It has been no secret that the Golden State Warriors have struggled with turnovers all year.
Before the All-Star break, the Warriors were second in the league in total turnovers, averaging 16.1 turnovers per game. Even adjusting for pace, the Warriors still had a turnover ratio of 16.2, good for the fifth worst in the league, trailing only the 76ers, Rockets, Bulls, and Bucks.
These turnovers were extremely costly for the Warriors, as opponents averaged just over 18 points off turnovers a game, the second highest rank in the league (behind the 76ers yet again). The main culprit of these turnovers was All-Star Stephen Curry – he was by far the league leader in turnovers before the break, averaging 4.1 turnovers per game.
However, there were positive signs heading into the break as well, as the Warriors had begun to solve their turnover problem. The injury to Andre Iguodala and the absence of a capable point guard had put a ton of stress on Curry as the only legitimate ball handler, and with the return of Iguodala and the acquisitions of Steve Blake and Jordan Crawford, the Warriors seemed to be slowly be getting over their turnover problem.
This transition began upon the return of the Warriors from their seven-game road trip and ten-game winning streak in early January. Surprisingly, during the win streak, the Warriors actually struggled to take care of the ball, averaging 17.3 turnovers per game. However, in the 15 games after the loss to Brooklyn that snapped the win-streak, the Warriors averaged only 13.1 turnovers per game. Also surprisingly, the Warriors struggled over that stretch, going just 7-8.
However, the seeds had been planted that would carry on after the all-star break. Since the team has returned from that long weekend, they have become one of the best teams in the league in ball security. They have the fourth fewest turnovers in the entire league since the break, the fifth lowest turnover ratio, and as a result the negative effect of those turnovers has been minimized. Since the break, they are top 10 in fewest opponent points off turnovers and Curry has led this change. While before the break Curry averaged 4.1 turnovers per game, that number has decreased to 3.8 for the season as he has only averaged 3.2 turnovers per game in the last 18 games (less than John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson, James Harden, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant, among others).
Not only have the Warriors taken better care of the ball since the All-Star break, but they have also began to distribute the ball more. They have had 25 or more assists in 11 of the last 18 games after only having more than 25 assists in 17 of the first 53 games. This has led to a sharp increase in the Warriors assist to turnover ratio post break, increasing from 1.41 to 1.81.
The team and Curry’s increased ball security has translated into wins for the team, as they are 13-5 in those 18 games, good for the 4th best win percentage in the league over that span. For the season, when they are distributing the ball and taking good care of it, they have been nearly unstoppable. In games that they Warriors have an assist to turnover ratio above 1.5, they are 26-5; in all other games, they are 18-22.
However, as comforting as these numbers are, there is still cause for concern. The team as a whole turns the ball over 2.8 more times in losses than in wins, and has a tendency to have large turnover games against good teams. Four of the Warriors’ top eight turnover games have come against the following teams, all of which were games they lost: San Antonio Spurs (x2), Los Angeles Clippers, and the Houston Rockets. There is a good chance the Warriors will match against up of these teams come playoff time, and the Warriors will need to take care of the ball.
Similarly, while the team has improved in taking care of the ball since the break, it still tends to turn the ball over in key situations. Since the All-Star break, the Warriors have given up the fifth most opponent points off turnovers in the fourth quarter, ahead of only the Jazz, Bucks, Knicks, and Kings. That is not good company to be in.
All in all, the Warriors have made great strides in improving their ball security this season. This change has been led by their leader Curry, who has greatly reduced his turnovers as the season has gone on. When both he and the Warriors as a whole take care of the ball and distribute, they are nearly unstoppable. However, they have not completely solved the issue and if they want to make some noise in the playoffs, they will need to improve even further.
All statistics are as of 3/26/14 from NBA.com.