The Golden State Warriors entered the offseason looking to make a big splash, and while they didn’t necessarily make the biggest one, they made enough waves to stay in contention in the brutal Western Conference.
Change is on the horizon, however, and as the last two seasons have proved, changes are necessary. Fans will no longer be content with 50-win seasons and merely making the playoffs after such a long stretch of drudgery.
A new bar has been set, and it will be up to new head coach Steve Kerr to help them get there.
The Warriors have championship aspirations, and with the roster currently assembled, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they achieve their ultimate goal.
A new approach must be taken, though—an approach that goes away from much of what has gotten them to where they currently are. Stars like Andre Iguodala must be allowed the freedom to live up to their names. The ball must flow freely, even if it means taking the ball out of Stephen Curry’s hands every once in a while.
Most importantly, however, they must get the most out of the entire offense, spreading the playing time among the role players and granting the starters the rest they so desperately need during the games.
These were not points of concern under the tutelage of Mark Jackson and, not surprisingly, the Warriors faltered down the stretch. Under Kerr, the full potential will be unleashed.
Andre Iguodala will play a bigger role in the offense
Iguodala was one of the most polarizing players in the league last season, as his peripheral numbers didn’t set the world on fire. In fact, at 9.3 points per game, 4.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds, you would have to go back to his rookie year to find a season so statistically weak.
Despite all that, what became clear as the season progressed was that, regardless of whether or not Iguodala was filling up the box score, the Warriors were better with him on the court. In fact, he made them 6.63 points better, according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus stat. Only LeBron James and Chris Paul added more value to their teams.
What, then, can we expect from Iguodala going into next season? Well, if Kerr is to be believed, even more.
Kerr realizes what he has in Iguodala, and it is so much more than just the spot-up shooter he became under Mark Jackson. Iguodala is a devastating player moving without the ball, and he has the ability to finish at the rim in traffic. He has always been an excellent cutter and with the exceptional passing in the starting lineup, he will be found.
A player as talented as Iguodala cannot be wasted like he was last season. Getting the most out of your players is a key component to coaching, and this is an area where Kerr will shine.
Move away from isolation
Ask most random fans on the street about the elite offenses in the NBA, and the Warriors probably pop up more often than not. For so long they were all offense and no defense. Last year, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Warriors were a defensive juggernaut, ranking in the top 10 in numerous stats including field goal percentage, points and rebounding. The offense, on the other hand, just barely squeezed into the top 10. For a team boasting the likes of Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee, that is inexcusable.
The Warriors were one of the most isolation-reliant teams in the league last season, running it over 10 percent of the time, and the results were not pretty. They shot just 38 percent from the field.
Jackson far too often fell in love with exploiting mismatches at the expense of ball movement. For a lineup filled with elite passers like Iguodala, Curry and Lee, it was the most counterproductive offense the Warriors could run.
Fear not, however, Warriors fans, because it appears that Kerr will be taking the opposite approach. In his introductory press conference, Kerr told reporters that ball movement would be at a premium in his offense, via Bruce Jenkins of SF Gate:
I think the team can get better offensively. There's a lot of skill out there, with (Andrew) Bogut and Lee being such excellent passers. I think you'll see a lot of ball movement, with the bigs being utilized as passers from the elbows and the block. We'll have some elements of the triangle offense, but we're not going to look like the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s. In today's NBA, you have to run, play fast, score early. The rules dictate that. I want to encourage even more running than the Warriors did last year. But I want to have it flow into an offense that utilizes our skill level and take some of the pressure off Curry.
With Kerr at the helm, a free-flowing offense will be the result. Look for the Warriors to regain their offensive aura.
Fewer minutes for the starters
We all love to see the stars on the court as often as possible, but in order to see them perform at their highest levels, they need an appropriate amount of rest during games. Far too often the Warriors lost games in the fourth quarter because of sloppy play and turnovers.
While it’s easy to blame the players for this, execution gets harder and harder when exhaustion sets in.
That’s on the coach.
Mark Jackson did a lot of good things for the team, but where he failed miserably was with his substitutions. He did not fully understand how to mix his lineups, and the offense stalled when the bench came in as a result. The starters would be rushed back in without the proper amount of rest.
That’s going to change this year.
The additions of Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush shored up the biggest hole on the roster last season: guard depth. Along with Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, the Warriors now boast one of the deepest benches in the league. Kerr will utilize that bench and ensure that his stars have fresh legs when it matters most.