Why the Golden State Warriors are Absolutely Fine

Let me just say that all this fanfare about the Warriors being in trouble is way overblown.

A team on pace to win 64 games hits a rough patch, and all of a sudden it seems like the entire sports media world piles on with completely baised and random stats to prove how much the team is in trouble.

Only a half game ahead of the Spurs! Stephen Curry 0-5 with under 10 seconds remaining! Warriors playing worse without KD (who saw that coming?)! Nevermind that the Warriors have played 8 games in 13 days, all in different cities, and 17 of the last 24 games on the road. At the end of the day, after the trade deadline, and even after KD’s sprain, the Warriors are still favored to take the championship this year – and for good reason. Let’s dive into the numbers.

The Bad1

In the last 7 games since losing KD, the Warriors…

  • Are 2-5 since (including the Washington Wizards game where he exited after playing 2 minutes).
  • Have a +/- differential of 4.6, the 8th worst in the league in that stretch. They have also had a -3.7 NetRtg, the 9th worst in the league.
  • Are shooting 43.4% from the field and 31.1% from 3PT.
  • Are averaging 99.9 PPG, 5th worst in the league.
  • Went from 2nd in the league in Opponent Effective FG% to 12th (not surprising given that missed 3s lead to long rebounds).
  • Went from 2nd in DRtg to 10th.
  • Still have 3 other all-stars playing.
Patrick McCaw is fouled by San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (AP)

Yes, the Warriors are not playing to the usual lofty standard they have established for the past 3 seasons. This is really not that surprising having lost a perennial all-star and former MVP in Kevin Durant, but it just seems like they are struggling more than usual…

… especially Stephen Curry, who has just not had the same magic we saw from him last year.

Stephen Curry Shot Chart 2015-16 Regular Season Shot Chart
Stephen Curry Shot Chart 2016-17 Regular Season Shot Chart

All the numbers point to the Warriors being a merley mediocre team without KD. Shooting numbers have been down across the whole team, as well as both offensive and defensive efficiency.

Why it’s not so bad

Despite claims that Warriors are struggling to win because KD is out, the real reason is that the Warriors are simply tired.

They have played 17 of their last 24 games on the road, many of which were made longer by being broadcast nationally. They played in Philly, Washington, Chicago, New York, and Atlanta, then flew back home for a game, then went to Minnesota and San Antonio in their most recent 8 game stretch. Tired legs mean missed shots, no matter who you are.

“But end of the day, it’s good to get a rest. Guys needed it, to get away from the game, probably. It’s been a long season. Always a long season.

Matt Barnes grabs the rebound against San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol (AP)

The important thing is that the Warriors are still playing the right way despite missing shots. For example, in the same 7 game stretch as above, the Warriors…

  • Assist ratio has been 7th best in the league, despite missing so many shots. The shots that they do make, they are still getting them off ball movement.
  • Turnover percentage has only increased by 0.7%
  • Assist/TO ratio is still top 10.
  • Have assisted on 65% of their made shots, second in the league.
  • Are scoring just 0.2 less Points of TOs.
  • Are maintaining roughly their season long averages of % of points from 2PT FGs, 3PT FGs, FTs, and assisted 3s.
  • Only give up 16.6 points of TOV, roughly in line with their season average of 16.7. Same for Points of Offensive Rebounds (14.3 vs 14.2).

Overall, the Warriors’ advanced offensive metrics over their last 2-5 stretch are remarkably similar to their season long averages. Steve Kerr has his team still playing the same way; they are getting the same shots. The issue is, they are missing them.

The Warriors lost to the T-Wolves by 1 point, they had a large 4th quarter lead on the Celtics, they lost to the Wizards by 4 points, and lost to the bulls by 7. Despite struggling majorly to make shots, the Warriors have been very close to being 5-2 instead of 2-5. The only difference has been a stretch of cold shooting that has come at an inopportune time due to a recent grueling stretch of schedule, not because losing KD has somehow robbed Steph Curry of his shooting abilities.

The Warriors are victems of their own succes. They are being held to unreasonably high standards such that losing 3 games in a row triggers media panic, despite still being on pace for 64 wins. The Warriors are fine, they just need to sit in a chair and relax.

footnotes

  1. Stats include Saturday  (3/11) night’s disaster against the Spurs. Sourced from ESPN and Stats.NBA.
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Author: Jasper Wu

Jasper is a consultant in New York City and founder of BallAndOne.com and Wu Advisory. He graduated from Cornell University.