The Golden State Warriors have had an early roller-coaster type start with a streak of four wins followed immediately by a three-game losing streak. In the losses, the Warriors let two games slip out of their hands and in the other, they played down to the Los Angeles Lakers.
They will have to play the New Orleans Pelicans without the services of Andrew Bogut, who was suspended for one game because of the fracas against the Portland Trail Blazers. The team will have to rely on Marreese Speights at center and untested reserve big man Dewayne Dedmon to stem the tide.
With that being said, are the Warriors better or worse than their current record? Let’s take a closer look at all of the variables.
The team received a quick reality check when Stephen Curry injured his knee and ankle against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 6. The following game was at the San Antonio Spurs, and the Dubs did not stop the regular-season losing streak to San Antonio that dates back to February 1997.
Andre Iguodala took the reins of the point guard role and did a serviceable job in that game and again when Curry sat two games because of a mild concussion. The concussion was a result of the Utah Jazz’ Marvin Williams falling on top of Curry as shown below in the video.
The Warriors have an 0-3 record when Curry sits because of injuries. He is the team’s linchpin, as the offense stagnates without him guiding the team.
Iguodala was very effective dishing the ball and finding open teammates in the three-game stretch. He tallied 14 assists against the Memphis Grizzlies and six versus the Lakers before leaving the game with an injury.
Iguodala tried to get a steal after turning the ball over, and he pulled up lame with a hamstring injury after passing the half-court line.
The litmus test as to how the Warriors would play without Iguodala took place the following evening against the Trail Blazers. The Warriors had Steph Curry back on the floor, but the team ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, as they were outscored 32-17.
When the team is 100 percent healthy, it dominates and can be considered on the periphery of the NBA elite. When the roster is not healthy, the team struggles.
The Warriors’ bench play has been underwhelming so far this season. Injuries to Toney Douglas and Jermaine O’Neal have forced newcomers Nemanja Nedovic and Kuzmic to fill in.
Coach Mark Jackson usually goes to his bench to inject some life and a different type of skill set into the game. However, he does not have that luxury so far this season.
The Warriors are still trying to find a backup point guard while Douglas is out. Kent Bazemore auditioned, but he plays better as a shooting guard.
Nedovic got his turn against the Trail Blazers, and he looked a lot more comfortable at the position. The team needs to find a solution quickly, or it will be asking for too many minutes from the starters.
Here is an example of what he can bring to the table, as he drives to the rim for the slam against the Lakers.
Speights needs to drive to the hoop more in order to create more space to execute a move. He is still getting comfortable in his Warriors’ jersey.
One of the key statistics the Warriors have been plagued by over the years is the number of turnovers committed. Taking care of the ball was to be a major focus during the preseason, but the Warriors are right back at the bottom of the league.
The Dubs are giving the ball away 18.1 times per game, while creating only 15.9 turnovers. They need to be at a 13 or 14 turnover-per-game clip if they want to progress to being an elite team.
The deficit in turnovers creates a lot more opportunity for opponents to score easy baskets and change the momentum of the game. The biggest offender, who doesn’t handle the ball on a consistent basis, is David Lee with 3.0 per game.
The defense has to step up and create more takeaways. Iguodala is tied for eighth in steals per game (1.92). As you can see in the highlight below, he is a huge presence on that end of the floor.
Iguodala fronts the Jazz’ Gordon Hayward and forces him to throw a bad pass into the hands of Steph Curry. Curry then takes the ball and dishes a beautiful behind-the-back pass to Klay Thompson for the easy three pointer.
If the Dubs defensive pressure can create more turnovers and scoring opportunities, the team will be in a better position to win games.
The benefit of having three very strong defenders in Bogut, Iguodala and Thompson gives the Warriors more wiggle room with Lee and Curry. The bench is strong with defensive-minded players, which makes this year’s team a "defensive juggernaut."
If the turnovers can be halted, the Warriors will be in an even better position to control the flow of the game and have the chance to win on a more consistent basis.
Bringing It All Together
When the Warriors are penetrating and the offense is in motion, they are at their best. The team involves every player from screens to passing to spacing in order to get the best shot.
This style of play is best summed up in the highlight below where the Warriors transition and get the ball into almost everyone’s hands before Curry spots up for the three. He pulls out a great ball fake and gets Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook to run by him before hitting the shot.
Curry must have thinking about Maverick and Top Gun, with the "I'll hit the brakes, he'll fly right by" strategy.
The Warriors are going through a rough patch in a very young season. Coach Jackson hopes that this will be a learning experience to all involved, and the team can absorb a lesson and grow from it.
The Warriors should be right back near the top of the division within a few weeks and be challenging the Los Angeles Clippers for the division crown.
When a team is recognized as a contender, they get everyone’s best shot. The Warriors are going to have to fight through some adversity and win those necessary games.
The team needs to get healthy, give the young and new talent some time to gel and limit the mistakes. The Warriors have a lot higher ceiling than what they have shown so far this season.
The team does not want to be a flash in the pan or revert to the past. This is the new Warriors basketball.