“The citizen’s job is to be rude – to pierce the comfort of professional intercourse by boorish expressions of doubt. “
- John Ralston Saul
Written by: Jake Szczecina
In the biggest and most criticized free agent move since LeBron took his talents to South Beach, Kevin Durant signed with Golden State Warriors this offseason to form the next in a growing list of NBA “Superteams”. While Durant has faced backlash from Oklahoma City diehards and casual NBA fans, members of Dub Nation and bay area natives are ecstatic to add another superstar to a team that had arguably the best regular season in league history just a year ago.
While some fans have made outlandish predictions such as an 82-0 record and an easy road to the NBA Finals, naysayers think otherwise. One common concern from fans is that there aren’t enough shots to go around. Durant comes to Golden State after a 2015 – 2016 campaign of averaging 28.2 points per game on 19.2 field goal attempts. Stephen Curry, the league’s reigning MVP, returns after averaging 30.1 points and 20.2 field goal attempts. Add Klay Thompson to the discussion, who averaged 22.1 points on 17.3 field goal attempts, and you have three superstars who can let it fly from all over the floor. Oh yeah – that Draymond Green guy can score as well, averaging 13.2 points on 10.1 field goal attempts. You get the picture – these guys can score. Combine those scoring numbers and you get a total of 93.5 points per game, just 3.8 points per game shy of the Los Angeles Lakers league worst 97.3 points per game.
Pessimists doubt the possibility of each superstar attaining averages anywhere near their 2015–16 outputs. However, coach Steve Kerr has proven in just two years that he figured out NBA coaching pretty quickly. In particular, Kerr has shown a knack for getting his teams to spread the ball around and make sure everyone gets high-quality scoring opportunities. In addition to each player’s uncanny ability to stuff the stat sheet, they each have found their niche within the offense to find ways to score. In this player breakdown, you will see exactly how each member of the newly formed “Splash Family” will succeed in Golden State’s new high-powered offense.
Two-time league MVP, Stephen Curry doesn’t need much of an introduction. He is best known for wowing the crowd with his pregame shenanigans launching shots from the locker room tunnel, making consecutive shots from half court, and his unbelievable game-time performances that have made him a household name in the NBA. After having one of the greatest individual regular seasons in NBA history, many doubters believe Curry’s numbers will take a hit with the addition of Kevin Durant. Unfortunately for them, I don’t see it happening and here is why:
Pick and Roll (Ball Handler)
In pick and roll scenarios, Stephen Curry is among the league’s best in efficiency. In 526 pick and roll situations where Curry was the ball-handler, he scored 584 points, which ranked him in the 97.6 percentile in the NBA. In these scenarios, Curry had an effective field goal percentage of 61.1% which was 5th among all qualified players. Pick and roll players accounted for 26.2% of Stephen Curry’s possessions during the regular season. As you can see, using a ball screen is among Stephen Curry’s strongest skills.
In off–ball screens, Curry ranks in the 92.3 percentile and has an effective field goal percentage of 63.6%. Off–ball screens such as pin downs, flare screens, or stagger screens accounted for 14.2% of Curry’s possessions in the regular season, as he scored 341 points on 285 possessions. Playing with one of the most physical players in the NBA in Draymond Green, Curry should have no problem freeing himself to get open using screens away from the ball.
This is where things get interesting. In spot-up situations, Curry ranks in the 99.8 percentile, trailing only JJ Redick. In 182 possessions, Curry scored 272 points. Curry scored on 54.4% of his spot-up attempts, good enough for an effective field goal percentage of 75.7%. However, Curry only spotted up on 9.1% of offensive possessions. Look for that number to increase in 2016 – 2017 playing with one of the best isolations players in the league in Kevin Durant.
Kevin Durant loves to have the basketball in his hands. As would anyone that stands 6’9 and is undoubtedly one of the best offensive players in the league. In isolation situations, Durant ranks in the 85.2 percentile, scoring 270 points on 273 total possessions. Isolation accounted for 14.9% of Durant’s offensive possessions. If the Warriors choose to isolate Durant, defenders will have to make the impossible decision of leaving either Curry or Thompson to help Durant’s defender, or stay connected to the Splash Brothers and hope Durant misses his attempt. In most cases, the isolation is one of easiest plays to guard, but in this case, it is nearly unstoppable.
Perhaps Durant’s biggest strength is his uncanny ability to score in transition. With the capability of going from one end of the floor to the other in just three or four dribbles, Durant can go coast to coast quicker than most players in the league. As a result, he scored 365 points in transition last year, which ranks him seventh in the NBA. The Warriors’ dominance is, at least in part, a result of their fast-paced, high-octane offense and Durant will excel with his ability to get the ball and go in transition.
This is the action that intrigues me the most. From watching the Warriors throughout the regular season and postseason, you may notice that they enjoyed involving Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut in dribble hand-offs with their wings. Durant excels in handoff situations. In just 40 attempts on handoff plays, Durant scored 50 points last year, good enough to put him the 95.7 percentile among qualified players. Durant scored on 55% of his hand off plays, which ranked him 14th among qualified competitors. Ironically enough, current teammate Andre Iguodala led the league in scoring percentage on hand-off plays at 72.7%. Look for the Warriors to feature Durant in handoff actions throughout 2016 – 2017.
If I could create a basketball player, I would probably create Kevin Durant. He is a matchup nightmare. NBA coaches can’t put a small guard on him to combat his quickness off the dribble because he will dominate them in the post. Post play is certainly one of Durant’s strongest qualities. He ranks in the 99.6 percentile, scoring on 61.7% of his post touches. Only Gerald Green was more efficient in the 2015 – 2016 regular season, in only 19 post-up opportunities compared to Durant’s 149. If Durant can successfully utilize his size and make the most of his post–up opportunities, he will continue to cause match-up problems across the league.
We already talked about one “Splash Brother” spotting up, so let’s discuss the other. Thompson ranks in the 92.8 percentile among qualified players in spot-up situations. He scored 324 points on 275 possessions a year ago and had an effective field goal percentage of 59.4%. Although this numbers may not be as impressive as his backcourt mate, he is still one of the elite spot-up shooters in the NBA.
This is probably starting to look familiar. Steve Kerr likes to use Curry and Thompson in interchangeable positions where they receive multiple ball screens and are open for spot up opportunities. Thompson’s most frequent offensive possessions come from screens off the ball. Thompson had a league-high 500 off-ball screen possessions last season, scoring 527 points. Although he only ranked in the 76.4 percentile in efficiency, it is evident where Steve Kerr is trying to get Thompson the ball. With more offensive weapons, look for Thompson’s efficiency to increase this season in down screen and flare screen opportunities.
Ball Screen (Roll Man)
As he displayed in the 2015 – 2016 postseason, Draymond Green doesn’t mind a little contact. As I mentioned earlier, Green is involved in many screens; both on and off the ball. Green is a cheat code to the game of basketball. He is 6’7, 230 pounds and can guard positions one through five. He can bring the ball up the floor, he can hit an open jump shot, he can take slower defenders off the dribble, and can set bone crushing screens on defenders. Green played a part in a team-high 154 scoring plays as the roll man in pick and roll opportunities, which accounted for 12.6% of his offensive possessions. He scored 1.02 points per possession, with an effective field goal percentage of 54.5%
Surprisingly, Draymond was second on the team in spot up opportunities behind Thompson and had nearly 60 more spot-up scoring plays than Steph Curry. Spot up plays accounted for 19.7% of Green’s offense, as he scored 243 points on 240 possessions. He has room for improvement regarding efficiency, shooting only 38.2% in these situations, but he has made it clear, spot up jump shots are certainly in his arsenal.
This is the part of Draymond’s game that I love. He has an uncanny knack for being in the right spot at the right time and has a great feel for the game. Last year, he led the Warriors with 83 attempted putbacks, capitalizing on 37 of those attempts. In cutting or slashing plays, Green was highly efficient, scoring 162 points on 118 opportunities. These types of plays are the plays that will keep Green playing at an all-star level and sustain his status as a fan favorite in the Bay Area.
About halfway through this article, you probably began to think, “these guys aren’t going to take every shot.” I understand that. Although the bulk of the offense will come from the “Big Four”, the surrounding role players will have to contribute some offense to help round out the scoring.
Shaun Livingston had the second most post up opportunities on the team last year with 95. He was, however, the most efficient; scoring 95 points for an even 1.00 points per possession. Look for him to continue to take advantage of undersized guards in his reserve minutes.
David West was an extremely underrated and valuable pickup for the Warriors this offseason. He too loves his fair share of post up opportunities. 21.0% of his offensive possessions came on post plays, as he scored 124 points on 115 plays, for 1.08 points per possession.
In addition to Andre Iguodala’s involvement with dribble handoffs as I mentioned before, he will continue to thrive in his role as a spot up shooter. In spot-up scenarios last season, Iggy scored 132 points on 129 opportunities and had an effective field goal percentage of 53.8%.
What to Watch For
The Dubs will have plenty of offense to go around, and the superstars will each fall in their niche to find scoring. The “Big 4” will carry the load and the surrounding cast will contribute their share to produce what could be the most dangerous offense in league history. If The Warriors can develop chemistry early in the season without any hiccups, they could be in the running for another magical year.
(All Stats Compiled by NBA.com)