If Doctor Frankenstein were an NBA general manager, this year’s Golden State Warriors would be his monster.
Golden State has dominated the rest of the league since the beginning of the season. With 67 wins, the Warriors are by far the best team in the best Western Conference in recent memory; they have had the top seed locked down since St. Patrick’s Day and have had the luxury of being able to rest their two star players, guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. In short, the Western Conference playoffs and even this year’s NBA Championship are Golden State’s to lose.
Stopping the Warriors on offense is essentially impossible for a multitude of reasons. First among them is the Warriors’ frenetic pace; the Warriors top the league at 98.2 possessions per game, nearly three more possessions per game than the Phoenix Suns during the height of the “seven seconds or less” era. Like the Suns, the Warriors lead the NBA in points per game, at just under 110, and in offensive rating. The deadly combination of high efficiency and quantity is why no team in the West can expect to hang with Golden State for 48 minutes per game in a seven-game series.
Of course, offensive numbers tend to look like that when you have the best shooting backcourt in the NBA, which the Warriors do in Curry and Thompson. They are both deadly from three-point range and make 44 and 43 percent of their three-point attempts, respectively. If a team wants to have a shot at defeating Golden State, it will have to force Curry and Thompson off the three-point line and limit Curry’s production off the dribble because he has one of quickest releases in the league and shoots off the dribble better than anyone else.
The Warriors love to shoot threes and take just over 27 per game, good for fourth-most among all teams, but unlike similar teams that have an affinity for deep shots, Golden State is also an efficient three-point shooting team, leading the league in three-point percentages at 39.6 percent. Inside the arc, the Warriors convert 51 percent of their shots, the second-most in the NBA, so they have the ability to score from anywhere on the floor.
Even with their hot shooting, the key to the Warriors’ resurgence has not been the shots that Curry makes on a nightly basis, but rather his ability to pass and set up other shooters. Golden State leads the NBA in assists, averaging 27.4 assists per game, and this no doubt stems from the mindset of its rookie head coach, Steve Kerr. Stylistically, Kerr seems to have emulated Spurs coach Greg Popovich, under whom Kerr played for four seasons. The emphasis on ball movement, spacing and getting open looks has never dominated the NBA like it does currently, and the Warriors do these better than any team.
As phenomenal as the Warriors are offensively, they might be even better defensively. Their defensive rating is the second best in the league, and they allow fewer than 100 points per game, despite their fast-paced offense.
Warriors’ small forward Draymond Green is second in the league with 5.2 defensive win shares, and that is particularly noteworthy because Green is not a major shot blocker, nor has he evolved into an elite rebounder. Instead, Green excels in altering shots and making it difficult for opponents to get easy looks. Additionally, his toughness resonates with the rest of the Warriors and allows them to play with attitude and without fear of being labeled as soft.
All of these factors have contributed to a great deal of winning, allowing Golden State to earn the top seed in the West. That is accompanied by home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and this could not be worse news for the rest of the West. When playing at home in Oracle Arena this year, the Golden State Warriors are 39-2, and they have not lost at home since Jan. 27. To beat Golden State in a best-of-seven series, a team is going to have to beat the Warriors at least once and probably twice on their home floor, and that simply is not likely to happen, even if that team is San Antonio.
Unlike Frankenstein’s actual monster, it does not seem like the Warriors can be stopped, especially four times in seven games — the rest of the league should enjoy the privilege of finishing second.
Michael Ippolito is a sophomore in the College. THE WATER COOLER appears every Friday.
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