Anyone who has passionately supported the Golden State Warriors for the last twenty or so years will be the first to acknowledge that its been a difficult journey. Perhaps just as difficult as a life-long Boston Celtic fan watching Paul Pierce and his discomfort in Brooklyn.
Since the 1994-1995 NBA campaign the Warriors have registered just two seasons with winning records; 2006-2007 (42-40) and 2012-2013 (47-35). Both of these above .500 results secured playoff births and on each occasion the outcome was the same; proceed through the first round before being knocked out in the Western Conference Semi Finals.
Recently a great friend of mine, Jono Ramsay, made a move from Sydney to America. A sports fanatic; his knowledge across an extensive number of sports is quite astonishing. While Jono’s employer deliberated for a couple of weeks on whether to send him to Chicago or San Francisco, we had our own discussions on which city would be better (in regards to sporting teams). Derrick Rose and the Windy City? Or the Splash Brothers’, consisting of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and their vibrant brand of ball in San Francisco?
Despite the very gimpy ‘Splash Brothers’ nickname, Jono is now a very stoked resident of San Fran. Their decision to not send him to Chicago is a blessing in disguise. With Rose likely out for another season, the Bulls are in a very alarming situation. Now they are just a mediocre team, meaning they will struggle in the first round of the playoffs, but aren’t terrible enough to make the NBA lottery; the worst position to be in for an NBA franchise. You can’t win, but don’t quite get the benefits of having a dreadful year. The Bulls, who have thrown all their eggs into Rose’s basket, have some challenging times ahead and their fans should be concerned.
What to do with Luol Deng? Will Rose, 25, get back to that MVP-type player after two serious knee operations? Do they rebuild? How to avoid paying Carlos Boozer and his $16.8 million next season? And so on.
The Bulls sit 28th in the league for points per game (91.6); ultimately it’s because they really struggle to find any fluency on the offensive end. It is safe to say pledging an allegiance to the Warriors will create fewer headaches for Jono over the next couple of NBA campaigns. Plus Golden State are arguably the most exhilarating side in the league; so you’ve landed on your feet, Jono.
So how have the Warriors achieved this?
It starts with Stephen Curry. Last season, post the All-Star weekend, the Warriors began to sizzle on the back of Curry’s improved offensive percentages. Coming into the 2013 All-Star break, Curry’s highest points total was 32, which he achieved only twice in visits to the Kings in December and Memphis in early February. But after the All-Star weekend Curry tallied up seven games of 32 points or more; they included a 38, 35, 39, 47, 35, 44 and the season high (for all players) 54 points versus the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. His pre and post All-Star averages were quite different; Curry upped his field goal percentage from 43.4% to 47.6%, increased his three-point accuracy from 44.7% to 46.1%, and improved his points per game from 21 to 26.
This season Curry is averaging 23.2 points, 9.5 assists (second in the league) and 4.5 rebounds each outing; significant career high’s in points and assists. Above I mentioned that after the All-Star break Curry noticeably upped his scoring figures; four of those seven games where he recorded more than 32 points a game were on the road. 38 at Indiana, 54 in New York, 47 at the Lakers, and 44 in a playoff game in San Antonio. Excluding the Lakers, these teams were (Indiana & the Spurs still are) incredibly tough destinations to get a ‘W’. San Antonio went to the NBA Finals, the Pacers defensive ability is staunch, and Carmelo and the Knicks were smoking teams. That meant nothing to Steph Curry.
I’ve previously used this clip in an article, but it’s so epic that I’m not concerned with breaching the “forbidden rule” of not recycling content.
These performances are no doubt impressive for a 6’3” guy who was deemed too small a few years back. Yet the greatest trait of Curry’s 2012-2013 campaign is his on-off-court differential. Basically this statistic determines how many points per 100 possessions a team scores with a specific player on the floor compared to when they are warming the bench.
According to NBA.com, when #30 is on the court the Warriors score 109.9 points per 100 possessions, with him on the sidelines, just 87.9 points per 100 possessions; that’s a plus-minus of 22 points. Last I checked that was first in the league; for an NBA player there is no other stat that’s a higher complement. By definition this means the Warriors rely on Curry more than the Miami Heat rely on LeBron James. Now wait, I already know some of you diehard LeBron fans are screaming at the computer, but before wasting your breath by chanting “MVP, MVP, MVP”, this statement is in no way suggesting that Curry is a greater player than LeBron – don’t be absurd, barring injury LeBron is clearly frontrunner for his fifth MVP in six years; it’s simply points out that the Heat would survive more easily without LeBron compared to if Golden State were playing Stephen-less. So chill.
If you couldn’t tell from Curry’s 54 at MGS, the guy can get hot. Whatever level of spicy hot you’re imagining, triple it. I’m talking the type of hot where a restaurant makes you sign a wavier and highly recommends you throw-up after your meal so it doesn’t destroy your intestines hot. Yep!
Bill Simmons from ESPN’s Grantland.com pointed something out a few weeks back that stuck in my memory; Curry’s capacity to switch it on makes you stop what you’re doing immediately to watch the Warriors game. You see it on social media, or maybe a mate messages or calls you saying, “dude you need to witness what Curry’s doing, it could be one of those nights”. There are only a handful of guys in the league who consistently demand our attention like this. You realise it’s time to change stations when you hear LeBron’s got 15, 5 and 5 in the first quarter, when Kevin Durant’s gone for 30 points off 12/13 FG’s in the first half, or when you find out Steph’s just drained a few consecutive shots from downtown with his team down 20.
This season Curry already has five games with 32 points or more; and again the majority have been on the road; 38 at the Clippers, 32 in Oklahoma, 36 in Sacramento, 43 in Charlotte, with his top score at home being 33 against Dallas.
Most players, particularly younger ones, have greater shooting percentages at their home venues; for Curry location isn’t an issue. On the road SC averages 3.4 more points, hits an extra field goal, and is remarkably better at the free-throw line and from downtown.
Stephen Curry Statistics: Home & Road – NBA.com Statistics: As of Sunday December 31, 2013
Field Goals Made
Field Goal Percentage
3-point Field Goals Made
Free Throw Percentage
Points Per Game
Stephen Curry’s shot chart: NBA.com
These are seriously amazing statistics!
Having this knowledge when the playoffs come around surely gives Mark Jackson a slight confidence boost; knowing your go-to-guy has no qualms with performing away from home is a trait that only elite players posses. Winning on the road in the postseason is no doubt the toughest challenge in the NBA; do you think the Spurs give up that 94-89 advantage with 28.2 second left in that heartbreaking Game 6 of the Finals last season if it was on their home court? Do you reckon the Trail Blazer would have thrown away their fourth quarter, 15-point lead to the Lakers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals if they weren’t on the road? It’s possible, but highlight doubtful.
The Warriors 108-104 overtime victory in Cleveland yesterday marked the start of a seven game road trip; their equivalent journey last season ended with a successful a 6-1 record and was regarded as a major turning point in their campaign. Golden State sit 7th in the Western Conference with a record of 19-13, but they currently have the longest active winning streak at five. This streak was the first time they’d won two or more games in a row since the beginning of December – this trip has the potential to be another significant moment.
The decision to not retain Jarrett Jack was by far the biggest shock for Warriors fans in the offseason. Jack, who averaged 12.9 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds a game throughout his final year in San Fran, was a crucial element in their run to the Western Conference Semi-Finals. In July, the 29-year old inked a four-year $25 million deal with Cleveland. Jack’s exit has been considered as reckless, given that he’s a natural leader who has a reputation for being more than capable of taking the last shot. Leadership and someone who can make those tough buckets down the stretch were the two major concerns for Warriors supporters coming into the season.
Miserable body language is a problem that can be eroded in time through experience and maturity, thus creating better leadership. Plus, with the Warriors being such a young side and already having playoff exposure, this is an issue Warriors fans shouldn’t be concerned with.
As for those tough buckets, the addition of veteran Andre Iguodala, joint with the constant development of Stephen Curry, these moments will become easier to handle.
Jono was fortunate enough to be at Oracle Arena for the Dallas game above; it was his induction into the Warriors alliance. Normally when a supporter agrees on a team and initiates their relationship by attending their first game, that outcome sets the tone for the imminent future. So Jono, looks like good times are ahead for you and your Warriors.