The Warriors are known for their offense, and rightfully so. During their dynastic run, led by superstar guard Stephen Curry, Golden State looked more like the Globetrotters than an NBA club at times, running circles around the opponent before hitting an easy layup or amazing 3-point shot.
But since coach Steve Kerr took the helm in 2014-15, and before that, as well, with former coach Mark Jackson, the Warriors’ incredible success has always started on the defensive end, led in that department by forward Draymond Green, guard Klay Thompson and, at the run’s all-important start, center Andrew Bogut.
It’s the defense leads to the Globetrotter-type stuff. It’s an incredibly simple and effective formula, punctuated by the skills of Curry, who of course thrives on offense.
And though Thompson is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon and Golden State will miss his defense and scoring ability tremendously, and Bogut is long-gone and retired, Kerr is still focused on defense.
After one preseason game, a 107-105 victory over the Nuggets at Chase Center, the returns are solid. The Warriors played strong defense to close the game, according to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle.
This was important progress for a team that, after owning the league’s fifth-worst defense last season, aspires to rank among the top 10 in that category even with guard Klay Thompson — the Warriors’ best perimeter defender — out for the season with a torn right Achilles tendon. Golden State was quick switching off screens and putting hands on shooters Saturday.
“It’s going to be a lot quicker to come at the defensive end than at the offensive end,” Kerr said. “I think we’ve preached that, and our guys have picked that up right away first week of practice. We are a defensive-minded team.”
Defense first is how the Kerr era started, and he’s sticking with his philosophy, which has worked wonders. In this first year as Warriors coach, Golden State was first in the NBA in defensive rating on their way to the NBA title, after inheriting a club with the No. 3 rating on defense.
The Warriors ranked in the top 10 in defensive rating the next two seasons, winning another championship 2017. But Golden State slipped to 11th best in defense the next two seasons, pickin up a third title in 2018 thanks to a loaded roster including forward Kevin Durant. During the injury-riddled 2019-2020 campaign, the Warriors defense fell apart, falling to fifth-worse in the NBA, as Letourneau noted.
But with a roster stacked with players owning extra-long wingspans, such as wings/guards Kelly Oubre and Andrew Wiggins, rookie center James Wiseman and mainstay, Draymond Green, Kerr has visions of a return to the top-10 in the NBA defensive rankings.
It’s important the players buy in, and why wouldn’t they? The Warriors still possess a rich tradition of championships, and Kerr’s formula is proven: defense first. Second: perform incredibly amazing feats on offense, led by Curry. And of course third, hoist the Larry O’Brian trophy once more as they have three times under Kerr’s direction.