Golden State Warriors: 5 Keys to Becoming an Elite Team

May 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) stops the fast break by San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) during the third quarter of game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Elite Defense

It is commonly accepted that to be a high level contender, a team must have a very good, if not elite, defense. The Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, all conference finalists, constituted the league’s top three defenses in points allowed per 100 possessions, per basketball-reference, while the Miami Heat, 9th in defensive rating, had a penchant for playing excellent defense in pivotal situations.

Last season, the Golden State Warriors were 14th in defensive rating.  The addition of Andre Iguodala, an undoubtedly elite defender who finished with the 2nd highest defensive RAPM among all wing players in the league last season, and the promise of a healthier Andrew Bogut, along with the defensive potential of Harrison Barnes and the late season improvement of Klay Thompson present the Warriors with the opportunity to create a top-level defense.

Bogut’s health may mitigate the Warriors’ season long defensive evaluation, however, when playing together, Iguodala and Bogut form a perimeter-interior defensive duo capable of anchoring a championship worthy defense.


Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala’s Spacing:

Last season, Harrison Barnes shot 35.9 percent from three, a promising clip for a rookie.  After making 39.4 percent of his three-point attempts in 2011-12, Andre Iguodala regressed, shooting only 31.7 percent from beyond the arc last season.

Though it often goes unmentioned, last season, Harrison Barnes, despite his respectable shooting, often damaged the Warriors exceptional spacing.  His negative.  Threatened by known marksmen Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, opponents intentionally shadowed off Barnes to maintain aggressive help position.  As a rookie still unaccustomed to the intricacies of NBA offense, Barnes often exacerbated the detrimental affects by stalling at inopportune moments on cuts, hesitating near the short corner and elbow.

However, Barnes’ shooting prevented teams from fully disregarding his presence on the perimeter, as the San Antonio Spurs so eagerly did to Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince in their Conference Final Series versus Memphis.

Iguodala, at least last season, interacted with opposing defenders quite differently from Barnes.  Opponents attempted to help off him on the perimeter but were punished by Iguodala’s astute off-ball movement.  He took advantage of the decreased attention to free himself for cuts, scout out driving lanes, and crash the offensive glass.

Neither Iguodala nor Barnes will be crippling to the Warriors spacing.  However, the Warriors will make significant gains if either diminishes his respective off ball flaws.


March 11, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Randy Foye (4) shoots a basket against the defense of Golden State Warriors small forward Dominic McGuire (5) and power forward David Lee (10) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

David Lee’s Defense:

The Warriors’ eternal crutch (though ankles are expected to put in a bid) remains, as “eternal” should suggest, ever-present.  David Lee, for all his offensive proficiency, is a terrible defensive player.  Lee, given his contract and stature within the team, is guaranteed significant minutes.  Though major improvements should not be expected, Lee claims to be dedicated to improving defensively.

Even minor improvements as a help or pick and roll defender would have widespread effects.  Slightly more reliable rotations could give Andre Iguodala more freedom to pressure opponents into perimeter turnovers, while better pick and roll position would allow the Warriors to decrease the strong-side pick and role help, improving the Warriors’ worst in the league corner three defense.


Andrew Bogut’s Consistency:

A qualifier all too familiar to Warriors fans, for the Warriors to be elite, Andrew Bogut must be able to maintain consistent health and efficacy.  Bogut has expressed that he expects to be at full health by training camp.  Whether this health carries to the playoffs remains to be seen but, given his recent struggles, is not the most likely outcome.


Bench Players’ Production

Last year the Warriors bench, though lauded for its depth, was carried by the production of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.  This season, less celebrated acquisitions Marreese. Toney Douglas, and Jermaine O’Neal, and incumbent youths Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green, and Kent Bazemore, will have to replace at least a portion of last season’s bench production.