriors during free agency, to come off the bench for the Charlotte Hornets.
But this season already has a different feel to it. The vibe around the team is much more positive. It helps when you have Steph Curry though.
Stephen Curry has been a Warrior’s Staple for 13 seasons now. It seems like he ages like fine wine as he continues his dominant scoring from anywhere, and everywhere on the floor. With 30 on the roster, you can bet the Warriors are going to stay competitive.
This brings us to the quality, high-IQ players the Warriors brought in to replace last year’s mistakes. Otto Porter Jr. has been a great player so far this season. The Wilt Chamberlain look-alike is hitting 50% of his threes so far this season, while also playing great defense and rebounding the ball effectively.
Nemanja Bjelica was under-utilized all of last season. The stretch-big man has been a fantastic fit off the bench. He passes the ball very well for a big, and he is scoring pretty well as he is hitting 52% of his threes. He has also upped his game on the defensive side as well.
Andre Iguodala, a Warriors legend was brought back this season. Many thought he was washed, and brought in to be a presence in the locker room. Iguodala shut this down pretty quickly. He offers some much-needed defense, playmaking, and basketball IQ off the Warriors bench. He has proven to everyone that he still has what it takes to be a difference-maker, even in his 18th season. His stats do not show his true worth. He is the leader of the second unit, and he ensures everything runs smoothly while the starters rest.
The progression of Jordan Poole must not be downplayed. He has fit seamlessly next to Steph Curry and has held his own as the Warriors starting shooting guard. He offers a nice blend of off-and-on ball movement. He has definitely grown as a player. Poole looks much more comfortable and has even improved on the defensive end as well.
The final player I will highlight is Gary Payton II. He has been one of the best players over the past 5 games and he has been much more than just a defender. He has actually played the big in a lot of the offensive sets for the Warriors. He acts as the roll man off picks and his athleticism is on full display as he does so. On the defensive end, he has been phenomenal as well. This season, he is holding opposing players to just 15.6% from the field. When Payton is on the floor, the Warriors have outscored their opponents by 68 points as well. He makes winning plays, and he has finally found a home in the Bay, with the Warriors.
With the new additions, came better basketball IQ. The team itself has been the best defensive team in the NBA. They are ranked number one defensive rating, as well as defensive field goal percentage. Leading the charge on the defensive end is Draymond Green. He is one of the most versatile defenders in NBA history since he can guard 1-5. But even with his stout defense, he has vowed to be more of an offensive threat.
So far this season, he has lived up to his word. He is currently shooting a career-high 50.7% from the field. He looks more aggressive and seems to be driving more, and less reliant on the three-ball. Even though he is only scoring 7.8 points a game, he is keeping the defense honest by driving the lane and making plays for others, or taking it himself. This forces the defense to stick with Draymond, and it gets better looks for Steph, Jordan Poole, and eventually, Klay Thompson as well.
Even with the Warrior’s defense being so good, the other key to their success is their bench. They are scoring 45.7 points per game. Even when the bench is in, the ball flies around the court. This team definitely prioritizes ball movement, and that is clear in their play.
It is very early, but this Warriors team is playing very good basketball. Doing so without Klay Thompson and James Wiseman makes it that more impressive. When they are both back and healthy, this team will be even more competitive than they already are. The Warrior’s keys to success are simple, play defense and play with basketball IQ. Allowing Steph to get a breather is also key as well. With the bench playing so well, it allows Steph to get his much-needed rest, so he is fresh for the fourth quarter. This Warrior’s team is primed for contention, and they are ready for the task ahead.
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