The Golden State Warriors have begun a slow but gradual culture change through the construction of their roster.
There is a sense amongst a few that the team has taken a step back because of the impact players lost during the course of the 2013 summer.
Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush were traded away to the Utah Jazz but quite frankly, their contributions were minimal at best during the 2012-13 campaign.
The losses many are lamenting are those of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. Both players were productive for the Dubs during the 2012-13 season and also had some big moments in the 2013 playoffs against the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs.
Because those talented reserves are no longer members of the franchise, there is a feeling that Golden State’s second unit will not be as formidable in 2013-14. There’s some credence to that line of thinking, but the Warriors have other things in mind.
Consider this fun little nugget: Since the 2006-07 season, the NBA Finals’ participants have all ranked in the top-10 in defensive efficiency. In other words, teams hoping to realistically compete for a championship need a defense that is great or perhaps even elite.
The Dubs were barely better than league average during the 2012-13 season and the personnel certainly had a heavy hand in that. Much has been made of David Lee’s defensive shortcomings but he is not the lone culprit.
Golden State played Stephen Curry and Jack a total of 1,545 minutes together during the course of 2012-13, which means that during those minutes one of them defended a 2-guard.
Given that both players are point guards, they had a tough time matching up against bigger guards and that compromised the defense in some instances. Mark Jackson used the pairing with the hope that his guard tandem would make up for the defensive issues by simply outshooting their opponents.
During the regular season, the backcourt outscored opponents by 3.9 points per 100 possessions, which was slightly better than the Warriors’ full 82-game differential of 1.6 points per 100 possessions.
In the 2013 playoffs, the Jack-Curry combo was effective until they ran into the San Antonio Spurs. Of the 10 most frequently used two-man groups in the series against the Spurs, none of them were worse than the point guard tandem.
With Curry and Jack on the floor, the Spurs outscored Golden State by 10.8 points per 100 possessions. For context, that’s on par with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2012-13 regular season league-leading differential. The Thunder outscored teams by 11 points per 100 possessions.
Given that Jack and Curry were two of the Dubs’ best players, the coaching staff struggled to keep them off the hardwood together. In the six games against San Antonio, they averaged 26.2 minutes of playing time together per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
When faced with this data, the decision to allow Jack to walk in free agency makes a bit more sense. One could say that it was merely a matchup issue and that Golden State might have gotten away with the two-man unit against other teams and that’s true to some extent.
But if Golden State realistically wants to contend for a title, bringing back Jack and playing him alongside Curry was never going to be an optimal solution. In a potential NBA Finals matchup with the Miami Heat, one of them would have had to defend Dwyane Wade.
Heading into 2013-14, if the Warriors are fortunate enough to make the postseason, there is a chance they will play the Houston Rockets or the Thunder. And again, Curry or Jack would have been asked to matchup with Russell Westbrook or James Harden.
Hell, in a potential head-to-head series against the Los Angeles Lakers, someone would have had to defend Kobe Bryant. Thus, when looking at the Warriors from the prism of a potential championship contender, they just did not cut it.
The Andre Iguodala acquisition is a big one is more ways than one. Bob Myers has been quoted as saying that getting the former Philadelphia 76er was a “transformative” move for the franchise and he could not have been more right.
Marcus Thompson II relayed some more info shared by Myers about the newest Warrior over at Mercury News:
We feel like he’s the missing piece of the puzzle for this team.
After securing Iguodala’s commitment, Golden State management set their sights on Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas and Jermaine O’Neal. None of which are big names per se, but they fit in with the franchise’s new defensive culture.
The Warriors already had the offensive firepower. The next improvement step short of getting a superstar was improving a good defense and making it great.
The roster might not look all that imposing on paper, but Golden State has made what looks like a few lateral moves that could potentially turn the team into a force.
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