To say this season’s early going has been a definite success for the Warriors doesn’t ring true. Not when Andrew Bogut has played less than half the team’s games and the shooting struggles of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have kept the offense from reaching its potent potential. But saying otherwise doesn’t either, with Golden State’s record at 6-5 after an impressive win on the road in Dallas made them one of six Western Conference teams currently with a winning record.
So the Warriors’ November reality lies somewhere between positive and negative thus far, a fact that deserves some cautious optimism with the rest of the season in mind given the outliers – well, hopefully they’re outliers – of Bogut’s health and the team’s surprisingly shoddy offense. But even that glass-half-whatever take on the season’s first month seemed unlikely just a week ago when Golden State was coming off consecutive losses and facing a three-game road trip following a home tilt against Atlanta.
That’s how quickly fortunes can change in a league with a quick-turning schedule like this one’s, though; the question isn’t whether a team gets an opportunity to turn the tide but whether or not they can and will. And the Warriors did, going 3-1 in the last six days alone and showing some very encouraging signs in the process.
What’s contributing most to Golden State’s recent success? In a word, offense.
- Season-long offensive efficiency: 97.4, good for 25th in the league.
- The Warriors’ average offensive efficiency over the last four games: 106.1, a number that would place GS among the league’s five.
- There’s much to this staggering improvement, obviously, and the sample size needs to be taken into context. Four games is a blip in the radar over an 82-game season, and teams – like individual players – can be prone to stretches that are ultimately untenable in the long run. But this is a great sign for the Warriors, and the deeper you dig into statistics the more you believe a semblance of this success can be maintained.
- Season-long: .29, ninth in the league.
- Last four games: .32, seventh in the league.
- It’s no coincidence Oklahoma City and Denver ranked second and third in offensive efficiency last season. There’s not an easier and more effectual way to score than drawing fouls and getting to the charity stripe, and the Thunder and Nuggets led the league in free throw rate by a wide margin last season. The Warriors haven’t been bad in this regard by any stretch this season, but have gotten more easy points than normal in the last week. It hasn’t been a single player or two doing the heavy lifting, either; only Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes, and Carl Landry have taken more than eight free throws in a game and each has done so only once.
- The Warriors have been much-improved here all season, but have taken things up a notch since a loss to the Nuggets on November 10th. They’ve out-rebounded their opponent in three of the last four games – by 15+ in each of the ones they held the advantage – and owe much of that due to their prowess on the offensive glass. GS pulled down 19 of their own misses against Dallas and 17 against Minnesota, with David Lee, Festus Ezeli, Landry, and Barnes making the biggest impact.
- Golden State is devoid of a true slasher on the wing or a penetrating point guard that can consistently get easy baskets for himself or his teammates. Curry, Thompson, and Barnes are improving here at their own respective paces, but each is most comfortable for the time being looking for offense by other means. So it’s no surprise the Warriors rank 27th in the league in shot attempts at the rim with 22.9 per game. They’ve improved on that paltry mark sizably in the last week, averaging 3.8 more rim shots per game with a low of 23. How that relates to the Warriors’ success offensively may not seem like much on the surface until you consider just how efficient those attempts are; GS shoots a scintillating 68.3% at the rim this season, a number that ranks fourth in the NBA. Substituting almost four of these shots for less efficient ones yields a handful of additional points, a fact reflected in the Warriors’ recent efficiency.
- Remember the passive, lost, overwhelmed rookie that was among the Warriors’ biggest individual disappointments of the season’s first several games? That player is gone now, replaced by one living up to his considerably rare gifts of size, athleticism, and shooting touch. Barnes has been awesome during Golden State’s week-long run, averaging 17.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting over 50% from the field. The aggressiveness he’s shown on both ends of the floor is a welcome sign for a player seemingly so averse to it just a a couple weeks back, and his approach on offense is of particular note. He’s not only shooting the long ball and playing off his teammates anymore. Now, he’s thriving in post-up situations and taking advantage of any angle the defense gives him off the dribble. At this point in the season, “three and D” would be enough from Barnes. In the last week, though, he’s been much more than that.