PHOTO BY DANIEL KATZ
OAKLAND — After watching the Warriors blow out the San Antonio Spurs 120-90 on Monday night at Oracle, I asked the same question I’ve asked myself after most of their wins: How is anyone going to beat this team?
First off, the Warriors are a great team. There’s not just one or two things that you have to do to beat them. You need a comprehensive approach, from start to finish, offense and defense, and it needs to have multiple contingency plans.
You need to keep Stephen Curry under a little bit of control, you’ve got to lessen Draymond Green’s impact, you have to make sure Klay Thompson doesn’t beat you, you have to factor in Andrew Bogut’s elite rim-protecting, you have to take care of the ball, you have to execute offensively, you have to blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc.
You have to do it all.
The Warriors, who are now 41-4, have many facets to their greatness. They’re dynamic and explosive offensively, they’re long and tough defensively, and they can beat you in a fast game or slow game. But I keep coming back to the one thing that makes them historically unique, and it’s why I’m not sure they can be beaten in any seven-game series.
Photo by Daniel Katz
They have great backcourt shooting and they have great frontcourt passing. That’s not a combination you see a lot. In fact, you could make a case that in all of basketball history there’s never been two shooters as great as Curry and Thompson playing alongside two frontcourt passers as great as Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut.
When you think of great frontcourt passing duos Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, who played together in Sacramento in the early 2000s, come to mind. At least they came to the mind of Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
“Vlade and Chris Webber,” Kerr said after Tuesday’s practice. “The Kings used to play those two guys out on the elbows like we like to play Draymond and (Bogut). But they are great passers and obviously we run a ton of our offense through them. They’re fun to play with because they find open shooters. They understand the game, understand angles and can anticipate what’s happening before it does.”
Curry is the league’s leading scorer this season, averaging 30.3 points per game, and he’s scoring as effortlessly as he ever has in his career. The Warriors have gone from a team where Curry handles the ball a lot to a team where Curry handles the ball a lot less in a hurry.
And most of it is because of Green and Bogut. More important than their ability to pass, which is historically great, is their willingness to pass, their mindset of: if given a choice, they’d rather set someone up than get a bucket.
Photo by Daniel Katz
Curry’s made plenty of contested shots this season, but he’s also getting better looks than he’s ever gotten before. Green and Bogut think like point guards. They want to deliver first. They also see the floor like very few other big men in the NBA – and they’re teammates. When you combine that with Curry and Thompson and their ability to shoot the basketball, it makes the Warriors seemingly impossible to guard.
Another frontcourt passing tandem that comes to mind when you talk about great ones is Maurice Lucas and Bill Walton, who played on the Portland Trail Blazers’ championship team in 1977.
Green (7.3) and Bogut (1.9) combine for 9.2 assists per game. Webber (5.4) and Divac (3.4) combined for 8.8 assists per game one of their seasons. And Lucas (2.9) and Walton (5.4) combined for 8.3 assists per game.
Those numbers, of course, are more reference than anything else. Point being, just because Bogut is averaging only 1.9 assists per game this year doesn’t mean he’s not a darn good passer. Even great. Do Arvydas Sabonis and Rasheed Wallace fit this description?
Regardless, it’s obvious Green and Bogut, as a tandem, are about as good as it gets. And when you pair that with Curry and Thompson, you might have something unbeatable.