Golden State Warriors: Three Early Observations


The 2013-14 NBA season is a little more than a week old and the Golden State Warriors are already beginning to show signs of a team that will be legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. Led by torrid starts from sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors have taken the league by storm and have had leads of at least 27 points in all three of their victories to date.

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are off to a hot start. ( photo)

The Warriors are hardly just a two-man show, as the rest of their starting lineup has come out of the gates on fire as well, with offseason acquisition Andre Iguodala already fitting in quite nicely and veteran big men David Lee and Andrew Bogut continuing to produce on a nightly basis.

Let’s take a look at three early observations from the Warriors thus far this season:

1) Shot selection

Through four games, Golden State has attempted 330 field goals. Out of those shots, 30.3 percent are coming from the restricted area, where the Warriors are shooting well, at 64-for-100 (64 percent). Having a solid front line, led by Bogut and Lee, who have been successful finishing at the rim (combined 68.9 percent in the restricted area), opens up the 3-point arc, where defenses always need to account for Curry and Thompson.

The Warriors currently lead the league with 113 3-point attempts so far this season and are shooting a scorching 46.9 percent from beyond the arc. Twenty-three of those attempts have been on more efficient corner 3s, where they have shot at a decent 39.1 percent. Having a potent 3-point shooting duo in Curry and Thompson, who are shooting a combined 50.8 percent from 3-point range, is difficult for most defenses to contain on a nightly basis.

Conversely, Golden State has taken just 70 shots from mid-range, at a league-high 55.7 percent.

As you can see, instead of simply settling for contested mid-range jumpers, the Warriors are either attacking the basket or looking to shoot 3s and that bodes well for them during the remainder of the season. If the Warriors can continue to finish at the rim and from long distance, they will be a force to be reckoned with, not just within the Western Conference, but also in the entire NBA.

2) Ball movement

The Warriors ball movement has been outstanding in the beginning of the season, as they currently lead the league in assists per game and it all starts with Curry.  As defenses always need to account for his ability to stop on a dime and pull up from long distance, defenders are often left on their heels, with Curry driving to the rim and kicking it out to the perimeter. Not surprisingly, Thompson leads the league in catch-and-shoot points this year, with 39, and that is partly because of defensive breakdowns when Curry penetrates to the basket.

Curry is second in the NBA in assists per game, with 9.8, and his passing ability makes him an even bigger threat offensively. Whether he is running a pick and roll with Lee, feeding Bogut down low or kicking it out to Thompson and Iguodala, he has been creating an abundance of scoring opportunities for Golden State.

Another reason for the Warriors hot start has been the addition of Iguodala, who not only plays lockdown perimeter defense, but can also run the point when Curry plays off the ball.  Of Curry’s 14 shots that have been assisted by another teammate, 57 percent have come from Iguodala, as the two of them have shown tremendous chemistry through the first four games.

Iguodala is one of the best players in the league at finishing at the rim, and his ability to drive creates scoring opportunities for his teammates on the perimeter, as defenders collapse on him and leave their man open outside. Iguodala is currently second on the team with 5.8 assists per game and if those numbers can continue throughout the season, the Warriors will be in good hands offensively.

3) Depth

Golden State’s depth has also been a strong point this season. Although forward Harrison Barnes has missed the beginning of the year with a lingering foot injury, the Warriors have had no trouble finding the basket and they currently rank fifth in the NBA in offensive efficiency with 108.3 points per 100 possessions. Four of the Warriors’ five starters average at least 14.5 points per game, with the team shooting a league leading 50.3 percent from the field and 46.9 percent on 3s.

A big concern coming into the season was whether Golden State had someone who could complement Curry and replicate Jarrett Jack‘s 5.6 assists per contest during the 2012-13 season. Iguodala has stepped up so far, as he has dished out 5.8 assists per game. The Warriors big men have done a good job on the boards as well, with starters Lee and Bogut averaging eight and 6.8 rebounds per game, respectively, and backup forward Draymond Green also grabbing 6.8 rebounds per game off the bench.

One major concern has been the execution of the second string, as they have really struggled to get it going offensively, albeit mainly in blowouts. The return of Barnes will be a big spark for the bench, as he showed during the postseason that he had the ability to contribute either in the post, or on the perimeter. It is hard to envision, but Golden State might be an even more dangerous team pending his return.

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