Perhaps even more surprising than the Golden State Warriors’ 17-8 record is their newly wrinkled defense.
Mark Jackson was always going to put a particular stress on the defensive end of his basketball team. The question then became: how in the world are you supposed to do that with virtually no size or physical presence?
In response, the Warriors have taken on a strategy that leverages their abundance of youth. Specifically, the defensive onus has fallen on guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Both players have been the anchors of a Golden State defense that is among the league’s best.
The one most glaring difference in the Warriors’ approach to defense becomes evident when they defend against the pick-and-roll. Most basketball teams have their big men hedge out on screens, temporarily taking over the guard’s defensive duties. Jackson’s squad has eliminated that option entirely.
Instead of having David Lee or Carl Landry expend their energy on the perimeter, it is now on the guard to fight over screens. The involved big man, as a result, is encouraged to drift back and lay off.
This change in approach has immediate advantages. Most notably, it takes the pressure and strain of perimeter defense off of the Warriors’ big men. To be sure, it also comes with risks. Because of the increase in the amount of work that a guard has to do-due to the fact that there’s no more hedging big man to rely on-there’s the fear of overworking your guards.
As Ethan Sherwood Strauss puts it (in another great post):
“Guys like David Lee get to drift backwards like breeze-caressed dandelions, instead of running back and forth. This shifts a lot of the caloric burden from big men to guards.”
The amount of work that Curry and Thompson have to carry out comes in worrying amounts. Curry’s injury history immediately comes to mind. The Warriors’ star point guard has had to spend the majority of an NBA season recovering from ankle injury. He was even worrying GSW fans while the new season was yet but infantile.
TrueHoop’s Henry Abbot sees the risk as well.
As Abbot mentions, Curry is not only leading the league in career three point percentage (44%), he’s also outranking all NBA point guards in minutes per game (38).
Couple that with the added strain of the Warriors’ interesting new defense and you have considerable risk going forward.
Then again, you also have a top 15 defensive efficiency rating, league leading defensive rebounding efficiency (after bottoming out the league only last year), and that shiny 17-8 record.
Mohamed Abdihakim is a journalism student at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Phoenix Suns fan, who is not prepared for the possibility of Nash winning a title in a Lakers jersey. Mohamed is also a contributor at “Les Snobs”. Interests include International basketball, Mad Men, and blues music. Nearly all stats are credited to Hoopdata or Basketball-Reference.
Twitter handle: @Abdi_hakim