Golden State Warriors Winning Is a Compromise Between Extreme Styles

James Pearson@JKPIIICorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2013

January 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson instructs against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Clippers 115-94. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors are the surprise team in the NBA this season and the reason is simple: For the first time in years, they can be called a team.

That means no more Nellie ball, no more 6'8" "centers" and no more four-guard lineups trying to play defense. Finally, the Warriors are playing team basketball. 

That starts from the ownership and goes to management, to the head coach, to the starting five, all the way to Kent Bazemore cheering on his teammates at the end of the bench.

And don’t forget the loyal fans who support this team every year no matter what. Now, it’s just much easier for them to do and it’s getting popular too:

Btw, I hope Warriors fans are ok w/ me driving the bandwagon. Been a GSW admirer since Run TMC. Side note: How is M. Richmond not in HOF?

— Israel Gutierrez (@IzzyESPN) January 3, 2013

(I'm sure it's fine.)

Yes, everyone in this organization is in it together. And it’s coming from both sides on the floor.

In the past, under Don Nelson, the Warriors were all about offense. They either out-shot their opponent or they lost. It’s helping out now as the offense has some similarities to previous years, as they can still run and gun it. But to be clear, by the team playing solely run-and-gun basketball led to this Golden State playoff history web page on Yahoo! which hasn’t been updated since May 16, 2007. And the last time the Warriors made the playoffs before then, Yahoo! was still a year away from existing.

So, the Warriors obviously needed a change.

However, last season under rookie head coach Mark Jackson, they focused too much on turning around the defense. Not a bad thing considering their past. But with their roster set up the way it was, really the only time they won any games last year is when opponents were having an off night.

At the very least Jackson installed a defensive mindset into the Warriors organization that has led to this current transformation.

Now by finding a middle ground between the two extreme styles with a revamped roster, the Warriors can play with anyone on both sides of the ball. Playing team basketball has vaulted the Warriors to a 22-10 record. Feels like a typo, but the Warriors are indeed 12 games over .500. That’s all because they evened out their offense to match their defense.

Last season, the Warriors ranked 11th and 26th in offense and defensive efficiency, respectively, which is the number of points a team scores/allows per 100 possessions. This season, and for the first time since their last playoff appearance, the Warriors are almost equal on both sides of the ball. Right now, the Warriors rank eighth in offensive efficiency and ninth in defensive efficiency.

Here’s the difference.

The Warriors were always an offensive juggernaut. But all that got them was the one playoff series win in 19 years. Something needed to be changed.

Ownership and management realized this and made it happen. They might have overextended themselves a bit last year, but it is paying big dividends now. And they are owed a big round of applause for putting this team together.

It all started with hiring of Mark Jackson. A move which was questionable at best at the time. He preached defense, and last year it came at the cost of their offense. He didn’t seem to want to run or push the ball as he had the team focused solely on defense. The problem with that was, David Lee, Stephen Curry and, at the time, Monta Ellis, weren't really built for that. And well, you saw what happened.

That led to the decision to trade Ellis for Andrew Bogut in the middle of last season, which hurt in more ways than one. By trading for an injured player it meant that the rest of the season was in a sense, over. But looking back, it set the table for what is transpiring now.

And that's even with Bogut still hurt!

After the Warriors rode out the season, they were in a position to hold on to their own draft pick to select Harrison Barnes—an athletic wing who can do a little bit of everything. They were lucky to get him and he is a big part of the Warriors' success. Especially having lost Brandon Rush for the season.

Then they drafted seven-foot center Festus Ezeli, who has been big in the aforementioned Bogut’s absence. Big in the sense that the Warriors needed any able big body to take up space and help Lee defensively and on the boards. His presence has even allowed Andris Biedrins to flourish in a limited backup role, and more importantly has kept Biedrins out of the starting lineup and from playing big minutes. 

Then they stole the Big Ten Player of the Year in Draymond Green out of Michigan State in the second round. His play has been infectious and his contribution has not gone unnoticed. He is a big part of the new-look Warriors.

Then came the last two pieces that completed the puzzle. The front office traded for Jarrett Jack in deal with Dorell Wright and by signing free agent Carl Landry. The trade for Jack cannot be overemphasized enough. The Warriors would not be where they are without Jack and instead having Wright.

Landry has been just tremendous. He has given the Warriors another scoring presence in the post and someone they can consistently count on for offense off the bench. Both of these guys are serious Sixth Man of the Year candidates.

Combine all these additions to the offensive-minded players they already had with what Jackson was trying to do, and it fits; because all of these guys are good defenders. And they all have contributed to the biggest reason for the Warriors' surge—the play of Lee and Curry.

Jack’s presence has been instrumental in Curry’s output. He has allowed Curry to play off the ball and do what he does best: knock down shots. Landry, by being another weapon on the floor that defenses have to account for, has Lee enduring less pressure and is a big reason of why he appears headed to the All-Star game.

Barnes, in a sense, has given everything the Warriors are missing from Brandon Rush and then some. Green is giving the Warriors everything they have been missing from every non-playoff team they’ve had, and Ezeli has given Golden State the center it have really never had. 

All the new players combined with the returning players have allowed the Warriors to be a dangerous team offensively and defensively. Really, if you didn’t look at the sidelines after watching the Warriors on offense, you would have no idea that it wasn’t Nellie leading the run-and-gun Warriors.

But now with the help of the front office and the defensive mindset that Jackson has brought to the team, the Warriors are now able to match their potent offense with a stingy defense.

That combination might not only just get them into the playoffs, but deep into the postseason.

*All stats are accurate as of January 3, 2013


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