A head coach would normally have to dig deep and get creative to find things to improve on a team like the Golden State Warriors. And yet, even the defending NBA champs have one very obvious weakness: sloppiness.
For all of the Warriors’ greatness on both ends of the floor, turnovers and errant passes have been a constant flaw. The Warriors’ explosive offense sometimes plays into the other team’s hands when they get a little too careless with the ball.
So, headed into his fourth season as head coach, Steve Kerr sees one obvious area for improvement. According to The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, Kerr is returning to basics this training camp and trying to improve the Warriors’ passing accuracy.
“We are the most unselfish team around,” Kerr told Slater. “But we’re probably an average passing team in terms of fundamentals … We should be a better passing team.”
Last season, the Warriors set an NBA record for offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) and finished fifth all-time in assists per game, according to Basketball-Reference. They also ranked 20th in turnover percentage.
Kerr is right that the Warriors are unselfish – it’s not uncommon to see Golden State string together multiple passes, the ball pinging from player to player, until they find an open shot – but they sometimes get carried away or become too loose with their accuracy.
According to Slater, the Warriors were 33-3 last season, including the playoffs, when they committed 12 or fewer turnovers. Conversely, they were 50-13 when they had at least 13 turnovers.
It’s not just turnovers, however, as Kerr noted to Slater, errant passes can also affect a shot. If Klay Thompson has to reach below his waist or above his shoulders to catch a pass, it can mess with his precise shooting motion and lead to a miss. If Zaza Pachulia has to reach for a pass, he can loose his flow and blow a layup.
An example, via Slater:
Kerr told Slater that when he played on the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, fundamental passing drills were a part of training camps, despite how trivial they seemed.
“In Chicago, I’ll never forget, one of my first practices with Michael (Jordan) and Scottie (Pippen), Tex had us line up at half court and had us throwing two-hand chest passes back and forth to each other. One-hand pass, left-hand pass, bounce pass. I thought ‘What is this? Third grade. You have two of the best players on Earth passing back and forth to each other.’ But it was a good reminder that fundamentals matter, no matter how old you are.”
The Warriors averaged 1.13 points per possession last year, the highest mark in the league, per NBA.com/Stats. Remove some of those off-the-mark passes and turnovers, and there’s the chance that the Warriors offense will be even scarier.