When Andre Iguodala returned from injury on December 17th against the Pelicans, you could see the relief in the rest of the Warriors.
While Iguodala only scored two points and played just 17 minutes, he still logged at +20 and re-energized the Warriors, carrying them to a 25-point lead after three quarters against an impressive Pelicans team that had given them trouble earlier in the year.
After a disappointing loss to a Spurs team without their big three a couple nights later, the Warriors began one of the best runs in franchise history, winning 10 straight games including 6 straight on the road. It is no coincidence that this run coincided with the return of Iguodala to the lineup, as with his return, the Warriors finally had their #FullSquad starting five back intact.
After a victory over the Suns on December 27th, the Warriors fourth in a row, David Lee mentioned that when the Warriors starting 5 was intact (Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Lee-Bogut), the Warriors had a stellar record. He did so by calling out WarriorsWorld writer Jordan Ramirez, asking what the teams record was with their “Full Squad” and instantly an internet meme was born. (Note: FullSquad refers to the intact starting 5, not the full team, as Festus Ezeli and Jermaine O’neal remain sidelined). The meme immediately blew up on social media, and has since been mentioned on Sportscenter, several NBA podcasts, and all over the internet. While the moment itself was hilarious, the main reason it has blown up is because the results are amazing. When the Warriors #FullSquad is intact, the Warriors are now 20-4, good for a .833 winning percentage. For reference, if that winning percentage were extended for a whole season, the Warriors projected record would be 69-13, tied for the second best record of all time.
As for why the #FullSquad is so important, it gives Mark Jackson and the Warriors more flexibility with lineups and helps divide minutes on a team with a struggling bench. The Warriors bench is the lowest scoring bench in the league, and when a starter is out of the lineup, it forces someone from the bench into the starting role. This hurts the bench even further and makes it difficult for Jackson to get rest for the starters. Similarly, this Warriors team is lacking capable ball handlers other than Curry and Iguodala, and when one of them has been hurt, the team has struggled mightily. The #FullSquad has only been broken this year due to 12 missed games by Iguodala and three missed games by Curry (Bogut has missed one game due to a suspension, but Iguodala was out as well), the team’s two best ball handlers, and the Warriors have struggled in those games with a 5-10 record.
The lack of another ball handler was especially evident when Iguodala was sidelined with his hamstring injury. The primary ball handling responsibilities put completely put on Curry’s shoulders during that 12-game stretch, which led to an increase in his turnovers (from 3.4 to 4.9) and minutes per game (31.6 to 41.4). Early in the season, Iguodala had played a point forward role at times which allowed Curry to play off ball, giving him spot up looks (where he is deadly ) and allowing him to save some energy by not having to constantly initiate the offense.
However, when Iguodala went out, no one else was able to successfully fill that role. Jackson tried to find another ball handler that could buy some rest for Curry, giving minutes to Kent Bazemore and Toney Douglas, but neither of them have showed the ability to initiate the offense without turning the ball over. All in all, during the 12 games that Iguodala missed, the Warriors finished with a disappointing 5-7 record.
Although the 10 game win streak and a shot at history was snapped by the Nets in Brooklyn on Wednesday, the Warriors bounced back with a victory against the Celtics last night. The #FullSquad is continuing to put up great results, but the Warriors should not be completely content with how the team is currently constructed.
While the starting five has been amazing, the lack of a ball handler on the bench has become a concern. This has been shown with the struggles when either Curry or Iguodala have been hurt, and is something GM Bob Myers has been looking into. The Warriors have been rumored to be interested in Andre Miller and Kirk Hinrich, two players that would fill this missing role on the team. However, regardless of the bench, right now the Warriors have proven that their #FullSquad can compete with anyone.