These Warriors are a complicated bunch, and it’s hard to make sense of them on a night-to-night basis.
Sometimes, in situations like this, you have to look at the numbers. No, the stats won’t tell a full story, they can illuminate and clarify a few things. And with this team, any clarification is greatly appreciated.
So here are four stats that help explain the 2021 Warriors:
3 ball, corner pocket
Since Feb. 1, the Warriors are attempting the most corner 3 pointers in the NBA, a byproduct of Steph Curry’s gravity, Draymond Green’s vision as a passer, and a style of basketball that has been more direct in the half-court than in successful years past.
It might also be a byproduct of not having any true centers on the court and the spacing that comes along with that.
Before the Warriors were down to zero centers on their roster, Golden State was 17th in the NBA in corner 3-pointers attempted.
The corner 3-point shot is the most valuable shot in basketball. It’s the easiest 3-pointer to make, as it’s nearly two feet closer to the hoop than an above-the-break shot, but it, of course, counts for an additional point.
The Warriors aren’t particular about specific corners, either — they lead the league from both the left and right as of late.
In recent years, we’ve seen entire NBA offenses be built around setting up corner 3-pointers — the Houston Rockets with James Harden being the most extreme example — for this very reason, so it bodes well for Golden State that they are getting so many opportunities from the corner.
But remember that, last year, Houston also went all “small ball” all the time.
Even when Kevon Looney and James Wiseman return to the lineup, might the Warriors use Green as the team’s center more moving forward?
The stats say they should.
Get out and run
While the corner 3-pointers have risen, there has not been an appreciable difference in the Warriors’ pace over the last center-free month.
In fact, the Warriors are playing slower — marginally, but slower — without big men on the court.
Before Feb. 3 the Warriors were playing at a pace of 103.69 — that’s more than 103 possessions a game. But since then, they’ve been playing at a 102.97 pace.
Yes, yes, yes, the difference is indescribable, but it is no doubt interesting that small ball hasn’t changed much in this regard.
These Warriors are a transition team, through and through — it doesn’t matter if they have a 7-footer on the floor or not.
The backpack is too heavy
Curry has found himself facing all sorts of strange defenses this season — double-teams at half court, triple-teams at the 3-point line, and box-and-1 looks from teams that aren’t the Toronto Raptors. He’s still found a way to be the NBA’s second-leading scorer and a bonafide MVP candidate (if not the frontrunner).
Opposing teams have been comfortable throwing these exotic defenses at Curry for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest — if not the biggest — reason is Green’s shooting.
As we’ve seen a half-dozen times in late-game situations, opposing defenses are simply not guarding Green, daring him to shoot or pass.
Green’s pass game has been outstanding this season — but his 22 percent shooting from beyond the arc and 36 percent shooting from the field (both are career lows) back that defensive strategy.
Green has the worst effective field goal percentage of any player in the NBA who has played more than 300 minutes this season, per Cleaning The Glass. He’s played more than 700.
Yes, Green might move the ball when he’s not defended, but teams have calculated that they would rather let Green have full domain over the floor than give Curry a one-on-one opportunity.
Curry has still found ways to make defenses pay. Somehow. And Green’s passing can make him passable on the offensive end. But when Green plays passive, like he did in Friday’s game against the Orlando Magic, the Warriors’ offense clog up in ways that Drano cannot fix.
Unless improvement is looming, Green’s shooting could end up being undercutting the Warriors come the playoffs, where weaknesses become even more glaring.
So much for the layup line
If you have been watching the Warriors this season and thought “boy, these guys miss a lot of layups,” you are spot on in your assessment.
It is, a bit more complicated than that, though. The Warriors are fourth in the NBA in shot attempts at the rim, per Cleaning The Glass — that’s something to celebrate. At the same time, they’re 14th in the NBA in making those shots at the rim, scoring less than two-thirds of such attempts. Not great!
The biggest culprits of near-basket failures are Andrew Wiggins (31 percent of shot attempts, makes 62 percent) and Kelly Oubre (36 percent of his shots, makes 60 percent), but the situation is in no way exclusive to them.
Take this as a positive, though — the Warriors are getting high-quality looks and not making them. If they improve just a bit at the rim, they’ll find a bunch of points