Golden State Warriors’ concerning defensive statistic sure to frustrate Draymond Green
Despite all their beautiful, free-flowing ball movement and historically great three-point shooting, it’s often been the defensive side of the ball that’s propelled the Golden State Warriors to success.
That’s what we saw just months ago in the NBA Finals — the Warriors offense was often single-handedly elevated by outrageous performances from Stephen Curry, while their team defense strangled and tormented the Boston Celtics into submission.
That’s what makes this current version almost unrecognisable to begin the 2022-23 season. Golden State are fourth-last in defensive rating, proving the catalyst to their underwhelming 4-7 record.
Is the Golden State Warriors’ lack of rim protection starting to show? If so, it’s sure to leave defensive stalwart Draymond Green incredibly frustrated.
The Warriors have seldom had a genuinely consistent rim protector, at least since Andrew Bogut first left the team in 2016. That’s not to undersell the impact of Kevon Looney defensively, but his attributes lie in having an incredibly high IQ that allows him to position himself perfectly, rather than being a long, athletic presence that regularly blocks shots.
Year after year, Golden State’s interior defense is uplifted by the versatility and help defense of Draymond Green. As one of the great defenders in the modern era, Green’s ability to perfectly time help at the rim has been a backbone of the Warriors play on that end. In doing so, he either forces a tough contested shot, or forces an extra pass to the perimeter whereby Golden State as a team usually do a terrific job in rotating out to shooters.
Have a look at the below clip and fast-forward to 2:05 — this is the perfect illustration of Green’s innate ability as a help defender.
Green’s importance is amplified by the fact the Warriors no longer have any elite point-of-attack defenders. Golden State were unable to bring back Gary Payton II in free agency, and while prime Klay Thompson could perform that role to aplomb, he, unsurprisingly, doesn’t hold the athleticism and lateral quickness to be effective in that role anymore. Even Andrew Wiggins, who’s now recognized as an elite defender, is more suited to the bigger opponents — think what he did to Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic in the postseason — than he is the smaller, faster guards. It’s why Ja Morant has had so much success in his brief career against the Warriors so far.
Now, to what we’re seeing this season. Opponents are shooting a similar quantity of shots around the rim — teams are taking an average of 41.7 attempts in the paint, ever so slightly up from the 40.3 attempts last season.
However, it’s the opponent field-goal percentage that’s hurting the Warriors, and will also be a source of frustration for Green who prides himself on help defense ability. Teams are shooting 68.7% from the restricted area against Golden State, that’s 23rd in the league and up from 65.7% last season.
Opponents are also shooting 47.8% from the remainder of the paint, that’s second-worst in the league behind the Houston Rockets — a teams you don’t want your defense associated with. While 43% last season was by no means elite (ranked 17th), it was solid for a team who had just one healthy center the entire year.
These statistics also act as an argument against James Wiseman’s capacity as winning-player. You would think that the addition of a seven-foot, 7’6″ wingspanned, uber-athletic big man would reduce opponent percentages in the paint… apparently not.
It’s fine margins right — 3% and 4.8% isn’t huge. Yet in close games where the difference is a possession here or there, those fine margins can be the difference between a win and a loss. It’s ultimately a combination of the Warriors’ lack of point-of-attack defenders, Green not quite being at his best defensively, and Wiseman having no impact in deterring shots at the rim.