After a quiet December on the site, we return to normal business with Andre Britz taking a look at the hottest team in the NBA at present.
The Golden State Warriors are rolling right now, they have the best record (26-5) in the NBA. The shooting machine of Curry and Thompson is keeping opponents at bay. GSW is third in scoring with an average of 107.4 points per game on 40 per cent shooting.
It’s not just the offence, it’s also the defense. Credit is due to Mark Jackson, the former coach, for improving the team’s commitment and focus on defence. This was a big pain point and it is what enabled them to thrive in the last years and make the play-offs. With Jackson however it seemed the pace was not fast enough for the team ownership. The franchise has high ambitions, they want to develop a top team that can contend for a title. So, they replaced Jackson with former GM and TV analyst Steve Kerr.
Kerr never coached before but had built up a good reputation in the NBA as a player and GM. On top of winning five NBA championships with the Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs, he was the GM in Phoenix for three years and got a couple of good seasons for the Suns with the help of Steve Nash.
Kerr came in with a mentality to improve the Warriors rather than to shake up and change everything. He kept a lot of the plays and systems that Jackson put in place.
Jackson, a very charismatic person, was liked by his staff and players. So we can imagine that it was not easy for Kerr to integrate. His nice personality helped him get respect in the locker room and get everyone to pull in the same direction fast. Kerr did implement some new things, especially offensively. He wanted the ball to move more. In the past there was a lot of isolation with Curry and Thompson being played. GSW where the last in number of assists per game, now they are no. 8 in the league.
This change has also a down-side, the number of turn-overs increased. Initially this was quite a problem for the team, but things improved as they played more games. Kerr also drew more plays for center Andrew Bogut, who is now in better shape. The changes are paying dividends, GSW won a lot of games against good teams. Keep in mind that the talented David Lee hasn’t even played yet. GSW are fun to watch. Curry makes spectacular plays every night. Iguodala impresses with his athleticism and defensive skills, while Bogut shows a true fighting spirit.
But the questions on many people’s minds is: Are GSW a real title contender or just a regular-season splash?
The Warriors play fast and shoot a lot of jumpers. Come play-off time, the pace of the game slows down and the defense locks in. Open shot three pointers are no longer easy to get. That is when we will see what the Warriors are really about and how good they are at playing half-court basketball. We had some glimpses of that so far in the season. GSW lost with teams that knew how to control the pace. Teams like the reigning champions Spurs, Memphis, and the LA Clippers were able to impose their will and keep the Warrior shooting machine under control.
GSW have arguably the best back-court in the league with the Splash Brothers. What they need is better execution and a solid presence in the paint. The key for GSW will be the inside play of Bogut and Lee, who need to be healthy if the Warriors are to go deep in the playoffs. All things considered I think GSW will go deeper this year in the playoffs. But I don’t see them as a title contender at this time.
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