During FPC NBA’s contenders series, the staff will analyze one of five teams who could potentially take home the Larry O’Brien trophy this season. These five teams include the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and Toronto Raptors. First up, Chris Simmons (@sik0simmons) tells us how the Warriors can defend their NBA crown this season.
The Golden State Warriors do not care for the regular season as much as talking hoop heads want them to. Yet even at their current pace, they should break the 60 wins barrier fairly easily and be in the running for a top two seed in their conference. Even with that reassurance, there are still a few tweaks that can be made in-game habits, rotations, and overall style of play that can push them over the top. As FPC NBA examines how each of the contenders can win a championship, these are the rules that matter the most to the team with the best chance to win.
In their first game after the break, TNT’s Kenny “the jet” Smith made a poignant observation regarding the Warriors. “If they didn’t turn the ball over, they wouldn’t lose a game.” The team both knows it and yet a freewheeling amorphous style of play leads to an average almost 16 turnovers a game. These often lead to easy buckets that can buoy teams that otherwise have no real hope of beating the Warriors. Remove these extra buckets and Kenny Smith might not be speaking in hyperbole.
Shorten the rotation
Development and age have either priced out or sapped away from of that sting that made the Warriors 10 men deep. Specifically, the bench player who has dropped off the most this season is 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. His PIE and PER numbers have steadily dipped since 2015, and his shooting woes have stymied the normally immaculate spacing of the “death” lineup. While he is still an important cog in the Warriors machine, they would do well to measure his minutes and avoid depending on him as they once did. This could mean that the end is near for Iguodala, but don’t be surprised if some of the bites come back to the bench when Jordan Bell returns.
Stephen Curry is the fundamental key to the Warriors’ success. This seems like an obvious statement, but with the addition of Kevin Durant last season, many pundits have suggested that KD is the most important player on the team. This is an understandable, if false, reason to expect the Warriors to run through Durant, however the first game back was the most recent reminder of what Curry can do that no one else can. With the shot clock turned off and just a few seconds on the clock, Curry “Stephen’d” all over the Clippers, burying a 35’+ jumper. His capacity to demoralize an entire team is the not-so-secret weapon that the Warriors need to use more often.
A little care goes a long way
More than anything the Warriors are fighting apathy and the mental fatigue of having already made three consecutive finals. The 2014 Miami Heat were the last team to wade into the deep waters of seemingly unending finals trips, and their players are on record as hating that last season. The Warriors are not quite in “self-hate” mode just yet but they have to be careful and avoid that pitfall.
Steve Kerr said as much when asked about why he allowed the Warriors to draw up their own plays against the Suns just before the break. Kerr was playing a mental game with a team that, at this point, could coach itself through the regular season and still break 50 wins. Yet the post-season is all about good habits and willpower; with that in mind, the Dubs must do everything they can to remain engaged and prepare for the most difficult post-season of the last three years.