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Warriors Mythbusters Part I: The doubts GSW overcame to become champs again
You are forgiven if you believed any of these narratives.
Every day my phone buzzes off the hook with notifications. When I leave my home people chase me down in the streets screaming. When I’m getting my weekly Thai aroma massage therapy even my masseuse Brownie won’t stop making demands.
Everybody wants to know when I’m going to take my rightfully earned, gold blooded, celebratory victory lap after the Golden State Warriors destroyed the league yet again en route to their 4th title with DA CORE. Wow, I haven’t done one of those in some time. It’s been a while.
But it’s a new day and I’m back baby! The All-Star blogbois from DNHQ presents a multipart series which will investigate some of the skepticism/handwringing/player-hating that the NBA’s premier franchise suffered on their way to the title.
One of the things that most cracked me up about this past season was how much doubt came not from outside of Dub Nation, but from within.
(WE GOT FOLKS OUT HERE AVOIDING RESULTS-ORIENTED ANALYSIS. WHAT THE HELL MATTERS MORE THAN RESULTS?!)
Is it it hyperbole to say that nobody believed in this team less than the disgruntled Warriors fans blasting their opinion on the internet? They didn’t trust the front office, they didn’t believe in the system/chemistry, and they didn’t have faith in Steph Curry’s sheer greatness.
Maybe that’s why we all needed a good cathartic cry after the Warriors banished Boston into the shadow realm to secure the championship.
I felt that Steph. BUT TODAY IS NOT A DAY FOR TEARS. Rather, it’s time to examine the narratives that fueled the daily talking points around the team and glean knowledge.
Without further ado, here’s part one of a curated list of those narratives, brought to you by Hennessy.
THE WARRIORS NEEDED A ANOTHER STAR
“And I know this isn’t popular with a lot of people," Lacob told The Athletic's Anthony Slater. "They think we ought to go get the next star. We already have the stars.”
Daniel: Hmmmm WE ALREADY HAD THE STARS?! If I check the All-Star rosters from Cleveland this season, apparently the Dubs had three friggin’ stars:
Nate: What annoyed me about all the chatter about needing a star last off-season was that we had seen enough from Andrew Wiggins (and, to some extent, Jordan Poole) to make me want to just wait and see what we had. That plus the promise of Klay Thompson and James Wiseman coming back was enough for me. Now look, it’s easy to say that in hindsight — especially when I wasn’t blogging and can’t be held accountable for my words — but it has always been my position that I’d rather see our guys develop as a unit instead of trying to bring in ringers… especially when we have Steph Curry.
CAN’T RELY ON KLAY RETURNING TO FORM
Klay missed two seasons after suffering an ACL injury followed by an Achilles’ injury. He returned for 32 regular season games and averaged 20.4 PPG on 43% shooting from the field, a career high 90% from the free throw line, and a career low 38% from beyond the arc.
His play actually inspired some vocal members of Dub Nation to call for him to be BENCHED as he returned from those devastating injuries.
So I ran to Stat Head to drum up some comparisons to players who had offensive regular seasons like Klay’s this year. Here’s what I found:
Klay Thompson 2021-2022: 20.4 PPG, 43% FG%, 38% 3P%, 47% 2P%, 53% eFG%, 90% FT%
Khris Middleton 2021-2022: 20.1 PPG, 44% FG%, 37% 3P%, 49% FG%, 52% eFG%, 89% FT%
Rashard Lewis 2004-05: 20.5 PPG, 46% FG%, 40% 3P%, 50% 2P%, 53% eFG%, 77% FT%
Michael Redd 2003-04: 21.7 PPG, 44% FG%, 35% 3P%, 47% 2P%, 48% eFG%, 86% FT%
Allan Houston 2000-01: 18.7 PPG, 45% FG%, 38% 3P%, 46% 2P%, 48% EFG%, 91% FT%
Joe Johnson 2011-12: 18.8 PPG, 45% FG%, 39% 3P%, 49% 2P%, 52% eFG%, 85% FT%
Lmao wait so Klay was averaging the same type of numbers that all these big-name swingmen were getting during their primes, AND IT WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR MANY IN DUB NATION!
And then here’s the playoff numbers: 19 PPG on 43% FG% and 38% 3P% in 36 freakin’ minutes per game!
Apricot: I don’t think Klay got back to star level, but he was a sturdy championship level starter who played a ton of minutes, played good defense in the team scheme, and hit huge game-changing shots. And he’s someone that Steph and Dray and Kerr completely trust.
As for benching him, let’s look at what Steve Kerr had to say about it, and about how to get the best out of your players, in this fantastic interview with Tim Kawakami two weeks before the playoffs during a really grim shooting stretch for Klay.
“I was never pulling Klay out of the closing unit,” Kerr said. “Anybody who says that I might have to take him out of the closing lineup clearly doesn’t understand real coaching. Real coaching is not, ‘Let’s draw up this great shot for Klay Thompson.’ Real coaching is communicating with your players every day and feeding them confidence and treating them with respect and collaborating with them. If I went to Klay Thompson and said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re not in the closing lineup anymore,’ are you kidding me? What the hell are we even talking about?
“Sounds great on paper if he’s struggling and … everyone’s got their solution. But these guys are human beings and they’re not robots. So my belief in our players is a huge part of coaching, and I will ride with Klay forever.”
“It’s Klay Thompson. … He’s hung three banners,” Kerr said. “Not only does he deserve the respect, but he’s hung three banners. If we’re going to try to hang another one, it’s going to be him, it’s going to be Draymond, it’s going to be Steph. It’s the guys who have done it and the guys who are still capable of doing it. That’s who you lean on. Role players all have to play their roles. Everyone’s going to have to step up at different times. But championship runs, they’re keyed around the superstars. That’s just facts. I saw it as a player during my time. If Tim Duncan’s not in San Antonio, there’s no banners. If Michael Jordan’s not in Chicago, there’s no banners. Doesn’t matter what everybody else did.
“The stars have to be stars, and Klay is a star. My job is to help him play at the highest level that he can. I’m not benching him. It’s idiotic.”
Nate: I never understood people turning on Klay. As Kerr said in what Apricot quoted above, he helped the franchise hang three banners — at the very least the Warriors owed him the opportunity to see what he could do after rehab and give him some time to return to form.
You knew there would be an adjustment period. You had to know that there would be a little bit of a drop off defensively. But Klay is an ELITE shooter — his very presence on the court can make an offense more dynamic. So as something of an average defender and elite shooter, Klay was always going to be a starting caliber player. And where else are you going to get someone — like actually get, not just make a 2K trade — who can do what even a recovering Klay can give you?
And one more thing as I continue campaigning to make amends with the good citizens of Wiggins Island: Andrew Wiggins picked up a lot of the scoring and defensive slack that a guy like Klay might’ve offered in 2015. That doesn’t mean Klay was unnecessary, but does mean that there was less need to panic about Klay not returning to All-Star form.
PHOENIX SUNS ARE TOO GOOD
Daniel: This damn near ended all of our guy Joe V’s credibility as a Warrior blogboi. Dr. Tom and I IMMEDIATELY jumped on him in the Slack for tweeting out this white flag in the beginning of March, but in retrospect this take was actually held by a lot of “basketball minds”. And can you blame them? They had the best record in March! Every team in the history of basketball that had the #1 seed in March has cruised to a title … oh wait … that’s actually insane.
Fortunately Joe has repeatedly repented for this withering moment, and he’s back trailblazing on the path of basketball wisdom.
The Suns and Memphis are in a different class than the Dubs. The makeup of their teams have covered all the bases. No weaknesses for either. We cannot say that about the Warriors.
Basketbum - March 26th, 2022
Lmao WHAT?! Now I know our beloved friend Basketbum comes with some spicy hot takes occasionally, but this was one of the terrified comments I’ve seen at DNHQ. Meanwhile in reality, Phoenix was buried in Game 7 at home by the lower seeded Dallas Mavericks in the SECOND ROUND.
Apricot: I wasn’t afraid of PHX as a GSW matchup since we did just fine with them while affected by injuries. This isn’t even counting on a Chris Paul injury or in-game meltdown. A lot of their regular season success came from being better prepared and playing harder and more composed — all advantages that are lessened with the extra rest and prep time of the playoffs — and also winning a very unusual number of random endings. Some of that had to be straight luck. I thought PHX would take care of business against any other West team besides MEM and then GSW would win if we got by MEM. But all their luck and floppy karma got cashed in by the basketball gods in their DAL Game 7. Too bad.
(If you want to know whom I was afraid of, it was healthy Bucks and Grizzlies, and appropriate fear for the Celtics.)
Nate: Although I appreciate Daniel’s attempt to deploy stats in this piece, I’m not doing that for this one (only numbers I need are “4 games to 2 in 2022; 4th title in 8 years”).
The big issue for me was always that they thrive on making relatively high difficulty mid-range shots. That was fine in the regular season when you’re playing a mix of defenses, some of which are downright awful. In the playoffs, when the intensity and amount of time to scout ramps up, suddenly that becomes A LOT more difficult to win with.
And that’s what you saw against the Mavs (and, to an extent, against a play-in Pelicans team): once the defense started to take away bread and butter plays, they simply couldn’t consistently generate good looks. Pat Beverly scoffed at the notion that the Suns are full of stars and he was right: they don’t have guys who can go get shots when they need them consistently in the playoffs. Don’t believe me? Review the tape of Game 7.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know! Part II comes Saturday :)