The Warriors have looked terrible: What does it mean?
When I envisioned the Warriors with Andrew Bogut, he was added instantly, like a final, composition-changing ingredient. I’ve been cooking a lot with okra lately, thinking all the while that I hoped Bogut would be the transformative force on the Warriors that the vegetable is to stews. You don’t throw okra in at the beginning; You toss it in at the end. Upon arrival, the plant secretes mucilage, a thickening substance that gives a gumbo a greater cohesion. Okra makes a team out of disparate, floating ingredients, and it doesn’t waste a second.
Instead, GSW has elected a more gradual approach with the big man. To keep the stew metaphor going, Bogut has been added little by little to the dish, like a wine that reduces in the pot. The wine isn’t so much affixed to the stew as it it seeped into dish as the water evaporates. The process makes it difficult to get a read on what the finished product will be like, based on that first booze inclusion. The evaporation phenomenon also thickens your strew, but you singe through a thick layer of minutes to get there.
I’d feel a bit guilty over analogizing human beings to food, but National Signing Day coverage has made such characterizations feel humanizing by comparison. A little of Bogut here in the pot, a little of Bogut there in the pot. It’s 25 minutes one game, no Bogut the next game. If all goes according to plan, we will learn what this team is with a full complement of Andrew Bogut. But we’re not there yet. A few more reductions are needed. In the meantime, a lot can go wrong and right with the surrounding ingredients.
The Warriors have looked terrible these past two games against Houston and Oklahoma City, losing by a combined 52 points. The two games knocked them from a defensive ranking of 12th all the way down to 17th. Stephen Curry shot 25 percent in both blowouts. Houston tied a three-pointer record by hitting 23 long range heaves.
Scary truth: Golden State has not been good defensively in the new year. It’s a little difficult to explain why because it’s not as simple as, “They’re giving up threes.” Yes, the paint-packed Golden State Warriors are giving teams a lot of three-point attempts; Those teams aren’t necessarily hitting on those bombs at a high rate.
Since January 1st, the Dubs are 15th in opponent field goal percentage and 18th in opponent three-point percentage, even with that Houston Rockets game included. No cause for alarm, right?
Here’s the problem, and it’s one that says a lot about where the league is headed. The Warriors are leading basketball in attempted threes by opponents. Since January 1st, they’ve given up 25.3 threes a game, roughly two more than the second ranked Nuggets. When you’re giving up so many treys it isn’t good enough to hold opponents to a mediocre 34.7%. Though 34.7% from three sounds bad, it’s 52.05% shooting in two-point terms. The three point flood is drowning all the nice work Golden State does in walling opponents off from the rim.
The Houston Rockets scenario frightens because it demonstrates what can happen if teams starting hitting against this three-conceding squad. GSW simply can’t give up so many threes on a nightly basis and expect to live long in the playoffs.
The Warriors were smart to hedge less with David Lee early in the year, in favor of thwarting teams at the rim. Mark Jackson was dealing with a defensive talent dearth and this was the least bad option. GSW encountered some good luck early in the season as opponents shanked from long range. Now, we’re beginning to see the least bad option for what it is.
Andrew Bogut’s inclusion can solve this problem because the Warriors should help less often in the paint with him on the floor. The hope is that he becomes that transformative defensive force. We’re a few reductions from discovering the truth of this team. The big man is back, but not completely. And the Warriors are transformed, but not yet.