Ranking Warriors' Biggest Strengths Through 2 MonthsDecember 23, 2021
Ranking Warriors' Biggest Strengths Through 2 Months
The Golden State Warriors have reclaimed Goliath status in the NBA.
Entering Tuesday, only the Phoenix Suns were bettering the Dubs' .806 winning percentage, a staggering mark considering the club is still awaiting the 2021-22 debuts of both Klay Thompson and James Wiseman.
What's gone well in Golden State? A whole lot, as you can imagine, but we're here to pinpoint and rank the squad's three biggest strengths.
Strength in numbers is less of a slogan than a way of life for the Steve Kerr-led Warriors. Or, it is when the team has it rolling, rather.
Last season, Golden State ran too top-heavy, which is why a team with the third-place finisher in both MVP (Stephen Curry) and Defensive Player of the Year (Draymond Green) voting couldn't crack the play-in field. Fast-forward to this season, though, and the Warriors are once again flashing their trademark depth.
Andrew Wiggins has never been more efficient. Jordan Poole has never been more reliable. Gary Payton II is a defensive menace on the basketball. Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica have added missing elements of stretchiness to the frontcourt. Even rookie Jonthan Kuminga has managed to pop in a limited role.
While the Warriors are at their best with the stars leading the way, they seem virtually unbeatable when the role players rise up around them.
2. Draymond Green-Led Defense
While it's probably too early for Green to start clearing room in his trophy case for a second Defensive Player of the Year award, it will take a Herculean-level of work to deny him the hardware.
He's not the only reason the Dubs defense works, but he's clearly the biggest one. From switching between all five positions to barking out orders from the back line, he's the engine that makes everyone else go.
And all Golden State has done is gone straight to the top. The Warriors don't just have this season's most efficient defense, they have the lowest defensive rating since the 2015-16 San Antonio Spurs.
Green is the heartbeat, but he has help on that end, too. The aforementioned Payton has been a revelation; his plus-6.9 Defensive Raptor trails only the mark of three-time DPOY Rudy Gobert, per FiveThirtyEight. Throw in lock-down wing resistance from Wiggins, understated sturdiness from Kevon Looney and the mental magic of savvy veteran Andre Iguodala, and the Dubs have a five-star recipe for defensive dominance.
1. Stephen Curry
If this feels like an obvious choice for the top spot, that's because it is.
Stephen Curry, the Association's all-time leader in three-pointers, is the proverbial straw stirring the Dubs' drink and sucking the life out of the opposition. Teams have had 13 seasons to game-plan against him, and there's still no right way to handle an uber-efficient scorer who can free himself off the bounce, launch from anywhere and have the basketball IQ to share the rock when clubs overcrowd him.
With Curry on the floor, the Warriors are outscoring opponents by 15.7 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. Without him, that net rating tumbles to plus-0.2. That's the difference between being an all-time great and matching the Kawhi Leonard-less Los Angeles Clippers. Or the also Kawhi Leonard-less San Antonio Spurs. Or the ready-to-rebuild Indiana Pacers. You get the idea.
Curry doesn't just fit the Warriors system like a tailored suit, he is the system itself. Until teams stumble into a way of slowing him down–or, more likely, until the 33-year-old's age catches up to him—he'll continue to serve as Golden State's superpower.