Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors have been nearly impossible to defend the last couple of seasons. The scary part is that they will be just as good, if not better in 2016-17.
Bob Myers’ monumental acquisition of Kevin Durant gave the Dubs another elite weapon, one who’s blend of scoring skills and physical dimensions are unmatched. Golden State had to surrender some bench depth to make room for him, but its starting lineup and core rotation is more lethal than ever.
The 6’11” do-it-all forward will stretch Golden State’s foes thin with his shooting and slashing prowess. Durant’s ability to play on or off the ball should unlock a myriad of schematic possibilities for Kerr and Co.
As his chemistry with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson grows, Golden State’s lethal playbook will expand. It may take time for the new-look lineup, which includes free agent center Zaza Pachulia, to find its rhythm. When it does, the rest of the league will be gasping for air.
Let’s peek at a few key offensive sets that should make the Dubs dominant.
“Strong Elbow Pin,” Horns Set
The Warriors are at their best when they generate movement on both sides of the floor, especially when they set pin-down screens or baseline picks for their shooters. Golden State averaged 1.06 points per possession via catch-and-shoot plays off screens.
The following formation gave defenders fits last year, and it will flummox them even more with Durant in the fold. Coach Gibson Pyper of Half Court Hoops calls it “Strong Elbow Pin” because it involves the key passer catching the ball at the elbow and finding a shooter coming off a pin-down screen:
Curry often initiates the play, tossing the ball to Green at the elbow. Curry then runs past Green toward the corner to keep the floor spaced. Meanwhile, on the weak side, Thompson comes off a down screen looking to catch and fire.
This action instantly becomes more dynamic with Durant involved. He could be mixed in as the primary shooting option, the elbow passer, the initiator or the spot-up shooter in the corner who discourages any help defense. The quicker he learns all the roles, the sooner Golden State can give opponents different looks within the same formation.
When defenses are too concerned with the shooter coming off the pin-down, the screener makes a quick slip-cut to the hoop. Here’s the slip-cut version of the Strong Elbow Pin set:
Again, what makes this so dangerous is that multiple players can fill multiple roles during the course of any given game. When defenses become to perimeter-focused, the Warriors have a brilliant knack for burning them with easy buckets around the tin.
Durant Post-up with cutters
One of Golden State’s most effective ways to integrate Durant into their attack is to post him up. But they won’t just give him the ball on the block and simply watch him try to shake his man. That’s what the Thunder did too often, and it allows help defenders to get into better position, make digs from the wing and anticipate potential kick-out passes.
The Warriors are great at sending cutters through the middle and sliding shooters into sweet spots during post-ups. Their cutters will give Durant passing outlets, keep help defenders busy and thereby give Durant more effective post-up sequences.
Watch how preoccupied Cleveland’s defenders are with Curry and Thompson. There is no help defense against Green, and Green’s defender (Tristan Thompson) even gets distracted by Thompson’s cut along the baseline. The result is a clean floater by Green:
It’s easy to envision Durant posting up, feasting in space and dishing to shooters if opponents lose track of them. While low-post offense has become less prevalent in today’s NBA, Durant is one of the few players who make it a worthwhile and efficient venture. Brett Koremenos of RealGM.com explained how KD’s arrival will neutralize most defenders’ inclinations to switch on screens:
Instead of choosing between their bread-and-butter and Barnes, the Warrior bread-and-butter will be Durant posting up. Last season, Durant produced a whopping 1.24 PPP on 149 post up situations, a phenomenal number that put him atop the league. That number alone could completely eradicate the concept of switching anything involving a Durant screen from opponent’s defensive playbooks.
Durant can also operate as the weak-side shooter in this setup when Green is the one posting up. He would assume the role Barnes had, which means opposing defenses wouldn’t be able to gamble and sag into the paint. Defenders will have little margin for error, because if they overplay Durant, he can cut to the rim and Green will certainly connect with him.
High screen with Green Short Roll
This one should look familiar for those who’ve followed the Dubs closely the last couple of years. Kerr has concocted the best pick-and-roll offense in the league, one that pits a historically elite shooter (Curry), a prolific off-ball target (Thompson) and one of the most versatile roll men in the game (Green).
Green is a master at slowing rolling toward the top of the key, catching the rock and surveying the floor. Curry’s quickness and timing forces perimeter defenders to scramble, allowing Green to attack the middle. Help defenders are forced to rotate, which frees up shooters in the corner. Here are a couple of examples of how the Warriors expand and collapse defenses like an accordion:
Kerr now has the luxury of deploying Durant’s talent with this setup. Much like the other sets, Durant’s role could vary, although he’d serve best as the roll man or the weak-side shooter. Coach Nick of Bball Breakdown explained that Oklahoma City’s usage of Durant as a spot-up weapon will help him transition into Golden State’s style:
Kevin Durant is no stranger to spotting up…The Thunder used the Westbrook pick-and-roll to free up shots for KD on the weak side, and it’s easy to see the similarities between these actions and how seamlessly Durant will fit into the Warriors offense.
Again, this could take time, and nothing is 100 percent guaranteed for this Warriors super-team. However, it’s one of the most gifted, interchangeable groups of smart players ever assembled. If they bombard opponents with a steady diet of these sets, their talent will ruthlessly wear down the competition.