Will Warriors Struggle in the Clutch in 2013-14?
The Golden State Warriors made some changes to their roster during the 2013 offseason and it is fair to wonder how these moves will affect their play late in ball games during the 2013-14 season.
Golden State acquired Andre Iguodala during free agency and consequently had to watch Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry join the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings respectively.
Given that both players performed quite well off the bench during the 2012-13 season, there is a feeling that the second unit might take a step back. There is perhaps a point to be made on that front but the starting unit will be better in 2013-14.
One of the areas of concern with the departure of the tandem is the Dubs’ performance down the stretch of games. With the scoring margin within three points during the last two minutes of the game, Golden State scored 98 points per 100 possessions.
That figure was in the league’s bottom third according to NBA.com. The Warriors only converted 34.2 percent of their field goals in this setting. Clearly there is room for improvement but one can only wonder if Golden State has the personnel to do so.
In 2012-13, Mark Jackson simply put the ball in the hands of Jarrett Jack late in games and lived with the results. NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that Golden State’s super sub took most of the shots with the score within three points in the last two minutes of the game in his lone season in the Bay.
Jack took 27 such field goals while Stephen Curry was second on the team with 19. Curry was particularly bad in this setting because of his penchant to go for the jugular. Indeed, the Dubs’ leading scorer loved to bring the ball up and simply launch contested 3-point shots down the stretch of games.
Because of this, the coaching staff entrusted Jack with steering the offense and it produced mixed results. Golden State favored putting their sixth man in the middle of the floor beyond the arc to scan the defense.
From there, the Warriors usually ran Curry off screens and when he shook loose, the ball came his way. Look at the video below for an example of this:
In the event Curry did not get free or that Golden State wanted to throw defenses off, they would act as though the set was designed to feature the sharpshooter as the primary option and actually go away from him and run a pick-and-pop with David Lee.
The coverage obviously determined the direction of the play. Watch below as the Miami Heat decide to hedge on Jack. He and Lee read the defense and adjust:
Lee quickly went to the open area on the court to receive a pass and drive to the hoop. Although he missed the shot, it was still a high-percentage look.
Things got dicey for Golden State when great defensive teams nullified those two options. It left Jack with the ball in his hands and the shot clock ticking down. That prompted him to go one-on-one against his defender, which provided some uneven results.
In the video below, Jack goes to his pet play where he employs a series of dribble moves and then rises up for the elbow jumper:
That jumper turned Jack into some sort of mythical figure for Warriors fans and even led to a post titled Jarrett Jack God Mode is real by our very own Ethan Sherwood Strauss.
The new Cavalier grew exceedingly comfortable with the stage and consequently called his number often late in games and helped the Dubs win 17 of their 29 games decided by three points or less.
The Warriors were not great in this setting, but Jack allowed them to run their offense and play Curry off the ball. Running the Davidson product off screens occasionally created open looks for his teammates and also forced a couple of defensive rotations that allowed the likes of Klay Thompson to get open looks.
Jack’s defection to Cleveland technically creates a void that forces Curry to assume ball-handling duties once again in crunch time. Except that is not entirely true.
Iguodala can actually orchestrate the offense late in games because he is a good ball-handler and also a good passer. Furthermore, he is a decent pick-and-roll player that can split double teams attack the rim for scores.
The tricky thing about the swingman is that he possesses some of Jack’s instincts but poorly executes in late game situations. He loves to have the ball on the wing and will always dribble towards the middle of the floor.
From there he will scan the defense and see if he can get all the way to the basket. In the event he senses there is too much resistance, Iguodala will typically pull up from the elbow for a jump shot. For the sake of understanding what that means, have a look at his shot chart from the 2012-13 campaign and pay careful attention to the right and left elbows:
Not so coincidentally, NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that Iguodala converted eight-of-22 (36.4 percent) shots during the 2012-13 season with the scoring margin within three points in the last two minutes of games. Here is his shot chart for the previously outlined setting:
The sample size is small but we can see that he is not incredibly proficient from the elbow areas in crunch time. He is actually on par with his regular season shooting figures from that range. Potentially, this could spell doom for the Warriors’ clutch offense in 2013-14.
However, there are other variables worth considering. As a member of the Denver Nuggets, Iguodala was not afforded many driving lanes because the team lacked great shooters.
Between Curry and Thompson, Iguodala has floor spacers to help open up the floor because of the defensive attention they require. Also, one can assume that the coaching staff will occasionally use a small-ball lineup featuring Harrison Barnes at power forward in these situations, which means the Dubs will have another shooter on the hardwood.
That opens things up for Iguodala. Thus, if the Curry is covered and the screen-and-roll option is thwarted by the defense, the highflyer will have a chance to simply put his head down and head to the rim where he has converted roughly 70 percent of his shots during his career per Hoopdata.
Obviously, teams will mix and match. That means he may end up throwing the ball out to an open shooter. Also, the Warriors can add a new wrinkle by running a pick-and-roll with Iguodala and Curry, hence creating a mismatch where the highflyer posts up a smaller defender.
Until we see things unfold on the floor, this is mostly an exercise in speculation, but the Dubs have the potential to be a good closing offense in 2013-14. Jackson will have to find the right combination of players and plays to make this happen and there is reason to believe he will based on the adjustments he made on this front in 2012-13.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com
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