The Golden State Warriors have a crunch problem. In games decided by six points or less, the Dubs are 9-12, including 1-4 in the last five such games.
That's too crunchy for a team with some of the smoothest jump-shooters in the game.
The Warriors recently shook up the roster by trading for Jordan Crawford with the hopes of filling the Jarrett Jack-shaped hole in the roster.
An extra facilitator and shot creator on the roster could help the Warriors' crunch-time problems, if only by making it easier to rest key starters like Stephen Curry and by adding another wrinkle to the offense.
Need an Assist
Offense is the problem at the end of games. The Warriors have a bad habit of stopping the ball and forcing shots as the clock winds down. I understand isolation is a thing in end-of-game situations, but this is atrocious.
The Warriors would be better if the ball movement improved. In fact, while the Warriors rank seventh in the NBA in assists, breaking it down by quarter shows that those assist numbers are not as evenly distributed as one may hope.
|Warriors assists by quarter|
|1||304 total assists||4th in NBA||6.6 per game|
|2||279 total assists||3rd in NBA||6.1 per game|
|3||253 total assists||11th in NBA||5.5 per game|
|4||218 total assists||15th in NBA||4.7 per game|
The NBA typically sees a dip in assists across the board as tired offenses move away from their game plans and more toward isolation and defenses lock up. But the seventh-best assisting team in the NBA falls to 15th in the final period? That's not a dip, that's a plummet.
It isn't as if the Dubs traded for Rajon Rondo, but Crawford is certainly an upgrade from Toney Douglas on offense. Before the trade, Crawford headed the Boston offense and was able to facilitate and create shots for himself and others, averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 assists as a Celtic.
His assist distribution numbers are better than that of Curry. While Curry is second in the league in assists, most of those come in the first half.
Curry's assists per possession steadily decline throughout the game, resulting in .035 fewer assists per possession from the first to the fourth quarter when he starts forcing shots. Crawford's assist numbers are more evenly distributed, with a variance of .024.
The nosedive in assists by Curry and the gang is evidence of a team that sometimes relies too much on its athleticism.
The Warriors often fall into none-or-one-pass-and-shoot mode at the end of games, which is partly to blame on (1) the fact that Curry and Klay Thompson can shoot from wherever and David Lee's ability to create for himself, and (2) the starters play so many minutes that it results in standing around and a lack of ball movement.
Because he is such a lethal shooter, Curry faces a lot of double-teams and guys have to play up on him—making it harder for him to turn corners and get off passes. Running the point is a grind, and for Curry, it can be even tougher when teams start picking him up as soon as he crosses midcourt.
Andre Iguodala helps facilitate in some instances, but it takes him out of position, not to mention that he is playing 33 minutes a game, too.
Crawford coming off the bench gives the team a true point guard, which allows coach Mark Jackson to give Curry some rest without losing all of the offense.
Crawford has played alongside Curry, too, taking on some of the ball-handling burden. Allowing Curry to play off the ball more not only helps Curry with some R-and-R, but it also creates another wrinkle on offense that can help Curry get off some clean looks.
How Crawford Can Help
Crawford hasn't helped the Warriors in this regard just yet (Dubs are 0-3 in two-possession games since he arrived), but this is a long-term issue that the Warriors hope to fix by the playoffs.
Curry can sometimes shoot his team back into a game, but he (and the rest of the Dubs) can also shoot them out of it. Earlier in his career, Crawford was guilty of similar erraticism. He seems to have turned a corner since his time with Brad Stevens, and having one more guy to help move the ball around and create open looks can only help Golden State.
Crawford won't often play at the end of games, but his contributions between when the starting five open and close should help them execute better in close contests.
He won't single-handedly fix the end-of-game struggles for the Warriors, but he should at least help spread the ball around to other hands—making the crunch-time process slightly smoother.
Statistics accurate as of January 30, 2014.