By John Krolik
Special to The Examiner
With a handful of games left to go in the regular season, the strengths and weaknesses of the Warriors are becoming clearer.
Most importantly, Golden State’s half-court offense is out of sync. It goes beyond the absence of Stephen Curry. The Warriors are attempting to do what they usually do, which is use passing and off-ball movement to break down defenses while keeping dribbling at a minimum. Problem is, it’s not working. The Warriors are struggling to get good looks.
Draymond Green is still responsible for doing most of the playmaking in the half-court. But his decision-making has been off. Green has the highest turnover rate (the percentage of a player’s possessions that end in a turnover) in the entire NBA. Green’s turnover rate is a sky-high 18.5. That would be bad for a stone-handed big man encouraged to do as little as possible on offense. (For a point of reference, DeAndre Jordan has the second-worst turnover ratio in the league.) For a player who is relied upon to be a primary decision-maker, it’s absolutely unacceptable. Green is trying to force passes through holes that aren’t there.
It makes sense that Green would be trying to generate offense through riskier passes in the absence of Curry. Unfortunately, the fact that everybody in the building knows Green isn’t going to look for his own shot in the half court compounds the issue. He still yet to score in double figures in 2022. When the opposing defense doesn’t have to worry about the player with the ball being a scoring threat, they’re going to stick to their assignment more tightly and shrink the window a pass could go through. Green does seem to be turning a corner physically after missing a significant amount of time with an injury. Coach Steve Kerr noted as much after Wednesday’s game against the Suns, saying it was definitely Green’s best performance since his return.
The Warriors don’t run teams off the floor like they did earlier in the Kerr era. However, when the situation calls for it, this is still a team capable of injecting some organized chaos into the game when the situation calls for it. The Warriors looked like they were heading toward the wrong side of a blowout early in Wednesday’s game. Then they started to push the pace, attacking in transition and trying to strike as early as possible in the shot clock. That’s when good things began to happen.
This is where Green really shines. When he gets the ball in the backcourt off a miss and starts flying up the court before the opposing defense can get set, he’s a true weapon. Not many frontcourt players can match Green’s straight-line speed off the dribble. When he gets a head of steam before the defense sets up and the Warriors go into their half-court actions, he’s far more willing to call his own number and attack the basket. And Green’s superb court vision is never more valuable than it is in a full-court situation against a scrambling defense.
When asked about what the Warriors can do to increase their pace of play and what they need to improve in half-court situations after Wednesday’s game, Kerr said, “Defense and rebounding allows you to get out and run. One thing Draymond allows you to do is push the pace. We’ve gotta get the wings out to run, and in the half-court obviously we’ve got to practice and get our guys to execute better there.”
One positive for the Warriors is that they seem to have a budding star in Jordan Poole. Poole went for 38 points on 11-22 shooting from the field and 7-15 shooting from beyond the arc against the Suns. He did it all offensively. He’s clearly learned some things about off-ball movement watching Curry for as long as he has.
Poole was in constant motion without the ball. He slalomed around screens to free himself up for three-point shots. When the defense overplayed him, he flew backdoor for layups. There was no doubting it – some of the off-ball tricks he was using to get his shot were straight out of Curry’s playbook. He used step-backs to get himself space. He attacked the basket off the dribble. He set up teammates when the defense collapsed on him. And he did it all with the supreme confidence of a player who knows he has the skill to be an impact player.
After the Suns game, Kerr noted Poole is getting himself space but no longer rushing when he gets open. He’s calm, confident, and collected. He’s going to be a key player for the Warriors down the stretch run.
Unfortunately, Poole’s confidence seems to have been directly transferred to him by Klay Thompson. Thompson still hasn’t found it. He went just 1-10 from beyond the arc Wednesday, and at times was visibly frustrated after missing a shot. After the game, Kerr noted Thompson has been “pressing,” which is exactly what Poole hasn’t been doing during his breakout season.
So that’s where things stand with the playoffs looming and Curry still in street clothes. The half-court offense needs to get its timing back and take better care of the ball. The Warriors can still do damage in transition, especially with Green commanding the fast break. Poole is looking like a bona fide offensive force, while Thompson is still looking for his All-Star form. The Warriors will need to step things up if they want to compete for a championship, but there are still plenty of reasons for optimism.
John Krolik is a freelance contributor to The Examiner.