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The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Opinion: How the Warriors Can Go Forward After a Year of Disappointment

Cyrus Saatsaz, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Following a tough year filled with more downs than ups, the Golden State Warriors’ season ended with a deflating 118-94 play-in tournament loss on April 16 to the injured Sacramento Kings, which knocked them out of the playoffs and raised needling questions about the team’s future.

The squad that started off its dynasty in the 2010s, winning four championships and shaping modern basketball in the process, now finds itself behind the curve in a league that has evolved and adjusted to the Warriors’ groundbreaking style.

As a result, questions linger about the franchise’s path forward.

“We’ve got an offseason of reflection and transition, but that doesn’t mean this thing is over,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said on 95.7 The Game’s “Willard and Dibs” show following the season-ending loss.

“This offseason is going to be different. It’s the first time I think that I’ve felt like there needs to be some change, but I don’t know what it is.”

A closer look at this past season can provide answers on what thoset changes should be going forward, with the first priority being finding lineup consistency throughout the season.

According to NBA Advanced Stats, out of the 10 Western Conference teams that made the postseason this year, the Warriors were one of the only two teams that weren’t able to play a lineup consisting of the same four players logging at least 450 minutes played together during the regular season.

The lack of consistency in lineups makes it harder to build momentum throughout the season. Players unsure of their roles and coaches uncertain of which lineups to run creates confusion, particularly in end-game situations.

According to NBA Advanced Data, the Warriors played the most clutch games of any team in the NBA this season, registering a total of 48 games that were decided by five points with five minutes left.

As a result, the 4th oldest roster in the league with core players, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were forced to play extended minutes consitently in crunch time, when you typically want to be able to rest older players as much as possible. In addition to the fatigue and extended minutes the veterans endured, they only finished with a record of 24-24 in those games while losing the 7th most 4th quarter leads in the league this season.

Recently named Clutch Player of the Year, Stephen Curry carried the offense to a 115.6 offensive rating, which ranks 13th in the league this season, while the defense fell apart on the other end of the floor in clutch situations throughout the season.

“We gotta get better in a lot of areas, but I think the one that immediately jumps off the page is defensively we have to be better,” said Warriors General Manager Mike Dunleavy, Jr., during his season exit interview on NBC Sports Bay Area..

According to NBA’s Advanced Data, the Warriors defensive rating dropped from their around league average of 114.5 on the season to 119.0 in the fourth quarter – ranking second to last in the NBA.

The Warriors are also the shortest team in the NBA, and can’t afford miscommunication on the defensive end, without having athletes on the roster that can cover up missed rotations and botched assignments, making communication and trust more crucial than ever in a league where offense is getting better every season. It’s hard to build consistency when players don’t have consistent roles on the court, and when almost every team the Warriors play is taller and more athletic than them, you can see the effect of both contribute to their worst moments this season.

Additionally, playing good defense is impossible when the other team capitalizes off bad offensive possessions due to turnovers or bad shots, and while Stephen Curry was at the top of the league in clutch performance this year, his teammates were not.

Klay Thompson shot 37 percent from the field and 29 percent from the three point line in the fourth quarter of games this season, a large drop-off from the 45 percent from the field at 41.8 percent he shot in the previous three quarters of games this season, according to Basketball Reference.

When defenses double teamed and forced the ball out of Steph’s hands throughout the season, the offense seemed to stagnate without him. And without a clearly defined second scorer, Thompson took it upon himself to get the offense going, taking tough shots that at times did more damage than good — an unfair place for Thompson to wind up at this stage of his career, following two season ending leg injuries he suffered in back to back years..

Bad offense for one team leads to good transition offense for another, leading to momentum swings that often change the outcome of games in the fourth quarter.

Following a win against the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 5 in which Thompson was benched to end the game for the first time of his career, he gave an emotional answer when asked if this adjustment was hard for him. “Yeah, you kidding me? To go from one of the best players… it’s hard for anybody, I’ll be honest with you,” said Thompson.

According to Statmuse, over 22 games in the following two months, Thompson averaged 19.5 points per game on 61.8 percent true shooting, more efficient than the 57.6 percent percentage he had on the season.

Despite Thompson ending the season poorly with a zero point game in the loss against the Kings and an uncertain future as he heads into the offseason as a free agent, both Thompson and the Warriors front office have mutually stayed consistent that Thompson will be a Warrior next year.

Head coach Steve Kerr was particularly impressed with Klay’s acceptance of his role towards the end of the season.

“I thought Klay really showed that he was agreeable to the sixth-man role the second half of the year, even though we eventually put him back in the starting lineup,” said Kerr in his exit interview. “I think that’s got to be an option going forward.”

When asked if there was any emphasis on getting younger, more athletic players heading into the offseason, Warriors General Manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. responded, “Yeah for sure, in the modern NBA the game is played so fast, we have to be able to play that way, we struggled in transition this year both ways.”

According to Synergy tracking data, the Warriors allowed the sixth most points per possession on transition opportunities out of all the teams in the league this season. On offense, they have the third lowest transition frequency in the league with only 14.9 percent of their offensive possessions coming in transition, and are tied for second least efficient offense in transition, scoring 1.09 points per possession.

A key factor to this end of the floor is Draymond Green, who had one of the best seasons of his career — while also actively sabotaging his own. Green was suspended 17 games total for incidents on two separate occasions where he choked Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert and hit Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in the face.

According to Statmuse, the Warriors were 33-22 this season without Green; in the 27 games he ended up missing in total, the team struggled without their defensive anchor, going 13-14 while having their defensive rating drop to 121.3, two points worse than the worst rating in the NBA at 119.6.

The Warriors cannot be so reliant on Green for his defensive brilliance at this stage of his career, as he’s 34 years old and at 6 ‘6”, it puts a lot of wear and tear on Draymond’s body when asked to play the center position and guard people so much bigger than him every night.

However, throughout the season, the Warriors started to eventually find something that works. The Warriors finished the season 27-12 down the stretch in the last 39 games of the season while incorporating younger, more athletic players like third-year player Jonathan Kuminga and rookie Trayce Jackson Davis, who helped take the pressure off Green. Both players eventually found themselves firmly in the rotation at the end of the season when the Warriors were playing their best basketball.

According to NBA’s advanced tracking, in the 699 minutes that Draymond Green and Jonathan Kuminga played together this season, the Warriors had a 106 defensive rating, 8 points better than their average on the season, and in the 226 minutes Draymond and Trayce played together, they had a 99.2 defensive rating, although in a smaller sample, these ratings would rank amongst the top of the league.

Many felt that the younger players should have been playing earlier in the season. After a loss to the Nuggets on Jan. 4 in which Kuminga didn’t play the fourth quarter after scoring 16 points in 19 minutes, he took it upon himself to get more playing time, publicly stating his lack of confidence in Kerr.

Following that moment, Kuminga would end up as a starter who gave the Warriors the size, youth and athleticism they needed to pair with their experience and skill during their impressive run to end the season, which has to be the blueprint going forward.

The one consistent positive is Stephen Curry. The 36-year-old is still playing some of the best basketball of his career, finishing the season in the top 10 in scoring, averaging 26.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists on 61.6 percent true shooting, placing him top 10 in efficiency.

He has stayed consistent with one message throughout all the downs of the season, which he reiterated after the Kings game. “At the end of the day, I just want to win. I know that’s fully possible,” said Curry.

In a crucial offseason, the Warriors should look at what worked this season, and implement that more in the offseason, by adding size, youth, athleticism, defense and consistent scoring outside of Stephen Curry.

On the Draymond Green Show, Green said that Curry told him three words following the Kings loss. “We ain’t done.”

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About the Contributor
Azane Massey, Staff Writer

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