Written by: Lucas Silberman– Staff Writer (@)
After a throttling by the San Antonio Spurs, two close wins against Anthony Davis (I don’t even consider them the New Orleans Pelicans) and the Phoenix Suns, and a blowout win against the Portland Trail Blazers, the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors haven’t necessarily lived up to the hype of a “super team.”
There are several causes for concern for this team, which ill go in more depth about later in this article, such as Klay Thompson’s slow start, the new bench fitting Steve Kerr’s system, and just the overall crisp play of the Big Four (Curry, Durant, Green, and Thompson). While these problems need to be fixed in order to beat legitimate championship contenders such as the Spurs and Cavs, if you look more in depth on the way they’ve been playing I see a lot of great things and a lot of okay things that will become great as the season progresses. But first, as most Warriors haters want to see, let’s explore the inconsistencies we’ve seen thus far in the season.
| Klay Thompson’s Slow Start
Klay Thompson has always been seen to the general public as an underappreciated, volume scoring, above average defender player that goes under the radar compared to the two-time MVP Steph Curry and the “heart and soul” of the team Draymond Green. The addition of Kevin Durant obviously comes with fire power, and most people saw the production Thompson could provide now instead for the “Old Warriors” as limiting. With Steph and KD as the two main scorers (as evidence of their 65 points combined to beat the Suns), the Warriors really value Thompson’s defensive ability and his timely scoring that could provide enough scoring when they need rest.
Klay has always had the green light, and throughout the past two years I’ve been really impressed with him putting the ball on the floor and creating his own shots through pick n rolls and spin moves. This year, however, I’m not seeing the same confidence and almost some intimidation when he’s on the court with the other core three (Steph, KD, and Green). So far this season, he’s only shooting 41% from the field, while also shooting an embarrassing 10% from three. While also only averaging a mere 3.5 rebounds per game and 3 assists per game, we are just not accustomed to seeing this type of play from Klay Thompson.
With that said, my inherent trust in his play is rooted in my concerns. Thompson is a sharp-shooting professional who has the humility to point out his own flaws that he needs to improve on. He’s obviously a shell of himself to start the season, but look to see him get back into rhythm throughout the week in a multitude of ways. I would be in favor of Pick N Pop sets where he sets a screen for one of the other big three, where he gets a favorable matchup on a switch where he can take advantage of his quick release or take it to the rim and get to the line.
Currently, he only averages about 3 free throw attempts per game, so look for him to be more aggressive. Also, if worse comes to worse and there are serious problems with his game, I could see Kerr utilizing Thompson’s game a lot in the second unit, in order to bolster their second unit production but also to allow Thompson to figure out his shooting slump. Again, shooters are always going to shoot themselves out of bad nights, so take Klay’s recent play of late with a grain of salt.
| The Bench, or Lack Thereof
First of all, we all need to understand the greatness of the Golden State Warriors the past two seasons. They had depth, superstars, and great defenders that allowed them to get out in transition and literally made it seem like they were playing players that show up in cargo shorts to an open gym workout.
This is the first real look at Steve Kerr’s team that is his own, with his own players that have been brought in to his system in addition to the development of their young players such as, Ian Clark, Kevon Looney, James McAdoo, and Patrick McCaw. Thus far, it hasn’t really panned out. The Warriors bench is in the bottom four of both bench points per game (16.4 PPG) and ranks in the bottom ten in bench efficiency (32.8).
We understand what we get with veterans such as Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and David West, but with added intensity of being a “super team,” they get everyone’s best shot and will continue to have the target on their back for the rest of the season. They lost some major pieces over the offseason in order to sign Kevin Durant, like Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Mo “Buckets” Speights, and Leandro Barbosa, so inherently the new pieces are going to need some time to get adjusted to playing with each other and learning Steve Kerr’s motion offense.
While it is the start of the season, the Warriors need to find quick solutions in order to maintain leads when the second unit is on the court and allow the Core Four to not rack up a ton of minutes early on in the season. Look for the Warriors to try and monitor minutes in which they can have at least two out of the four on the court at all times with a supporting cast. Also, as much as a liability as he is, Javale McGee should get more minutes as he can rebound and be an interior defender that could be more effective than Zaza Pachulia or Anderson Varejao.
| The Positives
Thus far in the early season I have seen some great things from this Warriors team. First, is allowing Kevin Durant to shine in his first year as a Golden State Warrior. A lot of analysts posed questions as to how he would fit in this new system in the Bay Area, and so far it has been a very smooth transition. From designing iso plays to getting him involved in the transition offense, it is clear he was worth the investment. Currently, Durant is averaging 28.5 points per game on 57% shooting from the field and also 9 rebounds per game shows he can step up in the rebounding department, something that is clearly lacking from the interior players .
His shooting percentage splits are 57-23-92, which is clearly a good sign that he hasn’t lost a step from the Olympic Gold Medal run. Obviously it is early in the season, but getting our most valuable offseason acquisition adjusted to the team will bring tremendous benefits to the team later on in the season. I also like the extended minutes Steve Kerr has given the new “Death Lineup” (Curry, Thompson, Iggy, KD, and Green) over the past few games.
In my opinion, there is no better adjustment period than in real game time situations. Against the Spurs, Kerr kept the Death Lineup in the game when they were being blown out, but I respected his decision because they can still get into the flow of the game in real game time situations. Over time, the Warriors will figure out their offense and defensively look for Draymond Green to step it up and be the catalyst to motivate this team to perform at the highest level.
Everyone needs to understand that this Warriors team is not going to entertain us nearly as much as the past Warriors teams. Offensively, this Warriors team is elite and when everyone is in flow they’ll look unstoppable. Defensively, however, it’s going to be a struggle and it will be painful to watch this team rebound at times. I still see this team as the top contender for the NBA title, but it will be in a way that Warriors fans and the NBA are not accustomed to seeing.