Steve Kerr has his team on track for the title
You know you’re the favorite for the NBA championship when, after losing two games in a row, people are calling it a “skid.” Or a “slump.” Or maybe “a time of questioning for this team.” Golden State had lost an overtime thriller to the Chicago Bulls and then, inexplicably, a 10-point game to the Utah Jazz. (Scientists still cannot explain how this happened.) Well, after intense demolition work of the Suns—maybe a preview of Golden State’s first playoff matchup—and the neighboring Sacramento Kings, nobody is thinking about those two losses.
But here’s the thing: it’s not only that the Warriors are over their teeny, tiny “slump.” It’s not only that they’ve rebounded. It’s not only that they’ve recaptured the best record in the NBA. It’s this: the Warriors should be considered heavy, heavy favorites from here on out.
Golden State is stereotyped—incorrectly, I might add—as a jump-shooting team. You might think the Portland Trail Blazers, with LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, would be near the top in points in the paint. Or maybe the Los Angeles Clippers–Lob City–with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. You would, however, be wrong. The Clippers are 26th in points in the paint, the Blazers 28th, and the Warriors 3rd.
Some of this stems from their brilliance on the break. Golden State ranks first in the NBA in this category, too. Some of the points in the paint also stems from the Warriors’ passing abilities. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Golden State leads the league in assists. But it’s not just that they lead the league in assists; it’s that they do it with a lot of contributors.
Take last night for example. Golden State totaled 33 assists—well above their 27.3 per game average—but not a single Warrior tallied more than 10 dimes. Here’s the breakdown in assists from last night’s box score:
That’s kind of amazing. Let’s look at it another way, but unit:
Getting 12 assists from your frontcourt is pretty insane. Getting 10 assists cumulative from your two backup point guards is also insane. Having a high number of assists isn’t just about being generous and feeling good, feeling like you’re playing “team” basketball. It translates to better shots, which translates into a higher shooting percentage (which, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, Golden State leads…).
It’s not exactly a perfectly 1:1 ratio in assists per game and field goal percentage, but the numbers are pretty startling. Seven out of the 10 top teams in assists per game rank in the top 10 in field goal percentage.
To summarize: Golden State is great not only because they have great players, a great coach and a talented roster that has fun and gets along, but because their offensive attack is one of the most dynamic in the history of basketball. They lead the league in total points, fastbreak points, field goal percentage, and assists; they’re third in the league in points in the paint and second in the league in three point percentage; Steve Kerr is doing a heck of a job managing the frontcourt minutes of David Lee and Andrew Bogut—who are also looking sprier than ever—and none of this is to mention that Golden State leads the league in probably the most important defensive statistic: opponents field goal percentage.