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Five Questions with Golden State of Mind

We got with SB Nation’s Warriors blog to ask them about tonight’s game.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors are coming to town, so, like we did with the Blazers on Thursday, we reached out to our sister SB Nation site, Golden State of Mind, to get their thoughts on the season so far and the matchup with the Grizzlies.

I got with GSoM writer Duby Dub Dubs and asked him five questions.

1. There’s been a lot made about Draymond Green and his tendency to wind up with his foot in places it shouldn’t be. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think it’s intentional, or does he just flail more than average NBA players?

I knew this question was coming! Look, the thing is that it has clearly become an issue. We wouldn’t be talking about it (and fans wouldn’t be complaining) if this wasn’t an issue. It is, clearly. I’ve seen this called “the new Reggie Miller rule” and hope that in a similar vein, the net result of all these shenanigans will be a more uniform response across the NBA.

As a delusional Warriors fan at heart too, I have to objectively admit my bias but if you ask me if he flails more than an average NBA player I would say “no.” There are numerous examples of other players making very similar (or even more extreme) movement with their legs as they play basketball.

But for whatever reason, Draymond seems to be unfortunately accurate in connecting the flail with an opposing player. He did indeed kick Steven Adams square in the nuts twice during the playoffs last year, and I think that alone is enough to earn him this reputation.

Now, the question of intent is a bit trickier, but I don’t think I want to get into it too deeply. It’s my opinion that he doesn’t do it on purpose but that distinction is pretty meaningless at this point. I have a five year old son who manages to punch or hit his big sister at least once a day. He isn’t maliciously doing it, there’s always some rationale like “I didn’t mean to” or “I was just swinging my lightsaber and she walked into it” but I’d tell Draymond what I tell my son: “We are having this talk because of the results of your action, not the motivation behind them.”

Similarly, I would advise Green to exercise a bit more caution and restraint, regardless of intent.

2. Last year the Warriors made a point to break the record for regular season wins, maybe even to their detriment down the stretch. Do you think this team will try and break their own record, or will they worry more about resting players for the playoffs?

I know for a fact that the team isn’t going to ever try and break that record, and certainly not this season. Even though I’m not completely sold that rest would have prevented the meltdown last year I hope to see more rest for our guys towards the end of this season, for sure. Results so far this season have been mixed.

Steph got hurt in an extremely quirky play (slipped on a sweat puddle from another player falling down). I’ve watched that play multiple times and have a really hard time believing that Steph would have survived banging his knee on the court like that any better had he played 70 rather than 79 games on the season. Same goes for Bogut. He got his knee rolled on when JR Smith fell. Neither of those really seemed like rest-related injuries to me.

That said, coach Steve Kerr has given a lot of lip service to this idea since the pre-season, and quite frankly, we just haven’t seen it. For example Shaun Livingston got rest against the Utah Jazz last night, which is nice and all, but Draymond Green is playing on a rolled ankle, suffered a minor tweak in the game, and yet still returned to finish the game. Yeah, it was a close game, but if the team was TRULY prioritizing health over record, Draymond would not have returned.

I still think we really want the #1 seed. If we have the luxury of resting without risk, it will happen. But it will be really interesting to see how brave the coaching staff is with rest towards the end of the season, particularly if the Spurs maintain their position uncomfortably close behind us in the standings (where they are currently two games back).

3. In your mind, is there any team outside of Cleveland that (fully healthy) could give the Warriors problems, or is the only thing that could derail them a serious injury?

Look, I’ve been humbled by the basketball gods. I never thought Steph, or Klay, or Draymond would ever be this good. I truly believed at one point that Andris Biedrins was destined to become an NBA All-Star. A little closer to the Griz, I thought Brandon Wright was going to be our answer at Power Forward… I never thought in a million years that the Warriors wouldn’t be able to finish off the Cavs in the Finals last year… So yeah, there are teams that concern me. I’m no longer cocky enough to say with any certainty that “no team can beat us in a seven game series.” Sure they could.

The Cavs are the obvious choice here, but behind them? I’d say there are a couple of Western conference teams have played us well recently and could beat us. The Rockets beat us down in double overtime recently; the Spurs straight up mauled us to welcome us into the season… So yeah, I’m extremely hesitant to say injuries are the “only thing” that could beat us. I have all sorts of reasons to discount the possibility, and I think it’s objectively fair to say it’s pretty unlikely for the Warriors to not make the Finals, but outside of the Cavs, I have to say I’m not truly “scared” of any other team in the NBA.

4. Early on in the season, it seemed like rim protection might have been Golden State’s biggest weakness. Is that still the case, or, if not, what do you think this team’s biggest issue is?

If you are looking for the biggest weakness, this is really it. It becomes a question of scale though: how big of a problem is this, actually? The Warriors have a top 10 defense (currently sitting at #7 in Defensive Rating) and lead the league in blocked shots. We have the biggest net point differential in the NBA.

So fine. This is indeed our biggest weakness, but it hasn’t developed into a critical flaw just yet. Why? Well the answer is two-fold:

Firstly, our offense is humming. When you average 120 points or so per game, there’s a whole lot of wriggle room defensively. It’s not just pace either, our team is efficient. When you’re ranked #1 in the NBA with a team-wide eFG% of .570 (while holding our opponents to an eFG% of only .480) it’s just hard for other teams to keep pace with us on a possession-by-possession basis.

Secondly, as Sun Tzu said “You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.” Our rims are not undefended.

More than that though, this reputation for being vulnerable at the rim has allowed us some predictability when it comes to figuring out how our opponents will be attacking us. Not only have we been blocking a lot of shots, but many of our steals are occurring in the interior as a result of players with active hands stripping the ball and jumping passing lanes. Draymond Green is one of the best post defenders in the entire NBA (please tell Tony Allen that Dray is now also first team all defense). Kevin Durant is a big part of this team on both ends of the floor, as shown by his 1.7 blocks per game (a significant increase over his career average of 1.0 per game).

Finally, we have a couple of unheralded players that have been playing well. Zaza Pachulia came here at a discount, and is obviously the weak link in the starting lineup but he’s been solid. Like Durant, his steals and blocks are up well above career averages for him. JaVale McGee has also been a nice find for us. Kerr once said that he gives us a much-needed element of “vertical spacing” and I couldn’t agree more.

5. We saw what the Warriors did with so many players out. If Memphis is going to have any shot at beating the Warriors, what do you think they need to do? Is their best opportunity just feeding Gasol, or is there any real way for Memphis to compete with their squad this shorthanded?

Want in on a secret? You do not beat the Warriors via post play on offense. If you are going to dominate the Warriors, it can be through rebounding and definitely attacking the rim; but initiating set post offense is not going to help you much here. Statistically, the iso post up is one of the least efficient plays in basketball, and as I mentioned above, this Warriors team is the most efficient offensive team in the league. That’s a losing effort.

No, the way to beat this Warriors team is off drive and kicks. You need to break down our perimeter defense and this is where the absence of Conley is going to absolutely kill you guys. Without him, it gets a lot harder.

But as we just saw with the Warriors escaping a scare last night against a Utah Jazz team playing without four of their five starters, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of this being a “trap” game. I could see the Warriors overlooking a team that’s missing their starting PG and SF – two of our strongest positions. If the Dubs come out sleepwalking and the Grizz go crazy, it’s possible.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but looking at the roster remnants that you have at your disposal now, I think it will take a minor miracle for the Griz to win on Saturday. But, given your insane recent performances (when Memphis overcame fourth-quarter deficits of 14 to the Magic, 13 to the Trail Blazers and 10 to the Pelicans) I wouldn’t rule out 4th quarter miracles as a viable win strategy for you guys.

Best of luck on Saturday! Thanks for having me!

Big thanks to Duby Dub Dubs and the team over at Golden State of Mind! Be sure to check out GBB’s side of the Q&A over there as well!

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