Is it time for Kerr to coach more like Mark Jackson?
Is isolation ball the answer to Golden State's slow start? Or just a drubbing at the hands of a superior team?
Back in college, I lived in a small town called Occidental - way out by Bodega Bay - and for a while I spent my weekend morning working at this delicious organic, brick oven cafe. It was owned by the dude named Snap. Big eyebrows and an even bigger personality, he put out some of the most amazing food. That place was packed, daily.
But for a variety of reasons, he eventually sold the business. And the woman who took over mostly kept the menu the same. Only, without Snap, and the rest of the back of the house crew, the food was nothing close to what it had been. The ingredients weren’t as high quality, the staffing had changed, and so had the world around the restaurant. Now there was a lot more options, and the new owner tried to compete but ultimately closed like so many new restaurant ventures do.
Coach Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors are in a similar position to the woman who took over after Snap.
Reinvent the wheel vs. changing the tires
The roster is transformed. No longer replete with heady veterans and All-Stars, the Warriors offensive scheme looked painfully ineffective in game one of the season - a 125-99 drubbing that wasn’t even as close as the score indicates.
Kerr’s movement-heavy offense doesn’t have the same impact when the ball flies out to a wide open Andrew Wiggins (career 33% three-point), versus Klay Thompson (career 42% from deep). There’s a very reasonable argument that changing the tires (as Kerr has done this season) by running back a similarly pass-happy offense is not serving the team as well as reinventing the wheel by installing a new, more Curry-centric offense.
Spreading everyone out, when there aren’t any other dangerous outside threats is exactly what helped the Raptors stifle Curry with that “Box+1” they employed to great effect in the Finals two seasons ago.
Or is this a case of jumping to conclusions dangerously fast?
(I’m honestly asking, I don’t have the answers here)
When Kerr took over for Mark Jackson, the Warriors took a huge leap, and the stat generally cited is that the Warriors went from near dead last in passes and assists to one of the passiest, assisting-est offenses ever.
It was a change that caused a divide in Dub Nation. Mark Jackson was the caterpillar demanding credit for the butterfly. But what if the biggest change was that the core of Curry, Thompson, and Green just happened to take a huge career leap that coincided with Kerr taking over the coaching gig?
As much as we love to caution about overreacting to a single game, I/we tend to quickly and jump right into remonstrating when things don’t go well.
In that first game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Warriors were overmatched. Even through the rosiest lenses, this is a Golden State team that doesn’t pencil in as a championship favorite - unlike the Nets.
Would a new scheme have meaningfully changed the outcome?
Looking at the numbers, the shot distribution was right. Curry led the team with 21 shot attempts. The following list of shot attempts makes sense to me: Wiggins (16 FGA), Oubre (14), Wiseman (13), and Chriss (10) were the next most profligate shooters.
After preaching pace, the Warriors put walked the talk, leading the league with a fast attack. Unfortunately, as we can see from the screen grab of Basketball Reference team summary, the Warriors played fast, but shot, and defended poorly.
After just one game, it may be time to be patient with Kerr - who recently mentioned that he may not have a set rotation for as much as 20 games. There are a lot of new players on this team, and on balance, the talent is quite simply significantly less than Curry is accustomed to playing with. He took five more shot attempts than anyone else on the team.
Check out the defensive attention that Curry gets:
Could Curry take even more shots? Sure.
But looking at the box score stats from the first game of the season, the poor shooting looks a whole lot like a bunch of bad, outlier games from the supplementary players.
Maybe it’s the Nets offense, but just look at the shooting efficiency up and down the roster here:
According to basketball reference, the Warriors ranked dead last in field goal percentage, and 21 out of 28 in three-point percentage.
Something’s not working, but it’s too early to tell how much of that to ascribe to the scheme, a poor shooting night, or a team full of non-elite shooters.
Regardless of where the Warriors go from here, it’s clearly going to be a work in progress.
The one sure thing is that this is not a time to stick to the exact same formula for winning. Too much has changed. That said, it’s too early to tell if Kerr’s revamped basketball recipes will shutter the doors on this season.