The Golden State Warriors, now on an 8-game win streak, are rolling through teams at a dominant pace. Though they’ve been playing some–if we’re being honest–lesser opposition as of late, they’re cruising through teams without three of their five starters. With Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Zaza Pachulia out for the near future, former MVP Kevin Durant has taken it upon himself to play basketball at a level that’s matched–and in some ways exceeded–his MVP season. Over the past 5 games, Durant has averaged a ridiculous 30.8 points, 6.8 assists, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks; to compare, his MVP season numbers were 32 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.5 assists, with his block numbers not even close, a sign of his increasing assertiveness to be isolated as the NBA’s best two-way player.
But the unsung hero of the Warriors’ success has been their bench. The Warriors’ bench is so deep that they could be a mid-table team in the Eastern Conference without the Big 4 of Curry, Durant, Green, and Klay Thompson. Let’s take a look into the how the best team in the league’s bench has solidified into a unit that can be so electric and efficient.
Jordan Bell, Omri Casspi, and the curious case of David West
We’ll discuss two of these guys first–Bell and Casspi–because even though they’ve already been tapped to be replacement starters in lieu of Green and Pachulia respectively, they’ve earned the most minutes in Steve Kerr‘s rotations. Both fit into the Warriors’ system perfectly while adding their own flair; Bell with his tenacious, try-hard defense and Casspi with his collected, smart playmaking.
What’s bewildering is how David West, the oldest player on the Warriors’ roster, has been red-hot all season. His mid-range jumper, consistently an automatic shot throughout his career, has been going in more than ever recently. When paired with Bell, the two are shooting a kind of unbelievable 70% from the field while playing old school bang-up defense.
David West this season: 83-of-124 FG, 67 percent
Jordan Bell this season: 50-of-67 FG, 75 percent
Combined: 133-of-191, 70 percent
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 15, 2017
At a ripe 37 years old, West is looking springier and more energetic, managing to even pull out poster dunks like the one below that almost erase the concept of time as we know it; he’s playing like his prime self, like New Orleans David West but with a much better surrounding cast.
Elite offense and defense; the complete package
According to NBA.com’s advanced stats, the Warriors currently lead the NBA in offensive rating and are second only to the Boston Celtics in defensive rating. Their ability to control both ends of the floor night in and night out are is supplemented by the bench’s help. The Warriors’ bench unit is fourth in assists, ninth in rebounds, and first in field goal percentage compared to the other bench units in the league. Their productivity has elevated the immense play of the starters.
Room for improvement
While they’ve done many things well, the bench is often responsible for giving up large leads late into the game. For example, a second quarter rotation consisting of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, Klay Thompson, and David West may struggle to score without Durant’s lethal isolation game or Curry’s slippery gravity drawing multiple defenders to him. Even with the on-and-off firepower of Nick Young, and especially with Casspi’s reluctance to shoot three’s at the pace with which he drained them in prior seasons, the offense can become stagnant when running through Klay Thompson or Shaun Livingston. The key for this Warriors bench to consistently be this efficient is to focus on keeping the pace of the game favorable to the uptempo movement by which the Warriors thrive.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Golden State Warriors article is published, fill out our email notification form.