The Warriors and the New Paradigm in Basketball
By Dennis Loo (6/7/16)
New standards for the highest level in a sport or any other arena come along periodically. In football the Vince Lombardi “establish the ground game first” and use the pass as a supplement to the ground game was initially challenged by Al Davis and John Madden’s 1970s’ Oakland Raiders’ whose philosophy was to score and score and score, on the conviction that they could outscore any team that was trying to grind out a ground game win Lombardi style. Then came Bill Walsh (who along with Madden had trained in the Sid Gilman coaching tree) who developed the “West Coast Offense” that the 1980s’ San Francisco 49ers had such great success with and that has become football’s philosophy to this day.
In these past two NBA seasons we are seeing the early stages of a new paradigm being spearheaded by the Warriors. Whether the Dubs’ coaching staff is fully conscious about this paradigm as what they are doing is unclear, but it is definitely a new model for basketball that others are going to have to try to emulate if they intend to compete for the title.
The Warriors this season set the record for most regular season wins ever and is going to set the regular season plus playoffs record too. Cleveland is not just suffering from being from the weaker Eastern Conference. Despite having LeBron James, a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavs are on the losing end of the Warriors’ game style.
What is that style and why is it going to be the new model?
Ball movement is key to their offense and their ability to blow away previous records for 3-point efficiency with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. They have overturned the previous basketball dictum that the team that wins the rebounding battle wins the game. They lost the rebounding numbers to OKC but still won the series.
Curry and Thompson are not just stand outside the arc sharpshooters (which head coach Steve Kerr was as a Bulls’ player) like Kyle Korver but immensely mobile passers and drivers. Defenders have to respect every one of those options, too many for even superstar teams to cover all eventualities.
While the Splash Brothers are the two best shooters in basketball history, their impact on the game with their skillsets will eventually affect the game the way that Tiger Woods affected golf. For a while he stood head and shoulders above the competition but eventually other elite players rose to his level.
Several players on the Warriors are in fact able to combine the passing and shooting skills of someone who can dish and who can create their own shot when needed (e.g., Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, last year’s playoffs MVP Andre Iguoadala), making it impossible for opposing teams to key on one or two players. Draymond Green can play D against any position, including often the opposing sides 7-foot center, and then come down and hit a three. And Iguoadala is an exceptional defender too and a major offensive threat.
There isn’t a better team defense than the Warriors and a spark for their offense is their ability to block shots, steal the ball, and frustrate others’ offensive schemes with their ability to put players in switches. The two best defenders in the league in fact are Thompson and Green. With their ball movement and raining threes from anywhere, they wear other teams down so that even if they’re behind, by the latter two quarters the other side is vulnerable for their surging ahead.
Klay Thompson is right that they are better than Showtime Lakers and the 1996 Chicago Bulls. No other team in history poses the diverse threats that this Warriors’ team does. If Showtime Lakers played at their peak the current Warriors it would not be even a fair contest.
While Curry has no peer in his ball handling abilities and shooting touch, the model that this Warriors presents is the new norm in the NBA and it is only a matter of time before the basketball world catches on and attempts to emulate it as best as they can.