Welcome to the first Warriors Weekly of December after another incredible seven days of games featuring two close (well, close-ish) calls.
The Week that Was:
Another week with some close games, if that matters at this point.
The Warriors played one of their most interesting and competitive games of the year in Utah then headed to Charlotte, winning convincingly over the Hornets thanks to Stephen Curry’s insane third quarter where he scored 28 points on 10/11 shooting (5/5 from three) after his father was honored at halftime.
From there, the Dubs faced a somewhat daunting back-to-back against teams that gave them close games at Oracle in November. They ended up closing out the Raptors on an inbound pass behind halfcourt and closed out the Nets with a lineup consisting of five players who did not start that game. You know, standard stuff.
At this point, the Warriors are Feeling 22 (made by Jack Maloney).
Stephen Curry Above the Break Three Update: Stephen Curry has made 98 above the break three pointers this year, more than five teams (and tied with the Bucks). His 47.1% shooting from there is better than every NBA team from mid-range and all but one team in the paint (non-restricted area) not even accounting for the fact that 3>2.
Only two players in the top 30 of above the break three makes have made a higher percentage of them than Curry and the Warriors face both of them this week: Boston’s Avery Bradley (52.2%) and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton (49.3%).
The Soapbox: Ezeli Appreciation
Last season, the Warriors finished twenty-first in offensive rebound rate. No shame in that of course but it was not a strength in any way, shape or form. Festus Ezeli only played 504 minutes in 2014-15.
This season, the Warriors are fourth in offensive rebound rate, giving them another way to wallop opponents.
When Ezeli has been on the floor, the Dubs have picked up 28.1% of their misses and that drops to 24.9% when he sits despite Bogut and Speights (among others) being pretty solid on the offensive glass in their own right.
Offensive rebounds matter because they deflate opponents and give teams quality looks which are devastating for a team like the Warriors. Astonishingly, Golden State is shooting about 61.13% on threes after offensive rebounds, per Evan Zamir’s NBAwowy.
Festus does far more than clean the glass for the Warriors. His defense has improved dramatically over his time in Oakland and he currently sites as the leader in Nylon Calculus’ points saved at the rim per 36 minutes, even adjusting for position. He does a nice job of contesting shots (44.9%, fourth among bigs with >15 minutes per game) and opponents have only made 43.1% of their shots when he contested them. Of players who contest a lot of shots, only Tim Duncan and former Warrior Dewayne Dedmon are better in that category.
The other part of Ezeli’s game that helps out the Warriors is that he can succeed with and without Stephen Curry more than Andrew Bogut. Festus has played about three-quarters of his minutes with the MVP but the drop-offs are not particularly severe- he is actually more efficient, grabs more rebounds (likely because less of those minutes are with Draymond) and takes more free throws but the overall picture is remarkably similar.
[Note: if you want to check out that kind of split yourself, it is actually on the NBA stats site now. Go here and then put the player whose stats you want to check on the left and the guy you want to see with and without (Curry in this case) on the right. Mess around with the settings and you can see what I did above.]
In a way, Festus Ezeli is the perfect fit for this team because he can work well with or without the Curry/Draymond combination. That allows the team to try a series of different lineups and best utilize players like Bogut who perform meaningfully better when Steph is on the floor.
That duality also makes him more desirable moving forward because it allows the team to consider different frontcourt pieces. Festus Ezeli has been a revelation so far and his key role in the Warriors’ remarkable warrants serious praise.
The Week to Come:
A compelling set of games that also makes no sense geographically.
The Warriors start out with a day off then a game in Indiana against Paul George and the surging Pacers who will not have played since Saturday.
From there, the head east (again) to Boston with a rest day and then head west (again) to Milwaukee to complete the back-to-back.
Considering the cumulative fatigue of this kind of road trip, 2-1 may be the most likely outcome but I will not pick against this team right now. 3-0.