The Golden State Warriors have fixed a lot of their biggest issues from past seasons and made the playoffs as a result. However, this team has struggled to the finish line as its remaining weaknesses have been exposed.
The Warriors have improved in a variety of statistical categories this season, namely rebounding and defensive field-goal percentage, but they still have problem areas. They are not a complete team yet as evidenced by their play in a home loss to the title-contending Oklahoma City Thunder.
The playoffs will be the first true litmus test of how far this team can advance with its current roster. How the Warriors perform in the postseason will allow management to get a better read on where this team is going into the offseason, when it can make the appropriate adjustments.
The Warriors refurbished the roster handsomely during the last offseason by trading for guard Jarrett Jack and signing free agent Carl Landry. Both deals improved the team’s depth, but both players can become free agents at season’s end.
Since key substitute and defensive power Brandon Rush should be back in the Warriors lineup at the cost of a $4 million option, the Warriors will likely be at or over the salary cap. They will probably have to make a tough decision, since Landry has significantly outplayed his option at the same price as Rush.
Jack is one of the glue guys of this roster and plays when the game is on the line. He should be at the top of the list of free-agent point guards, if he decides to entertain any offers. The Warriors will sell him on team chemistry in hopes of getting him to return at a rate closer to his $5.4 million salary.
The Warriors can’t afford to lose both, as the players are helping build the foundation for the 2014-15 season, when the huge contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins come off the books. General manager Bob Myers and his staff also need to be aware of any trade possibilities, because they could fill any remaining holes if the price isn’t too high.
Management won't worry about being taxed for one year, if the team can continue to build its foundation during the transition season. They just need to make sure they can fill the most noticeable holes and improve on this season’s success.
With the first full season of Mark Jackson’s defense under their belt, the Warriors have improved on defense. They are a significantly better rebounding team as they snag 34.1 defensive boards per game, ranking them first in the NBA.
Despite being ferocious glass cleaners who are adept at sound position on defensive rebounds, the Warriors still have some holes on that end of the court.
The Dubs need to stop overcommitting themselves on double-teams and leaving the trailer open on fast breaks. They also need to focus on staying with their assignments and not trying to make a play on the ball. When an opponent goes in for a wide-open jam, it can change the momentum of a game.
Coach Jackson needs to get his perimeter players to expend more energy anticipating passes and opponents' moves. Shooting percentages dramatically decrease when a defender is in a shooter’s face.
Finally, Jackson will need to work with his team when it comes to screens. Players are too slow getting to the ball when perimeter players are running off screens and getting open looks. Jackson will have to show how to avoid the screen, push through it and defend tighter when faced with such obstacles.
Defense wins championships, and the Warriors are getting better on a day-to-day basis. If they can turn the tide to be mentioned as a defensive team within a year or two, that problem will be fixed.
Fouls are a double-edged sword for the Golden State Warriors. On the defensive end, they foul as their safety gap, when a player gets beat and tries to mitigate the damage.
The team commits an average of 21.4 fouls per game, which is tied for the second-most in the NBA behind the Toronto Raptors. That number translates into 24 free throws attempt for their opponents; with a 74.7 free-throw conversion rate, the Warriors are giving up almost 18 free points per game.
On the offensive side, the Warriors are a great perimeter shooting team, with the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack. The biggest problem is they don’t have a significant inside presence and usually settle for the jumper versus driving and creating fouls.
The Dubs get fouled 19.2 times per game and shoot an average of 21.4 free throws. Since they make 79 percent of their attempts, they cash in on about 17 free points per game.
The Warriors need to create a positive differential by trying to create more on the drive, especially when they fall into their occasional scoring lulls. By integrating their big men into the offense more, the team can achieve that goal.
As for the defensive side, it is still a lesson in progress. Players are getting better with their assignments and positioning, but they have to improve on being in the right place at the right time.
The team needs to work on ball security as the Warriors are currently ranked third-worst in the league by giving up 14.8 turnovers per game. The Warriors need to improve dramatically in this area, especially going into the playoffs.
The team has been known for being sloppy in crucial situations as evidenced by Jarrett Jack’s turnover in the final minute of a recent heartbreaking loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, April 12.
The biggest turnover culprits have been the team's offensive leaders, Stephen Curry and David Lee.
Curry is tied with former backcourt mate Monta Ellis for 176th place (out of 183 players) in turnovers with an average of 3.1 per game. Yes, he does handle the ball more than most NBA players and doesn't turn it over more than Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook or Rajon Rondo, but it is a category that he needs to improve. He has increased his fluidity and go-to moves, but at times, he can be too casual with the ball.
Lee is ranked at No. 157, not too far behind Curry. He commits 2.6 giveaways per game and is ranked last among power forwards.
Coach Jackson might have to resort to the old high school trick, where each player has to carry a basketball with him wherever he goes during the offseason. Turnovers are rally killers, and they lead to easy transition baskets for opponents.
The Warriors’ inside presence has been primarily dominated by the power forward position this season. The “Human Double-Double,” David Lee. has outperformed skeptics and Carl Landry has exceeded expectations.
The prize of the Monta Ellis trade last season, Andrew Bogut, has spent more time injured than on the court. He has been brilliant in bursts, but he has not had the stamina to perform like in seasons past.
Festus Ezeli has brought a physicality to Golden State's frontcourt, but he still needs to develop his offensive game and a signature post move. His hands are terrible and he gets too frazzled when he gets the ball away from the post. He is also too quick to pass the ball, even when getting offensive rebounds close to the basket.
With a whole offseason to game plan and a healthier Bogut returning, Coach Jackson needs to reduce the focus on the team's potent perimeter shooting game. With the ability of the big men to catch the ball down low and make a move, it opens the floor to the perimeter, as defenders will be cheating inside.
The Warriors are primarily an outside shooting team, but a ratio of 70/30 or 60/40 from perimeter to inside buckets could help the team attain the next plateau.