Warriors Mythbusters Part II: Trophies over Doubts
Winning isn't everything. IT'S THE ONLY THING!
Welcome back to DNHQ’s victory lap. Part I of this series took the world by storm. The comments were popping like bacon grease, and we even got some love on the Twittersphere:
Now we’re back for Part II and we’ve got Dr. Tom Henny’ed up and activated. Without further ado, let’s take a deeper dive into the noise that surrounded a championship squad and the narratives that tried to steal Dub Nation’s courage.
THEY CAN’T WIN WITHOUT ADDING ANOTHER BIG MAN
Daniel: This game recap after Hassan Whiteside completely destroyed the Dubs during the regular season probably best encapsulates the fever pitch around Dub Nation demanding another center, check the comments!
Apricot: I don’t have a problem with this topic in principle. You wouldn’t be able to get a big man who would change the playoffs, but you could have a minutes soaker behind Looney and Draymond who would serve to reduce injury risk. But as it turns out Draymond / Looney with occasional Bjelica was enough defense to win a title.
Also, what kind of big would we really be able to get? Can you imagine the pitch? “Hi, we want you to be the fourth backup center behind Draymond and Looney and Bjelica, and also if our mystery date James Wiseman shows up, you’ll be the fifth center.” But we love you, please choose us.
In the end, with all these hypotheticals, I always say, show me some specifics. You can’t complain bitterly about not getting a big without naming at least one possible big. Give us something, otherwise it’s just complaining that Myers didn’t trade for a unicorn you saw in a dream.
Dr. Tom: Also, as I believe I talked about on our Vidcast after Game 4, the way the roster had to be this season for the Warriors meant there wasn’t room for a big. Because Klay didn’t come back until late in the regular season and you had to really ease him back into things, the Warriors needed to carry a lot of guards.
It was akin to what they did with big men during the 2017-2019 teams. You needed those Damion Lee minutes in that middle part of the regular season before Klay came back. And I think we’re all glad they took a chance on Gary Payton II. If they didn’t have to approach the roster in this way and with these concerns, maybe they would’ve added a big on a minimum contract at some point.
But that wasn’t how things were going to work this season by virtue of circumstance and the peculiarities of the roster.
Nate: I find this one considerably less annoying. The obvious response during last off-season was that a big rotation of Looney, Dray, and James Wiseman should be sufficient to get through the playoffs. Once it was clear that wasn’t happening, yeah… I mean … things looked tough. And so I think the concern was legit.
But three somewhat surprising things rendered it entirely wrong: first, Ironman Kevon Looney miraculously playing every single game of the season (make a Last Dance-style documentary about his journey from chronically injured to playing every game in a title run and I’m watching every minute).
Second, Bjelica was quite solid early in the season when they were undefeated all those games (seems like 84 years and 19 Suns titles ago, but yes — the Warriors began the season undefeated).
Third, and probably mostly surprising, Wiggins was an incredible rebounder in the playoffs and had a series-high 8.8 rebounds in the Finals, which mitigated the problem of not having a big. Again,
I couldn’t really have predicted all of that, but the legs of hand-wringing over it was absurd when you consider the fact that there wasn’t some All-Star caliber big just waiting to come to the Warriors.
Daniel: I brought this topic up to a Warriors fanatic I hung out with at the parade. She squinted in disbelief that this was even a thing and retorted, “Yeah when you have shooters who can defend and rebound you don’t need hella big men”.
HELLO! I’ll never worry about this question again as long as the Warriors can still shoot and defend while playing small.
WHATEVER QUANTITATIVE CRACK INSPIRED HOLLINGER/538/ESPN’S ODDS MAKER
Apricot: This deserves its own article but GSW this season and playoffs consistently outperformed the plus-minus type models (538, ESPN) and also that Shot Quality model. 538 and ESPN really called their shot crowing in the playoffs about how likely it was GSW was going to lose despite the betting $ being on GSW.
It would have been a huge coup for them if GSW lost. So it’s only right that each modeler have a public autopsy on the failure of their model.
Part of it has to be that GSW wasn’t healthy until the middle of the first round. But that doesn’t explain why they missed so badly on the GSW regular season.
Nate: Agreed this is worthy of a whole article, but my bottom line is that I think these people need to provide some context to the numbers to help people understand their models. 538 did that in one of their running chats before the Finals and I really appreciated it. They explained how the models just couldn’t account for so many surprise factors that went the Warriors way and it actually makes sense when you think of it that way.
But ESPN should be absolutely embarrassed for putting out those graphics with huge numbers proclaiming that the Celtics were heavy favorites to win.
STEPH IS IN DECLINE
Stephen Curry is the greatest basketball player alive, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t put up some of the worst shooting clunkers of his life during the doldrums of this regular season.
Then again I’m sure if you saw me at my day job there’d be quite a few days where I didn’t flip the burger patties at my normal elite pace #haveityourway. Anyways, apparently that got people wondering if he was WASHED UP.
Meanwhile Curry won the All-Star Game MVP, the Western Conference Finals MVP, the NBA Finals MVP, and his fourth NBA title. He averaged 27/5/6 on 46% shooting from the field and 39% shooting from deep in the postseason. THAT’S A DECLINE?!
And he wasn’t doing that against plumbers and mailmen: did you know that three outta the four defenses he faced in the playoffs ranked in the top-10 during the regular season?
WIGGINS CAN’T BE COUNTED ON
Dr. Tom: Daniel and I were way ahead of the curve on this one or at least in identifying that Wiggins isn’t quite as bad as certain people thought. For a point of reference, I give you something catastrophically stupid and yet still not in the Top 5 Most Dense Things ever uttered by the person in question:
From the moment he joined the Warriors, Wiggins looked much better than he did in Minnesota (playing with Karl-Anthony Towns will do that to you) but the questions would linger until he did it in the playoffs. And in the 2022 playoffs Wiggins rebuffed all those who would doubt him.
His offense was exactly what the Warriors needed to compliment Curry and his energy, relentlessly crashing the glass for rebounds, was a sight to behold. Then, of course, there was this.
But we knew Wiggins had this potential in him. What surprised even me, the co-president of Wiggins Island, was his defense.
I was looking at the stats from the Western Conference Finals against (Nick
Wright Wrong’s beloved) Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks. Wiggins was the primary defender on Doncic during that series.
You look at Dončić’s stat line—yes he did average 32 points per game in that series but he did so on 41.5% shooting (when he was a 45.7% shooter in the regular season). I’m sure someone who’s never set foot on a basketball court will tell me that field goal percentage isn’t a good metric, but I digress.
In the Finals, Jayson Tatum (who shot 45.3% from the field in the regular season) posted a 36.7% shooting percentage. In these two series, as these star players struggled, you heard the chatter of “oh just wait for them to break out of this slump!”
But maybe it wasn’t a slump. Maybe this was the effect of Wiggins’ defense and thus it is time to recognize that he is someone who can be the primary defender for an elite team.
Nate: Okaaaay — I’m sorry. I already apologized. Damn. Let it go.
COACH KERR IS TOO PREDICTABLE AND STUBBORN
Nate:… all the haggling over minutes and rotations IN FEBRUARY … when they didn't even have their full team healthy … my god … that shit was dumb AF lol
Dr. Tom: I’m not even going to address how aggressively stupid saying Kerr is “like an extreme leftist” when talking about a basketball coach and a game plan. It’s almost impressive how dense that is.
But to the actual point, and those who would kvetch about Kerr’s methods while not absolutely spamming Curry in the pick-and-roll à la your iso ball favorite, I’m left wondering… so was I the only person who actually paid attention to The Last Dance and what Phil Jackson had to say about the triangle and why they ran it?
“The spotlight is on the ball. If you’re the guy that’s always going to have the ball, teams can generate a defense against that.”
No matter how great one player is, if they’re going up against another very good team (which, in the playoffs, you’ll end up doing) and that opponent knows what you’re going to do they’re going to find a way to stop you. Maybe not the player in question, but the team and that’s what it is all about (maybe not for Jim Park though if all he cares about is this individualistic stuff maybe he should just play 2K and leave reality behind).
Running any kind of system will take away ever-so-slightly from that star player’s numbers (as Jackson told Michael Jordan, “I don’t anticipate you’re going to be the scoring champion in the league”) and over the course of a long regular season there might be games that slip away.
But in the playoffs, when the teams are better and well-rested and focused on an opponent, you want to have that system and the conviction to stick with it. Jordan didn’t win titles with Doug Collins, he won them with Jackson.
So though it might frustrate some viewers, Kerr’s system (run confidently, which takes repetitions) is necessary if you want to see the Warriors win championships.
THE WARRIORS DIDN’T END THE REGULAR SEASON PLAYING WELL AND THAT’S A BAD SIGN FOR THE PLAYOFFS
Per Andre Iguodala’s conversation with Steve Kerr on the “Point Forward” podcast, the Warriors were 4-10 combined against their playoff opponents during the regular season. Apparently, that’s the worst record of all time for a champion vs their opponents. Interesting.
In the postseason that flipped to 16-6 against Denver, Memphis, Dallas, and Boston.
Nate: Shamefully silly take that the Warriors had already proven silly when Earl Watson proclaimed they’d lose to the Spurs or some nonsense in the first round. Just awful.
But also, my biggest gripe with this was that THEY HADN’T PLAYED TOGETHER ALL SEASON AS A FULL TEAM. Like they didn’t even start their starting lineup until halfway through the first round because Curry was coming back from injury.
So why are we judging the team on regular season games when they weren’t at full health and still acclimating to Klay coming back (this was a HUGE issue for Wiggins especially that I don’t think people can fully appreciate without considering how well he played in the Finals). It was just not a sound position to stand on.
THE DUBS WERE DONE AFTER GOING DOWN 2-1 TO THE CELTICS IN THE FINALS
“The Celtics are bigger stronger younger more athletic, all of it. You look at it and you’re almost like how is Golden State going to win this series? Unless Steph goes for 40, Klay goes for 20, and I’ve said this over and over to you guys, I don’t trust Andrew Wiggins. His statline always looks better than how he plays to me. To mehe’s gotta step up and be a #2 guy and I don’t think he’s capable of doing that for a championship team”.
“The only way the Golden State Warriors are going to win this series is if the Celtics beat themselves. They’ve got so much going for them and the only way they lose is if they screw this up themselves”.
- Bob Ryan, Jeff Goodman & Gary Tanguay recap Game 3 of the NBA Finals where the Celtics defeated the Warriors 116-100 to take a 2-1 series lead in the 2022 NBA Finals.
Woww and people get mad at me for being an arrogant homer! Out there in Boston they were already preaching the eulogy for the Dubs after three games!!
Our beloved community member Rcknfn encapsulated the dread of many Dub Nation members in the recap thread to Game 3’s loss: “Steph's injury and Dray's up/down mental/emotional swings makes it feel like winning 3 out of remaining 4 is gonna be next to impossible. Also I think there is a undertow of feeling that this may be the last chance for OGs given how hard it is to get back to finals.”
Meanwhile, apparently the Golden State Warriors themselves were a bit more confident per the words of championship alumni Festus Ezeli:
We know what happened next: those resilient Warriors won three straight games to close out the Finals and put the Celtics to bed.
Happy? Salty? Let us know in the comments! Thank you for helping us be “the best Warriors coverage out there”!