Golden State Warriors: From Run and Gun to Tenacious Defense


For years, the Golden State Warriors were known as an offensive team, but they have established a defensive identity this season. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

For years, the Golden State Warriors were known as an offensive team.

Other teams would look as the Warriors as a team where they knew they could fill up the stat sheet.  Even when the Warriors were good, which has been rare for the last 25 years, they won with their offense.  Under Don Nelson and Run TMC, they would shoot the lights out and play small ball.  They made the playoffs with this team but never had sustained continued success because this team could not play defense.

In Nelson’s second tenure — the “We Believe” years — the Warriors once again outscored teams and played small ball with the most notable accomplishment being the first round upset of the Dallas Mavericks in 2007.  But once again, the Warriors could not get past to the second round and the team would fall apart under Nelson’s tutelage.

These teams did not sustain any success because they could not defend, but today is a new day in Oakland.  The Warriors now sport one of the best defensive units in the league in large part because of Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson. Bogut has been the best center this franchise has seen in years.  He protects the rim by blocking shots and affecting others, rebounds the basketball and is a force in the paint.  The Warriors no longer have to play small ball with Bogut on the floor, which allows them to be a better rebounding team and provides them with an intimidating presence where opponents will think twice about driving the lane.

Iguodala has been the biggest difference maker this season on defense.  He guards the best perimeter player on the opposing team and has the capability to stop anyone.  He is a great help defender, getting in the passing lane and intercepting errant passes.  Thompson has allowed a much weaker defender, Stephen Curry, to not have to guard the point guard position.  Thompson uses his length to affect opposing point guards while Curry guards the opponents’ third option to hide his defensive deficiencies.

Throw in Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Jermaine O’Neal and the Warriors have become a force on defensive end.  They are third in rebounding, opponents’ field goal percentage and opponents’ three-point percentage, a far cry from when this team had to outscore their opponent to win in this league.  They are top-10 in countless other defensive categories, a surprise to most pundits that just look at the shooting prowess of the Splash Brothers.

This team no longer gives up 100 or more points per game and  allows teams to shoot the lights out.  Instead they are allowing less than 100 points per game, contesting every jump shot and forcing teams to shoot less than 40 percent on countless occasions.  They are one of the best rebounding teams in the league, a pleasant surprise to Warriors fans who have seen this team getting outrebounded on a consistent basis.  Mark Jackson has taken this team from one of the worst rebounding teams to one of the best in just two years, a welcome sight to all Warriors fans.

Jackson has said from day one that he wanted the Warriors to become a good defensive team.  Most people scoffed at the idea because the Warriors had not played defense in a couple of decades.  Through the draft, trades, and free agency, the Warriors have acquired the right parts to become an elite defensive team and a lot of that credit should go towards Jackson and the Warriors’ front office.

There are lots of people who want Jackson to be let go because their offense mostly consists of isolation play and pick and rolls but it is the defense that has made this team a contender in the Western Conference.  Jackson should deserve lots of credit for that and with the shooting prowess of this team, it may be the most balanced team in the NBA when everyone plays up to their capabilities.

No fan will want Jackson to leave if this team makes it to the conference finals or NBA Finals; they will want an extension instantly.  If the Warriors do meet this goal, it won’t will be because of the shooting of the “Splash Brothers”, it will be a result of their defensive effort and execution.