3 reasons for Warriors optimism: Klay Thompson is cooking, defense is clicking entering postseason

Sportem
Sportem
7 Min Read

The Golden State Warriors are making a surge but it hasn’t yet resulted in any sort of meaningful movement in the standings. In winning nine of their past 10 games, they’ve merely gone from No. 10 to 9 on the play-in ledger, which means they would still have to win two elimination games to secure the No. 8 seed, which, in turn, would mean a likely first-round matchup with the Nuggets. 

Not great. 

But there is reason for optimism if you’re a Golden State fan clinging to the hope of what could be a final playoff run for the Curry/Thompson/Green trio — depending on whether Thompson resigns with the team this summer. 

One, the Warriors are currently tied with the Kings for the No. 8 seed. They both have two games to play. Sacramento owns the tiebreaker in both two- and three-team scenarios so Golden State needs to finish one game up on the Kings. It’s doable. The Warriors play New Orleans and Utah. The Kings play Phoenix and Portland. 

If the Warriors grab the No. 8 seed and win their first play-in game, which are two big ifs, then we can start to think about potential first-round upsets over Minnesota or OKC in a 2-7 matchup, and from there, who knows? Below are three reasons for Warriors playoff optimism other than the obvious “they have Stephen Curry” — which is actually the biggest reason for hope. 

1. Defense is clicking

The Warriors’ dynastic heyday was popularly defined by offense, but defense was actually the bedrock of their domination. This season’s unit isn’t anywhere close to the core that boasted the likes of prime Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut. Still, it’s pretty damn good and getting better with the insertion of Trayce Jackson-Davis into the starting lineup. 

Since the All-Star break, the Warriors have had the sixth-best defense in the league. The five-man unit of Curry, Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Green, and Jackson-Davis has an impregnable 94.0 defensive rating. Although that lineup has only played 60 minutes together, it has outscored opponents by 22 points per 100 possessions. 

The key is Jackson-Davis’ ability to take the opposing big assignment as an athletic rim protector, which then allows Green to roam in his preferred instinctual/improvisational role without concern for leaving the rim vacated. 

Following Golden State’s victory over Houston on April 4, Steve Kerr said the Jackson-Davis/Draymond pairing has “changed our team.” The numbers, albeit in small samples, back that up. 

“It allows me to take more chances,” Green said of playing alongside Jackson-Davis. “Not necessarily chances gambling for a steal, but to clog the paint up, make extra rotations. If I’m the [center], I’m the last line of defense. The things that I do off of instinct, reading the game on the fly, it’s hard to do that at the five because you’re anchoring everybody. So if I just run over here to cover up something but I’m the five, that’s leaving the rim unprotected. But if I know the rim is protected with Trayce, I’ll just go do it.”

2. Klay Thompson is cooking

If you stopped paying attention to Thompson when he was getting removed from the starting lineup amid depressing signs that his career as a high-end NBA player was spiraling to an end, you’ve missed quite a turnaround. 

Since the All-Star break, Thompson is shooting 42% from 3 on over nine attempts per game. That’s a 61 true-shooting percentage — elite stuff and better than Stephen Curry over that span. 

Thompson, who has made at least five 3-pointers in half of his last eight games, was reinserted into the starting lineup in late March against Miami, and since that time he’s averaging over 21 points on 51/41 shooting splits. 

Playing the aforementioned Jackson-Davis/Green pairing together creates a spacing cramp with both of those guys being non-shooters (although Draymond is shooting 3s with much greater confidence at a 38 percent clip on low volume), which can only be surmounted if Thompson and Curry, and preferably a third shooter as well, are connecting consistently. 

With Thompson shooting like this, the Warriors are infinitely more dangerous. 

3. Health

This sounds generic, but injuries end up impacting a large swath of playoff series. The Warriors are healthy heading into the postseason. 

Gary Payton II, who moves the needle of this team as much as anyone off the bench, is back. Kerr has been careful not to push Curry’s minutes. Green and Thompson are fresh. 

Brandin Podziemski, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody are babies and can run forever. Chris Paul is as ready to go as he can be at 38 years old (about to turn 39 in May). Andrew Wiggins is playing under 30 minutes a game and has looked pretty damn good of late. 

Steve Kerr has said all season that he really likes this team. That’s only true at full strength, which Golden State is going to be at when it enters the postseason. It sounds like a down year to finish in the No. 9 or 10 seed, but the West is stacked. The Warriors could end up winning 47 games. That’s a pretty good team that could potentially peak at a higher ceiling with all its weapons at its disposal. 

Looking for more NBA coverage? John Gonzalez, Bill Reiter, Ashley Nicole Moss and special guests dive deep into the league’s biggest storylines daily on the Beyond the Arc podcast.



Source link

Find Us on Socials

Share this Article
Leave a comment