Champions defend their trophy. In every sport, it is always the winner with the most to lose. It is hard to repeat, especially in basketball, but the expectation is that the defending champions are always in the hunt and competing for that next ring. Not floundering at the bottom of the division. Yet, the Golden State Warriors, with arguably one of the most balanced roster, have fallen out of the play-in and are coming off of two 30+ point losses in their trip to New York.
How the Champions have Fallen
For a team as stacked as the Warriors, it would seem as though they should always be hovering among the top in the West. Not only do they have the Splash Bros in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but they also have rising stars in Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins. You would think that scoring buckets would be almost easy for this team, but much of the production for this team has come from Curry explosion. He is carrying this team with 30 ppg, with only three other players hitting double digit point averages. This was also not helped by the lackluster shooting of Klay Thompson, shooting 39% from the field, who just hasn’t been able to find his form since coming back from injury. The team was able to pull out wins against close teams, though, as Curry was able to will this team to wins and keep them competitive. There were still problems, but Curry was buying the team time to figure out and fix the problems before the late season grind. What has really started to sink this team is the current injury to Curry, and lack of offensive spark to replace him. While Wiseman dropped 30 against Brooklyn and Poole dropped 26 against New York, there is no supporting offense. Without a second playmaker, there is no one to make plays once a defense keys in on the hot hand for the Warriors.
The Big Problem
Yes offense has been a big issue for this team, but the Warriors aren’t going to be doing any winning with how their defense has been performing. They have given up multiple 120+ point games and it looks like there are defensive cracks all over the team. With the 28th ranked defense in the league, the Warriors have lost the team defense that helped them make it all the way last year. The return of James Wiseman was meant to give this team a boost downlow, and yet their defense has been struggling so far. The smaller, offensive minded guards that the Warriors play has hurt them as they now can’t match up on defense. This was a problem for the Warriors, and yet they were able to fix the problem with good defensive play from Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and a team effort defensively. Now the Warriors are relying on much older Klay, and a team without the defensive cohesion as years passed. It is up to Steve Kerr to right the ship and get the team playing contender level defense to go along with the plethora of offensive options they have available.
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images