Monday, 13 January 2014

On the Warriors, winning streaks, and the Western Conference, with J.M. Poulard of Warriors World

Andre Iguodala, Golden State's "Swiss army knife".
What a difference a healthy, balanced roster makes. It's remarkable how a well-built team can perform with the luxury of a "Full Squad." Take the Golden State Warriors, for example, who narrowly missed a piece of NBA history with their 6-1 road trip -- blossoming with the help of steady involvements from Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut. 

Having watched a number of games from the lengthy winning streak, and penned my love for Andrew Bogut and the Dubs' defense here, I was after a slightly more expert opinion. I sent some questions and thoughts to J.M. Poulard, editor of ESPN's True Hoop Network Warriors World blog, and here's what he had to say in response:

Angus Crawford: The Warriors are fourth in the league for defensive efficiency, only conceding an average of 98.5 points per 100 possessions. That’s an improvement of roughly four points on last year’s mark. What would you attribute this elite defensive play to?

J.M. Poulard: I hate to answer with an oversimplification, but it will have to do: the combination of Andre Iguodala and a healthy Andrew Bogut. Last season, the Golden State Warriors did not have a great perimeter stopper (Draymond Green was great in spurts) and also, Bogut was injured for parts of the season. When the Aussie eventually got back on the floor, he was often rusty and out of position. He only truly regained his form late in the 2012-13 season.

This time around though, Bogut has been a game changer defensively all year and Iguodala’s defensive brilliance has certainly helped in terms of limiting the production of some of the league’s top wings.

AC: With Andre Iguodala in the lineup, this team is 20-7 (.741 win percentage). Iguodala is shooting career-best marks of 58.9% on two-point field goals, and 47.1% from beyond the arc. How important has the addition of the veteran swingman been to Golden State’s offense?

JMP: Forget important, Andre Iguodala is an essential cog in the Warriors’ offense. His ball-handling and passing allow players such as Klay Thompson to simply concentrate on catching and shooting as opposed to being tasked with creating shots for others. He allows the team’s main scorers to get into position and simply wait for the ball to come their way. Even Stephen Curry benefits from this given his adoration for running players off screens for spot-up attempts. Iguodala allows Curry’s role to shift during the course of games, which creates advantageous matchups for the Dubs.

AC: There’s been a growing sentiment that the Warriors have missed the play of Jarrett Jack in his role as reserve point guard and secondary ball handler. Toney Douglas has battled injury and struggled in that role (6.7 PER), Mark Jackson has largely utilised Iguodala as the team’s faux-backup PG, and the Warriors have been linked to both Kirk Hinrich and Andre Miller as potential trade targets. Is this something that needs to be addressed, or can the team function with Iguodala and Toney Douglas in limited minutes?

JMP: The need must absolutely be addressed because the team is sorely lacking in backup point guard play. Andre Iguodala does a more than adequate job of spelling Stephen Curry, however, in the event injuries occur, the Warriors will struggle once more. Golden State absolutely needs Curry and Iguodala to suit up in every game in order to have a chance at running what looks like a functional offense for 48 minutes. Take one out of the equation and the team looks somewhat average more than anything from an offensive standpoint.

AC: The team’s 10 game winning streak ended in Brooklyn on January 8, leaving them one win away from completing an historic, unprecedented 7-0 road trip. Meanwhile, stellar play, a healthy lineup, and David Lee’s postgame comments sparked the #FullSquad movement for the Warriors and their fan base. What about the winning streak impressed you most?

JMP: To be perfectly honest, nothing. It’s as if the team’s parts finally came together to display just what the Warriors look like when the players are in tune with each other. People often get caught up in potential as opposed to production, and the 10-game winning streak highlighted exactly what the team looks like when its players are in concert with each other and rely on their collective strengths.

AC: Chris Paul (separated shoulder) and Eric Bledsoe (meniscus) were both recently announced to be expecting lengthy stints on the sidelines, putting a dint in the hopes of the Warriors’ Pacific Division rivals. Is it realistic to look for Golden State to take a hold of the division lead and, if so, how significant will a top-four seed and home court advantage be in the postseason?

JMP: Unless the Warriors face health concerns once more this season, I fully expect the team to take over the Pacific and win it. I have always contended that Golden State would play the Houston Rockets in the first round and probably lose to them. However, if the Dubs win the division, that likely gives them home court advantage and probably pits them against the Los Angeles Clippers in what is becoming an exciting feud. All things being equal, the Clips would likely be favored to win the matchup because the best player in the series usually leads his team to victory. 

However, Stephen Curry has narrowed the gap between he and Chris Paul faster than I anticipated and consequently, I would be inclined to pick the Warriors.

You can follow J.M. on Twitter @ShyneIV, keep up with the Warriors World blog @warriorsworld, and follow Jordan Ramirez of WW @JRAM_91. Also, Dubs fans can pick up a #FullSquad t-shirt here

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