The Golden State Warriors have never had a problem playing fast. But playing fast is kind of a problem in itself, unless you can do it right. For years, the Warriors have ranked in the league’s top 10 in PACE Factor, which measures how many offensive possessions a team uses per game.
There’ve been a bunch of reasons for Golden State’s stubborn adherence to a fast pace over the years. The seed for the consistent running and gunning was planted all the way back in the early ’90s, when Don Nelson’s Run TMC squads gave the Warriors their first league-wide identity. That strategy seemed to carry over into new coaching staffs and new sets of players, and then came full circle when Nelson returned to coach the Warriors in 2006.
Coaches in between Nellie’s tenure took his strategic lead for the most part, preferring to lose in an entertaining way by trying relentlessly to outshoot their opponents. There were a couple of seasons in the early 2000s when Mike Montgomery and Eric Musselman tried to slow things down and increase the emphasis on valuing possessions, but those attempts ultimately failed.
That brings us up to last season, when the Warriors ranked 10th in the NBA in PACE Factor at 94.7 possessions per game. While most of last season can be written off, thanks to the Ellis trade, Curry injury and subsequent tank job to save a lottery pick, the fact that the Warriors persisted in their consistently unsuccessful strategy is worrisome.
This season, the Warriors will have a true center, more veteran leadership and fewer players prone to wild bursts of recklessness (Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson) than they had in 2011-12. So there’s reason to believe that they’ll slow things down. There’s also reason to believe that even if they don’t want to, they’ll have to pump the brakes a bit.
Andrew Bogut isn’t a spectacular floor-runner, and David Lee’s never been much in that area, either. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are great shooters, but not phenomenal athletes. So it’ll behoove the Warriors, who are best-suited to play halfcourt offense with heavy emphasis on insdie-out passing, to slow the game down.
If they can knock four or five possessions off their PACE number and value the ones they use more highly, the team’s offense is all but guaranteed to be more efficient. To pick up some wins, they’ll have to drop the pace.