Analyzing the Golden State Warriors’ Best Plays


April 09, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson calls out to his players against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

While the Golden State Warriors’ offense often boiled down to a simple high pick-and-roll, they featured many complex set plays and reads to increase scoring efficiency.

The Warriors’ most distinct offensive play is the “Elevator.”  This play is generally initiated out of a Horns set. Horns begins with two high posts and a player stationed in either corner. The player intended to come through the double screen, generally Stephen Curry, typically starts the play at the wing. The Warriors also developed a few misdirection variations of the elevator play. In one version, Curry will begin with the ball at the top of the court and make a pass to the wing. He then runs towards the corner, typical of a horns set, but quickly reverses direction and cuts back up through the double screen.

While it appears to rely on a single outcome, the beauty of the elevator play is that if the initial action is well defended, it flows directly into a basic horns set.  The Warriors will generally have the two big men who set the elevator screens run a double screen with the ball handler.

The emergence of Klay Thompson as an offensive weapon led to an increased reliance on the “Corners” set.  This constant motion offensive set leads into several screen-and-rolls, pin-downs, and spot-up jumpers. Teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and, most consistently, the Minnesota Timberwolves rely on the Corner as the basis of their offensive system.  While the Warriors were not as committed, their use of this set increased as the year progressed, and players became more comfortable with the reads and wrinkles.

The Corner set allows the Warriors to decrease their reliance on Curry as the offensive initiator but, with the pick-and-roll opportunities, does not limit his role as an on-ball scorer.

April 09, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors bench of starters stand up for the final seconds of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-89 to clinch a playoff berth. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Against teams like the Miami Heat that aggressively hedge on and off-ball screens, this set opens opportunities for the Warriors’ excellent passers to find open layups and weak side spot-ups for teammates, while more conservative defenses are susceptible to giving the Warriors a damaging extra step on pick-and-rolls.

The Warriors were often simplistic in their offensive approach. Basic Flex sets consistently led to high pick-and-rolls and there was an unnecessary reliance on motionless post-ups. However, many of the wrinkles that were added were very effective in leveraging the Warriors’ significant offensive talents.

As this core gains more experience after an injury-interrupted year, expect an increase in the complexity and effectiveness of many of the Warriors’ sets, as well as the addition of further plays.