The Warriors: The Fragile Present

The Numbers

  • Average Seed
    9
  • 📉 Pessimist
    29.7 wins
  • Realist
    38.3 wins
  • 📈 Optimist
    46.9 wins
First Seed
 
0.0%
Division
 
3.3%
Top 4
 
2.3%
👍 Over (49.5)
 
9.9%
👎 Under (49.5)
🎀 Playoffs

 

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Sun Tzu

(Editor Arturo's Note: In the interest of fairness, we decided to turn the Warriors to our friend, contributor and long suffering Warriors fan, Jeremy Britton. Take it away Jeremy.)

The Brief

Winning cures everything. Last season the Warriors' appeared to turn their ship around, winning 47 games and then upsetting the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. Now Steph Curry is a superstar, Klay Thompson seems poised to break out next, and Harrison Barnes has shown flashes of greatness--the team's future appears bright. 

The addition of all-star Andre Iguodala to the starting unit helps, but the losses of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry thin out their bench considerably. A lot rests on the fragile ankles of Curry and Andrew Bogut without a lot of support backing them up. Expect at best for the Warriors to match last season, but not improve on it. 

The Story

As we have pointed out previously, there appears to be nothing special about Warrior GM Bob Myers' principles for managing an NBA roster. Do their 47 victories last season and subsequent moves this off-season suggest otherwise? Can their young nucleus of Curry, Thompson, and Barnes mature? Shouldn't we expect an even more successful season next year? 

To understand what to expect, it's important to understand first the two things that drove Warrior wins last season: the health of Curry and Lee (together over 5,800 minutes played, producing over 20 wins), and bench support from Jack and Landry (over 4,000 minutes, producing another 12.6 wins): 

 

Last Year

  • Actual Wins: 47
  • Expected Wins: 43.3
  • Lucky Wins: 3.7

 

Player Minutes Age WP48 Wins
Stephen Curry 2983 25 .194 12.1
Klay Thompson 2936 24 .034 2.1
David Lee 2907 30 .132 8.0
Jarrett Jack 2349 30 .133 6.5
Harrison Barnes 2058 21 .060 2.6
Carl Landry 1876 30 .157 6.2
Festus Ezeli 1120 24 .083 1.9
Draymond Green 1061 23 .004 .1
Andrew Bogut 786 29 .148 2.4
Richard Jefferson 568 33 .082 1.0
Andris Biedrins 495 27 .141 1.5
Charles Jenkins 291 24 -.070 -.4
Kent Bazemore 267 24 -.069 -.4
Jeremy Tyler 63 22 -.180 -.3
Brandon Rush 25 28 -.092 0
Malcolm Thomas 21 24 .139 .1

Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.

  • 43.3 total Wins Produced
  • 8 players leaving
    (5688 minutes, 14.4 wins)

 

One high profile player that is not helping as much as advertised is Klay Thompson, a deeply flawed "pure shooter" who is exceptional at taking lots of shots, but curiously only average at turning those shots into points and not exceptional at anything else recorded in the boxscore. Thompson figures to log heavy minutes and demand lots of shots again this season. 

Harrison Barnes, their rookie small forward last season, garnered his share of attention too. The good news for Warrior fans is that he is not as unproductive as Thompson. Instead, Barnes was almost average for a rookie small forward. What will be interesting is seeing how he develops behind Thompson and Iguodala, where we project his minutes significantly reduced this season. 

If Curry, Lee and others like Bogut remain healthy all year, that bodes quite well for the Warriors. That is a big "if" though. The team has already lost second-year center Festus Ezeli from the start of the season. Since hope is not a plan, the Warriors better have productive replacements lined up on the bench, right? Let's see how they prepared by filling out their roster. 

 

This Year

  • Projected Wins: 38.3
  • Conference Rank: 9
  • % Playoffs: 33.4

 

Player Position Minutes Age WP48 Wins
Stephen Curry 1.0 2828 25 .178 10.5
Andre Iguodala 2.4 2636 30 .197 10.8
David Lee 4.5 2622 30 .087 4.7
Klay Thompson 2.0 2193 24 .035 1.6
Andrew Bogut 5.0 1847 29 .127 4.9
Harrison Barnes 3.0 1484 21 .082 2.5
Jermaine O'Neal 5.0 1301 35 .004 .1
Toney Douglas 1.2 1134 27 .051 1.2
Marreese Speights 4.6 927 26 .035 .7
Festus Ezeli 5.0 752 24 .096 1.5
Draymond Green 3.6 635 23 .022 .3
Nemanja Nedovic 1.0 495 22 .055 .6
Kent Bazemore 1.9 373 24 -.056 -.4
Seth Curry 2.0 264 23 .036 .2
Ognjen Kuzmic 5.0 182 23 .055 .2

Indicates that the player is new to the team.

  • 📅 40.7 WP last year
    by these players
  • 🔀 -.7 WP (roster changes)
  • -3.2 WP (age/experience)

 

Unfortunately the Warriors not only lost Jack and Landry, they replaced them with an erratic Toney Douglas, a never productive Marreese Speights, and an is-he-still-really-playing-basketball Jermaine O'Neal--a trio forecast to produce only two wins between them in a lot of minutes! This represents a reduction of 10.6 wins for comparable Jack/Landry minutes off the bench, which explains our tempered enthusiasm for this team's chances this season (only a 33% chance of even making the playoffs).

If we look closer at their bench players between last season and this season it is easy to understand why. At point guard the Warriors trade Jack's well-rounded above-average skills for a mixed bag from Toney Douglas. In particular Douglas' penchant for committing fouls, poor shooting, and low assists will make fans miss what Jack brought. On the front line the Warriors lose Landry's remarkable overall shooting and gain two poor-shooting, foul-prone front line players who at least rebound OK. 

Best case scenario? Assuming this roster remains intact, the Warriors' rosiest outcome would come if Curry, Iguodala, Lee, and Bogut remain completely healthy all season; if Lee maintains above-average productivity (I believe our model may overly penalize him); and if young players like Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and rookies Nemanja Nedovic and Ognjen Kuzmic exceed expectations. This is all certainly possible, though also unlikely.

The Warriors will most likely be somewhat worse than they were last season. If one or more of the Warriors' main stars re-injures themselves and misses several games, this will provide a popular explanation for the setback overall. However, the real explanation will be the depleted bench without Jack and Landry. Unless the Warriors address this, they are likely to disappoint this year.

It's tempting to argue with Jeremy. Jeremy has provided some of the most thoughtful Warriors analysis the last couple of seasons. And the team has proceeded to defy Jeremy's predictions. Is there much to disagree with here? Well there are only three major areas: David Lee could produce more (of course, Jeremy already mentioned that), Bogut could be healthier, and Klay and Barnes might be more productive. Even if these all happen though, the Warriors still aren't as strong as projected.

The Warriors first problem is that their stars aren't at the same caliber as those of other teams. Yes, I love Iguodala and Curry but they're just outside of the top sphere. Their second problem is that they have no depth. None of their rotation players are expected to be above average. In the west, that's just not going to be enough. The only way the Warriors upset Jeremy a third time is by getting amazing overproduction from several players. It could happen, but I wouldn't count on it.

I don't think you're being overly pessimistic about David Lee. Back when he was filling up the stat sheets as a WP darling he was doing it by banging inside, getting to the rim and fighting for great rebounding position. After his freak elbow injury he was never the same in that regard. Now in response to his latest injury he's working on shooting 3's.

Thompson has the skill set to be a premiere "3 and D" guy, he just keeps messing it up by putting the ball on the floor. I fear at this point it might be too late for him.

With the Ezeli injury this team is ultra reliant on Bogut remaining healthy - as much as the popular press loves to talk about their starters, the bench is a black hole, especially at the 4 and 5, and if it has to chew major minutes this team is going to sink fast.
I'm pulling for Draymond Green as a potential X-factor here. If he can improve his FG% and PF rates, both of which, I think, are relatively variable, he could possibly be a really strong WP contributor. I hope!
This projection repeats the same doomsday errors of last year and the WOW summer projections. I believe that one should be conservative in assigning values, factor in health and coaching tendencies. My own number came out to 47.4 wins with no Dub playing more than 70 games, only Curry above .150 wp48, and role players at .050.

But let's use the above projected minutes. The wp48 for Lee and Thompson are unreasonably low. When I pencil in fair values the wins projection climbs to 48.5.

At least the team minutes are about correct, as opposed to the Clippers total, which is 642 minutes (25+ overtimes!) above the correct season team total. There are a few extra wins in that computation, I think.
I do think that Lee's predicted dropoff is a little harsh, but this worries me.

Best case scenario: Iggy takes over 38 MPG between SG and SF, Barnes takes the balance at SF and PF, and Thompson is sold for a good return (either a quality backup PG or a quality backup PF/C).
Can anyone think of a team that'd like to take on Lee + Thompson?

This'd be a high-risk move, but if the Lakers would dump Pau for those two, it could be beautiful. Better interior D with the same quality big man passing and low-post scoring that they already have. And Pau's contract expires at the end of the year.

Other Lee + Thompson trade ideas:

Varejao and Gee
Thad Young and whoever
Thompson for Reggie Evans (mmmmmm)





That's a pretty significant drop in per minute production for Lee. He's been an up and down player, but the model seems a bit harsh on him.
What makes you think the projected WP48 for Klay Thompson is unreasonably low dr_john?

There's no question he has upside. He's brilliant from 3 (40+% 3-point shooting for his career) and his defensive stats are solid. The problem is that he's brutal from 2 (sub-45% 2-point shooting for his career); that he actually gets *worse* as he gets closer to the basket (shooting
That said, he did take a higher percentage of his shots from beyond the arc last year; and, perhaps, with Iggy on the team he'll have the ball in his hands less (and less opportunity to do something stupid). If he spent the summer re-tooling his game in the mold of Kyle Korver's I'd be happy to pencil him in at an above average WP48.

I just won't believe it until I see it.
On Klay: Assuming Klay is stuck in .035-land will be wrong. From the end of last year and through this pre-season, I think a better guess is -- drum roll -- Average. Yes, .100. Whoo hoo!

OK, maybe not a great wp48. But remember, Mark Jackson loves Klay Thompson to the tune of major minutes. By the time this is all over Harrison will be getting PF minutes and Jackson will be finding more than 35 minutes for each of Iguodala, Thompson and Barnes --- for better or worse.

Speights and Lee will be joining O'Neal for center minutes. The biggest question will be at the other end---what will the ball be doing when Curry is off floor?

Just rolling some numbers I gave:
.200 Curry
.150 Lee, Bogut, Iguodala
.100 Thompson, Barnes
.050 the rest

Call me an optimist?
I think they lost a lot in Landry and Jack. There's a reason why Landry and Jack combined make more than Iggy and it's not that anyone's contract #s are unfair. I do not like the look of a Toney Douglas, Mareese Speights and Jermaine O'Neal triple team.

The Warriors are tricky because even with my doubts about them, the best case scenario is still quite high if Bogut stayed healthy and rocked and if Klay and Barnes both took a big leap forward in production. But there's a lot of ifs around the Warriors. If they missed the playoffs it would not surprise me.

On note about Iggy. One of the reasons I didn't like the contract is that he's about to turn 30 and looks like the type of player who could fall off quickly. Iggy is older than Gerald Wallace when he signed that cray cray deal with the Nets and he's played more minutes already than present day Gerald Wallace. The worst case scenario for that contract is very bad.
The wild card I'm most interested in is Draymond Green. His rebounding and defensive numbers were incredibly sexy, but his shooting was dreadful from all over the court.

Was that bad luck on an inconsistent stat, or is he just unable to shoot in the pros? If he bounces back even halfway towards the mean on his shooting it'll make a huge difference for the Warriors off the bench.
Can't stop thinking of trades...

Thompson + Lee for Asik + Lin.

I don't know if there's another one out there that I'd prefer to that.

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