Early Surprises from the Golden State Warriors' 2013-14 Season

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Early Surprises from the Golden State Warriors' 2013-14 Season
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Splash! 

That's how the Golden State Warriors started the season. The Splash Brothers Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry got everything wet on the heels of an improved defense, and Curry has taken a step forward as a potential all-star. 

The Warriors also improved the roster by adding Andre Iguodala in the offseason, a move that has already paid dividends far more promising than Twitter's IPO.

Although the Iguodala acquisition created some offseason questions regarding the Warriors' starting lineup, that little ditty has hardly been an issue as Harrison Barnes has taken a step back—allowing the Warriors' best five to tip off games.

Iguodala has fit in perfectly as the small forward, giving the Dubs a defensive stopper and facilitator on the wing. It has created an entirely new dynamic to the Warriors on both ends of the court.

Here's a look at some more pleasant surprises from the Warriors' early slate of games in the 2013-14 season.

 

Klay Thompson Scoring

NBA.com/Stats

If Thompson took a step forward last season, then he bounded forward like a Tyrannosaurus Rex taking his species' first step.

Splash Brother No. 2 is shooting .479 from three and averaging more than 20 points on about 15 shots per game. He is scoring points in bunches and frustrating opponents with his shooting performances, including a 38-point barrage against the Los Angeles Lakers to start the season.

Taking a look at his shot chart, Thompson has made more than 50 percent of his shots from three of five hot zone areas according to NBA.com/Stats. It's no coincidence that those are also the three areas on the court that Thompson has taken most of his threes from.

Too often we see three-point shooters check themselves from any spot beyond the line, but Thompson shows a rare self-awareness and knows where he should shoot from—and makes sure to do so.

However, Thompson is not just a three-point specialist (a phrase that has become a derogatory term like that of "game manager"), he's attempted plenty of shots under the basket as he looks to drive and post up.

Thompson's marked progression has been one of the most pleasant surprises for the Warriors so far this season, not only giving Golden State a second prime-time scorer as insurance for Curry, but also giving Curry the chance to be more than just a scorer.

 

Stephen Curry Assisting

These highlights are from Curry's 38-point, nine-assist game against the Los Angeles Clippers this season. Curry consistently makes the right decision and makes the best play for his team, whether it be pulling up for the shot or assisting a teammate. 

Curry's creative passing has drawn comparisons to Steve Nash, who is one of the greatest ever at making teammates better. As Brett Koremenos of Grantland.com explained, Curry showed the ability to dictate the pace of the game with more than just his jump shot.

When Curry’s space-creating shiftiness was limited due to a sore ankle, he was forced to slow down his game, and we saw the amazing lefty hook passes float over defenders and lead to easy buckets. Not only did he display the ability to make all the simple and extraordinary passes that made life easier on his teammates, but he showed an understanding that his team could function at a higher level because of it...

Curry entered this season at a crossroad. Does he go the way of Reggie Miller, becoming a three-point shooting machine? Or of Nash, someone who relies on his stroke not only to put the ball in the basket, but also to put teammates in better positions?

Breaking down the clip further, allow me to pull out a few plays.

This shows Curry's spacing. Look at how much room Marreese Speights has on this pick-and-roll. Both Clippers defenders play up on Curry from, what, 30 feet out? Great Odin's Raven, now that's spacing.

Now Curry's vision.

There is a lot going on in that crowded area on the right wing. We have two off-ball screens to get Klay Thompson open. Seeing how J.J. Redick kept up with Thompson and Blake Griffin stepped toward him and took away the passing angle, Curry patiently finds David Lee who is open because Griffin did not recover in time. 

To say Curry has figured everything out this early in the season would be premature, but Curry is averaging nearly 9 assists per game—two more than last season. 

To use a more advanced metric, Curry is assisting on 38.4 percent of his teammates' field goals, according to NBA.com/Stats, a huge leap from his previous percentage. 

That said, Curry is still a dominating and fearless shooter first. His challenge will be finding the balance between his role an aggressive shooter and an effective passer. So far, it's been yin and yang.

 

Elite Defense

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Did you laugh at the subhead? Maybe you did. That's because the Warriors have been notoriously bad on defense for years. However, Golden State is giving up just 97.4 points per 100 possessions this year, putting the team on par with the Chicago Bulls

It begins with Iguodala's presence on the wing and a healthy Andrew Bogut dominating the rim. It's pretty simple, Iggy shuts down players on the wing and Biggy cleans up things inside.

Not a pleasant surprise: Iguodala recently strained his hamstring and is out indefinitely. Hopefully for the Warriors, Iguodala isn't out long and is healthy come playoff time.

When healthy, Bogut is one of the best interior defenders in the league.

This clip ends with a block on Lakers guard Nick Young. Bogut does more than just block the shot though, he dictates the entire offensive series for Lakers.

It starts with Bogut preventing the Nash layup and forcing a pass to Chris Kaman. Kaman, who would spot up from here, can't when Bogut slides up. Kaman hands off to Nash who, again, has nowhere to go after trying the right side because Bogut shuffles back to block off the lane. This forces a difficult pass that few other than Nash can make. Bogut identifies Young cutting to the basket and comes in for the block.

Defense isn't played better than this, and Bogut does it consistently.

Moreover, the Warriors quietly added good defenders in Jermaine O'Neal and Toney Douglas during the offseason and the team's young wing players are stepping up. Not only does Thompson's 6'7'' frame help him launch threes over opponents, it also makes him a physical defender. Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green are also good and improving on the defensive end.

Curry and Lee may not be good defenders, but the help that they have gives them insurance.

Mark Jackson and former assistant coach Mike Malone—Malone is now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings—coached these two up and put them in positions to succeed. With good wing defenders, Lee is allowed to sit back on pick-and-rolls. Curry, though still not great, has done a better job of sticking with his man.

Defense is mostly about coaching, and now the Warriors have the system and talent in place for a good defense. This isn't a flash in the pan, this is the real thing.

The Warriors as a whole are the real thing. With an offense that can go off at any moment and an efficient if not dominant defense, Golden State's pleasant surprises make them a contender in the Western Conference.

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