Teams are trying to emulate the Warriors, but is it working?
Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?
Well, the entire NBA is jealous of the Warriors (except maybe the Spurs, who always kind of do their own thing). And they’re all trying to be the Warriors. The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo playing every position 1 through 5 to try to emulate the Warriors’ style of position-less basketball, and the Pelicans are seriously considering playing Anthony Davis at center to try to speed up their offense and force other teams to go small.
The Warriors have the entire league trying to play small, and firing up more threes than ever before (except the Lakers. Byron Scott has the Lakers specifically not take threes. I also don’t know what he’s doing).
Long gone are the days of centers dominating the game from post ups, and it’s because of the Warriors.
The Warriors’ best lineup, a super small group that has been termed the “death lineup” because of opposing team’s inabilities to cover them, features Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green. This is the lineup that started the final three games of the NBA Finals and won the championship for Golden State.
This lineup does not feature a player over 6’8″. The center for this group is Green, a 6’7″ player who was termed “too small” for power forward coming out of college. Now, Green is a little ahead of 2014-15 NBA First Team Center Marc Gasol in Defensive Rebound Percentage (20.9 to 20.6), is even with Gasol in assist percentage (both with 14.8), and Draymond has a better defensive box plus/minus than Gasol. This is a player who was called too small to play power forward, but then started the last 3 games in an NBA Final that he won at center. Green worked hard to get where he is at currently, playing as well as the best center last year, but he is also a special player that has spearheaded a revolution in the NBA, along with his Warriors players.
More from Warriors News
- 3x champion may come to regret forgoing Golden State Warriors reunion
- Golden State Warriors: History shows USA may need Stephen Curry for more than the Olympics
- Golden State Warriors villain pours on more pain to end USA’s World Cup
- Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry continues philanthropic efforts off the court
- The Dream starting 5 for the Warriors 5 years from now
The other four players in the “death lineup” all former first-round draft picks who are either All-Stars or represented their country in a major international tournament.
The “death lineup” is a special one, and it is one that no other team can even come close to. The lineup, again, features nobody over 6’8″, including its center, and while that would usually seem like a disadvantage, that is what makes it so special. The death lineup plays basketball without positions. Curry brings the ball up the court and is the leader of the team, but when he’s playing with the death lineup, that’s where his point guard responsibilities end.
After he makes that first pass, no one has a position on offense anymore. All five players on the court are a genuine threat from deep, which stretches defenses to their limit. If Green is being guarded by Dwight Howard, for example, and Green steps out to the corner, Howard has to choose between staying near the rim to limit points in the paint — a classic responsibility for a center — or to cover Green in the corner.
Choose one, and Draymond will bury a three. Choose the other, and Steph, Klay, Iguodala, or Barnes will beat their man and have a clear path to the rim. And you don’t want to give Barnes a clear to the rim.
To counter this, opposing teams will simply put an extra forward onto the court to replace their center. Simple, right?
Power forwards and centers are generally too slow to guard Draymond — save for Anthony Davis — and small forwards are simply too small. Green is one of the strongest players and has some of the best fundamentals in the NBA, so he will immediately go into the post and post up on that player. And while Green won’t score everytime, he is one of the best passers in the league, so a kick out to Steph or Klay, or a lob to another player, is almost imminent if he isn’t looking to score.
So why can’t the rest of the league just imitate the death lineup? There are plenty of strong small forwards and fast power forwards who can play a Draymond Green-type role.
Well, there really aren’t.
Dec 6, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) reacts after a three point shot during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Brooklyn Nets 114-98. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
And even if anyone were to find someone who could play like Draymond (hard to do), they wouldn’t be able to surround him with shooters and passers like the Warriors could. Everything is great when your center is able to kick it out to a wing player from the post, but will that wing player be able to knock down the shot? Maybe. But will they also be a good enough shooter to pump fake but then also explode by their man? Maybe, but less likely.
And finally, will that wing player be able to be unselfish enough and have the court vision to make the extra pass, to find an even better shot for their teammate? Naahhh. Everyone in the death lineup — and most of the Warriors in the rest of the rotation — are able to do all three of those things. That’s what makes the Warriors so hard to defend.
Everyone wants to be the Warriors, but no one can. The revolution is happening, but it’s lonely up here at the top.