Spacing Wars - Curry is doing enough, but could use some scoring relief
A look at the primary areas of concern so far this season
The Golden State Warriors have progressed through about one-fifth of their season, and with an unexpected couple of days off, it’s as good a time as any to look into the lessons learned so far.
The Warriors sit at 6-6 after 12 games, good enough to be tied for eighth. Given the roster turmoil and shortened training camp, that is a perfectly fine outcome. But more importantly, it’s finally building to enough of a sample size to warrant analysis. You can read part 1 here, which focused on which aspects of this team are clearly working so far. Now it’s time to explore the dark side: what’s not going so well.
[Soooo, I guess Substack doesn’t support direct video in these article. Please click to play the tweet below - and turn the volume on.]
It’s not my original idea. From Patrick Murray, to The Athletic, and across all the corners of social media, people have been wondering when the right time to move another shooter (mostly Damion Lee) into the Warriors starting lineup.
At time of writing, the Warriors have the 24th ranked offense in the NBA. To be fair, that clips all the way up to 18th if you trim out the stink of those first three games - but still not great.
I can think of three:
One: by design, this Warriors team is not built for offense. Though the team features culinary bucket artist, Stephen Curry, the bulk of this roster has been designed around the defensive end of the court - which makes a whole lot more sense when Klay Thompson is around.
Without the ballast of Thompson, the Warriors keel is noticeably leaning - especially because the players brought in at the wing to help fill in for Thompson have fallen well short of scoring expectations.
Two: people simply aren’t hitting their shots. I’ve spent plenty of words on this site talking about how good defensively Oubre and Wiggins have been, but it’s time to unveil the elephant in the room - they’re killing the team on offense. Others aren’t helping (remove Curry and the starting lineup is shooting 28% from three on 14 attempts per game), but because of the prominence of their role, Oubre and Wiggins have an oversized impact on the team’s overall offensive fortunes.
Wiggins is putting up numbers (around 18 points and 5 rebounds per game), but he’s barely scraping league average when it comes to efficiency, In some important aspects, he’s worse than league average. Of the 50 or so players that take at least 10 drives per game, Wiggins has the second lowest conversion percentage; his 37% mark would be the worst in the NBA if not for Russell Westbrook.
This isn’t so much about spacing, as it is just a natural outcome of two of the Warriors primary wings not scoring well. And though Wiggins and Oubre bear the bulk of the blame in this regard, there’s plenty of blame to go around:
Three: the man, the myth, the legend. Stephen Curry is so good, that it seems like there’s no ceiling for any team that he is playing with. With his ability to pour in points at an unprecedented pace and range, Curry has become synonymous with nice handles and crazy outside shooting.
But remember that the roster that was so bad last season has mostly returned. The crew from that campaign may now be riding in the backseat, but it’s the same car. Full of minimum contracts and enticing but unproven young players, this is a Warriors car that rattles at freeway speed.
Despite Curry’s usage being the third highest of his career his 341 total points on the year (second, behind Bradley Beal), there’s a sense that Curry could do more.
It’s debatable that Curry could do more - he’s playing at one of the highest usage levels of his career, carrying more of an offensive burden than ever before, and he’s become a key part of the Warriors re-growing defensive identity.
Sure, coach Kerr could bump Oubre to the bench, but the deeper issues holding this team back are tricky. After all, Oubre has demonstrated that he can be a better offensive talent, he’s got some personal stuff going on, and if he does stay in the starting lineup with a returning shot, it would immediately launch the Warriors up a tier.
The Warriors are trending in the right direction, but the line between patience with new players in a new system, and coaching staff reacting quickly to players having a bad year, is growing increasingly stressed.
Here’s a preview clip of Apricot’s Explain One Play on Stephen Curry and the Warriors fighting the Box and One defense.