The Week That Was:
The week that gave us #FullSquad also marked potentially the best seven day stretch of the 2013-14 season thus far for the Warriors. A hard-fought win in Denver followed by quality wins at Oracle against the Clippers and Suns and finally an all-too-close overtime victory over Cleveland to start the seven game road trip.
While the team had some rough patches in some of the four games, the mark of a playoff team in the West continues to be the ability to pull some of those games out. A little bit of good fortune in terms of Blake Griffin getting tossed from the Christmas Day game and Phoenix missing a staggering number of open looks but an impressive performance overall.
The Soapbox: Meditations on #FullSquad
Despite covering Friday’s game against the Suns, I sadly was not in the room for the birth of the Golden State Meme of the Season for 2013-14 and will regret it for a while. While there appears to be room for clarification on what exactly constitutes the #FullSquad for the Warriors, I am reasonably confident David Lee was referring to the starting group of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee, and Bogut while leaving out Harrison Barnes.
If so, Lee is absolutely right that the pivotal group for the Warriors has been very good. Using stats from the amazing www.nbawowy.com, we can look beyond the eye test or overall won-loss record to get a sense of just how good. Offensively, their 1.178 Points Per Possession absolutely demolishes the best full-game total for any team in the league- the margin between that lineup and Portland’s full game totals is greater than the margin between OKC’s #4 offense and Orlando/Boston tied at #23. Of course, we have to note that full game lineups should be necessarily weaker since it includes minutes by backups and players missing time due to injuries. Regardless, quite impressive.
Defensively, Golden State’s full squad does slightly worse than the team’s overall season average (currently at #4 in the NBA) at a quite respectable 1.002 PPP. This unit should get better over time as well since I feel Coach Jackson is doing them a disservice by overusing Klay Thompson on non-elite Point Guards, something that has been hard for him a few times.
The really impressive point about this lineup is how those two pieces fit together. While they obviously cannot play a full game as a unit, the #FullSquad would outscore opponents by about 17 points per game if they could based on what we have seen so far this season. Even scaling down for normal minutes, when complete that group should give enough of a margin for even a disappointing bench to retain the lead.
Even with all that, I think the concept of #FullSquad is something of a cop out. While it is true that the Warriors have played magnificently with all five starters active and their record shows that, that does not explain or justify the team playing so poorly when someone misses time. After all, Iguodala’s second game back was against a Spurs team playing without Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili and the Warriors lost at home. Having a great team when everyone is healthy certainly helps but retaining that quality as much as possible and winning games without a full squad will be the only way this Warriors team stays above water in a stacked Western Conference.
The Week to Come:
The road trip continues with four games that should each be challenging in their own way. Orlando has quality defenders on the perimeter with Arron Afflalo and Victor Oladipo along with an interesting group of bigs. Miami should still remember Golden State’s galvanizing win at their place last season while Atlanta needs to show they can win without Al Horford. Finally, a trip to our nation’s capital pits Stephen Curry against John Wall, a PG who should challenge him on both ends.
I would say the Warriors should be favored in three of the four games, so a 3-1 or 2-2 stretch would be good.