Through 43 games this season, the Golden State Warriors are in a similar position to where they were last season, with a record of 26-17, second in the Pacific division behind the Los Angeles Clippers. This team is in a much better position than they were last season because of one thing: they are a great defensive team.
Traditionally, the Warriors have been a run and gun team that would beat you by outscoring you and not playing much defense, but that has all changed with coach Mark Jackson leading this team. It starts with the man in the middle, Andrew Bogut, who anchors this defense and is a force in the paint. He is an intimidator changing shots and grabbing every rebound.
Iguodala’s Defensive Impact
The other huge reason why the Warriors are a much improved defensive team is the addition of Andre Iguodala. Iguodala was acquired in the offseason in an absolute steal in a sign-and-trade where the Warriors were able to get rid of Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush, three guys that made no contribution to their playoff run last season. Iguodala is a premier defender, which allows everyone else an easier matchup on the defensive end. Iguodala takes the best player on the opponent’s team and for the most part, is very successful.
Last season, Klay Thompson was the Warriors best defender on the ball and because he was just that, it affected his shot on the offensive end, where he is lethal. This season, he is having a career year, shooting the ball and becoming one of the best shooting guards in the league. On the defensive end, he has been just as good, guarding the opponent’s point guard because Stephen Curry is not the best defender — the one thing he can’t do on the basketball court.
With Bogut, Iguodala and Thompson, the Warriors have three elite defenders in their starting lineup and have made experts think that this team can compete in the Western Conference. But even though the Warriors have become much better defensive team, everyone still salivates over the offense and the most entertaining point guard in the NBA, Stephen Curry.
Curry’s Leadership and Lee’s Dominance
Curry is having his best season of his career despite shooting career-lows in shooting, three-point, and free-throw percentage. Curry is averaging almost 24 points, dealing out almost ten assists and grabbing five rebounds per game, which are unbelievable stats for a point guard. He is on pace to start the All-Star game, the first Warrior since Latrell Sprewell in 1995. He is becoming a superstar in the NBA and will only get better.
David Lee has also played at an All-Star level and he has completely changed his offensive game. He is still averaging 20 and 10 but he has been much more of a paint player, not relying on his patented 15-foot jumper from the elbow. Instead, he is dominating inside, using both hands equally well, leading the NBA in points in the paint.
However, with all the positives from the first half of the season, there are some negatives, with the biggest being the bench play.
The bench play has been atrocious this season, scoring the least amount of the points in the league. The Warriors are attempting to change this problem with the acquisition of Jordan Crawford and Marshon Brooks, getting rid of Toney Douglas. Crawford and Brooks are proven scorers that get their own shot and can give Curry and Thompson more rest as the postseason approaches. Douglas was useless for this team, averaging less than four points per game, scoring in double digits only twice this season.
The biggest disappointment off the bench has been Harrison Barnes. Even though he is averaging more than 10 points per game, he looks completely lost on this team. He has lost his confidence in his shot and has been non-existent in January. The signing of Iguodala seems to be a big reason why he has really struggled for a player that was the Warriors’ most explosive player in the 2013 playoffs.
Draymond Green is the only bench player that has contributed on a regular basis with his defense, energy and timely threes. Everyone else has been inconsistent or injured with the biggest loss being Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal was quality backup for Bogut and provided leadership off the bench.
Second Half Forecast
If the Warriors want to compete for an NBA championship, they need the bench to contribute at a much higher level. Crawford and Brooks will help but the Warriors need the other guys to step up, especially Barnes. The Warriors should have a much better bench in the second half with O’Neal and Festus Ezeli coming back from injury in the near future, which will help their front court immensely. It is hard to see Barnes continuing to struggle; he will snap out of it.
So overall, the Warriors should be very content where they are and we should be in for a great second half of the season.