Will the Warrior’s lack of shooting doom them in the playoffs?

Will the Warriors shooting eventually be what brings them down?
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Warriors
Is it possible that the Warriors actually lack shooting?

First of all, please don’t discount this post simply because of the title.

Obviously, the Golden State Warriors have three of the greatest shooters to ever play in the NBA in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant. The fact that they can collect these assassins all on the same team is remarkable, and maybe a little unfair. It makes the Warriors the favorite (presuming Kevin Durant is 100%) and the team that I’d pick to win the title.

However. One aspect of the team does have me a little nervous, for their sakes. Ironically enough, it’s the shooting of everyone else.

Hear me out:

The Warriors play three bigs (a little) in Zaza Pachulia, Javale McGee, and David West. Predictably, they’re not deep threats. They’ve combined for 2 three-pointers all season long. As more classic big men that’s to be expected, but it does limit the team when compared to “modern” bigs who can stretch the floor some. Heck, even DeMarcus Cousins has extended his range and made 95 threes (at a 35.6% clip) this year.

But that’s fine. That’s expected. What about everyone else?

Shaun Livingston hasn’t been playing as much this year. I love Livingston’s versatile game, but a 3-point shot is not one of the tools he has on his utility belt. In fact, his lack of deep shooting is frankly shocking in today’s NBA. Livingston, a guard, has made 12 three-pointers — in his entire CAREER. (0-1 this year).

Andre Iguodala can shoot, right? We all remember him catching fire in the Finals from beyond the arc, going on to win the MVP. However, while Iggy can get hot, he’s not a naturally good shooter, either. He’s mediocre. In his 4 years on the Warriors, he’s hit 235/672 threes in the regular season (which equates to a solid 35.0%). But in his previous 9 years in the league, that mark was only 32.9%. I suspect Iguodala has benefited from the Warriors’ space and attention on Steph/Klay to garner wide open shots. He’s made them at a respectable rate, but let’s not confuse that with a knockdown shooter. (He’s also poor from the line, as a 71.5% career shooter who hasn’t cracked 70% in 6 of his last 7 years.)

Similarly, Draymond Green represents more of the “mediocre” 3-point shooter than a true threat behind the arc. He was never a good shooter, even famously getting called out by Bill Simmons for it. He appeared to improve mightily last year in 2015-2016, looking quite dangerous and hitting 38.8% of his threes. That ability to shoot and score vaulted him from a glue guy into a perceived top 10 player in the league. But rather than keeping progressing, his shooting regressed back to 32.8% this year (more in line with his 33.9% career mark.) Players can absolutely improve their stroke over the course of their career (see: Porter, Otto) but right now Draymond Green doesn’t have the history to label him as anything more than a slightly below average shooter. He hasn’t cracked 33.7% in 4 of his 5 years in the league. Like Iggy, he’s also a poor free throw shooter (68.8% career.) Wonderful player, mediocre shooter.

The team recently signed Matt Barnes, who fits into that same Iggy/Draymond role. He’s serviceable (33.5% career) but not a true threat.

The Warriors do have some young bucks who flash promise as three-point shooters. Ian Clark‘s at a scorching 39.3% this year, and even rookie Patrick McCaw‘s at a solid 35.6%. My only fear with that scenario is whether Steve Kerr will end up shrinking his rotation and squeezing them out come deep playoff time. Ian Clark, in particular, is a great complement to their backcourt, but may not be trusted as much as a savvy vet like Shaun Livingston.

Conclusion

As mentioned before, the Warriors as a team are great from beyond the arc. Historically great beyond the arc. But that’s severely weighted by their top 3. The rest of the team appears to be average to below-average as shooters, and that can come back to haunt them in the Finals. The Cavs have made a point to surround LeBron with shooters, and their role players are better than the Warriors in that regard. I don’t agree with Shaq that the “others” win championships, but they absolutely play a role.

When all the chips are on the line, the game’s going to get close and may hinge on Draymond, Iggy, or a role player shooting an open three. Whether they come through or not may determine the trophy.

 


Zandrick Ellison

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