* Tonight on TNT: Warriors vs. Wizards, 8 ET
The Golden State Warriors have begun to hit their stride.
After what was a seemingly sluggish first half of the season, the Warriors have won eight straight games and sit in first place in the Western Conference. A win in Washington on Thursday would give them the league's longest winning streak this season.
The Warriors have yet to really turn it up defensively. They rank 14th on that end of the floor overall (having allowed a league-average 109.9 points per 100 possessions) and 19th in January (111.2), even with the eight-game winning streak.
But the Golden State offense has been better than ever. The Warriors have scored an incredible 126.7 points per 100 possessions over their last 10 games, the best stretch of offense they've had in five seasons under coach Steve Kerr. (Prior to this season, their 10-game high was 122.2 points scored per 100 possessions.)
Here's one number to know about the 2018-19 Warriors as they look to extend their winning streak ...
The Warriors have taken 61 percent of their shots from outside the paint.
That is the highest rate in the league.
Four years ago, Charles Barkley said -- in reference to the Warriors -- that a jump-shooting team couldn't win a championship. He was wrong, of course.
He was wrong about the Warriors being that much of a jump-shooting team, first of all. In the 2014-15 season, the Warriors took only 54 percent of their shots from outside the paint. That was the 13th-highest rate in what turned out to be this core's first championship season. The Warriors were obviously a great shooting team, but they also leveraged their shooting to get layups and dunks. Only one team averaged more points per game in the restricted area than the Warriors that season, when the real jump-shooting team was the LA Clippers, who took 62 percent of their shots from outside the paint.
But every season since, the Warriors have gradually become more of a jump-shooting team, seeing an increase in the percentage of their shots that have come from outside the paint. This season, the champs have been outscored by 7.3 points in the paint per game, the league's third-biggest discrepancy. They're also in the bottom 10 in regard point differential on free throws (minus-1.5 per game).
League-wide, shots in the paint are worth more (1.11 points per attempt) than shots from outside the paint (0.98), even when you take the extra value of 3-pointers into account. Obviously, within those basic boundaries, restricted area shots are worth more than other shots in the paint and 3-pointers are worth more than mid-range shots.
But over the last two seasons, the Warriors' jump shots have also been more likely to come from inside the arc than they were the two seasons prior. The league as a whole has taken 2.2 times as many 3-pointers as mid-range shots this season, up from 1.0 in 2014-15, the first season when the league took more 3-pointers than mid-range shots.
The Warriors' ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts that season was 1.3, the league's sixth-highest mark. It climbed to 1.9 (second) the following season and stayed relatively high (1.8 - seventh highest) in 2016-17, Kevin Durant's first season with the team. But it dropped last season and the Warriors' ratio of 1.5 this season is the fourth-lowest in the league.
While other teams are extremely disciplined about not taking long 2-point shots (to the point of penalizing players for taking them in scrimmages), the Warriors launch from mid-range without hesitation. Only the Spurs, led by mid-range monsters LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, have attempted more mid-range shots than the Warriors, who have taken about five times as many mid-range shots as the Houston Rockets. Kevin Durant (311) and Klay Thompson (310) are two of 10 players who have attempted more mid-range shots than the Rockets (208) this season.
So in regard to having a analytics-friendly shot chart, the Warriors are near the bottom of the league.
And it hasn't mattered. This season, with all the jump shots, the Warriors have scored 115.6 points per 100 possessions. That makes them the most efficient offensive team of the 23 years for which we have play-by-play data.
The Warriors rank 11th in turnover rate, a big improvement from last season, when they ranked 25th. But they also rank 25th in free throw rate and 20th in offensive rebounding percentage. They have the best offense we've ever seen almost exclusively because they've shot so well and have given themselves more opportunities to shoot by not turning the ball over so much.
Durant (74.4 percent) and Thompson (72.1 percent) have been two of the league's best finishers in the restricted area among non-bigs. Stephen Curry ranks third in field goal percentage on non-restricted-area paint shots (minimum 50 FGA). Durant has been the league's best mid-range shooter. And Curry ranks fifth in 3-point percentage (having attempted a lot more 3-pointers than anyone else in the top 25).
Both Curry and Thompson have seen an increase in the percentage of their shots that have come from outside the paint since that first championship season. But the biggest change in the Warriors' shots from four seasons ago has come from their bigs.
It's not about where their bigs' shots are coming from, but in the number of shots their bigs have been getting. Warriors bigs not named Draymond Green -- Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, Damian Jones and DeMarcus Cousins -- have attempted just 8.9 shots per game this season, down from 15.4 last season (from the first three guys plus David West, Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee) and 18.4 in '14-15 (Andrew Bogut, Marreese Speights, etc.).
Cousins, of course, has played in just two games thus far. Over his nine seasons in the league, only *six players have scored more points in the paint than Cousins. The percentage of his shots that have come from the paint has **dropped over the last two seasons, and he hasn't been ***a very good finisher in the restricted area for his size. Still, he gives the Warriors the best paint scorer they've had on this five-year run.
- * Those six players: LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Thaddeus Young and Greg Monroe.
- ** Over his first six seasons in the league, Cousins took 67 percent of his shots from the paint. Over the last two seasons, he has taken 56 percent of his shots from the paint.
- *** Cousins' 59 percent shooting in the restricted area over his career ranks 55th among 76 players with at least 2,000 restricted area attempts over the last 10 seasons.
So, as the season goes on and Cousins plays more minutes, the Warriors should become less of a jump-shooting team. And we'll see if a more balanced offense (in regard to shot location) is a more efficient one.
If so, yikes.
WARRIORS NOTES - GENERAL
- The Warriors have a losing record (11-12) against the other 14 teams that currently have winning records.
- The Warriors have been the league's best road team, both in regard to winning percentage (15-8, .652) and point differential per 100 possessions (plus-7.2).
- They've been the league's best third-quarter team (plus-11.3 points per 100 possessions) for the fifth straight season.
- They're 28-2 after leading by 10 points or more. Only Indiana (26-1) has a higher winning percentage after leading by double-digits.
- Have played in the two fastest-paced games -- Jan. 16 at New Orleans (232 total possessions) and Dec. 14 at Sacramento (231 total possessions) -- of the season and the slowest-paced game -- Nov. 15 at Houston (174 possessions) -- of the season.
WARRIORS NOTES - OFFENSE
- According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Warriors lead the league in both player movement (12.1 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and ball movement (391 passes per 24 minutes of possession). They rank second in assist percentage, having recorded assists on 66 percent of their field goals.
- Their effective field goal percentage of 56.1 percent ranks fourth all-time, behind the the 2017-18 Warriors (56.9 percent), the '16-17 Warriors (56.3 percent) and the '15-16 Warriors (56.3 percent).
WARRIORS NOTES - DEFENSE
- The Warriors rank 27th in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (65.9 percent), but third in preventing restricted-area shots (30 percent of total opponent field goal attempts).
- They've seen the league's second biggest increase in defensive rebounding percentage, from 71.2 percent (29th in the league) last season to 73.6 percent (eighth) this season.
- The Warriors lead the league with 6.3 blocked shots per game,
- They rank No. 1 in clutch defense, having allowed just 91.8 points per 100 possessions with the score within five in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.
WARRIORS NOTES - LINEUPS
- The Warriors have scored 119.6 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor. That's the highest on-court OffRtg among 321 players who have averaged at least 10 minutes in 25 games or more. Durant (118.0), Green (116.2) and Looney (115.9) have the second, third and sixth highest marks, respectively.
- The Warriors have outscored their opponents by 14.5 points per 100 possessions with Green on the floor. That's the highest on-court NetRtg mark among that same group of 321 players. Curry (plus-14.4) and Durant (plus-11.4) have the second eighth highest marks, respectively.
- The Warriors' new starting lineup -- Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Cousins -- has outscored its opponents, 55-20, in its 18 minutes on the floor. It has recorded assists on 22 of its 23 field goals, with just four turnovers.
- The Warriors' previous starting lineup (with Looney at center) has outscored its opponents by 19.7 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among 26 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes together.
WARRIORS NOTES - INDIVIDUAL
- Stephen Curry has shot 44.1 percent on pull-up 3-pointers, the best mark (by a wide margin) among 31 players who have attempted at least 100.
- Kevin Durant has shot 26-for-28 (93 percent) on clutch free throws, the second best mark among players who have attempted at least 20.
- Curry and Durant are two of six players who have averaged at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.
- Curry (5.3) and Durant (5.1) rank second and third in fast break points per game. The 17 fast break points that Curry scored on Oct. 24 against Washington are the most for any player in a game this season.
- Draymond Green has recorded assists on 42.6 percent of his possessions, the highest rate among 321 players who have averaged at least 10 minutes in 25 games or more and the highest rate of his career.
- Andre Iguodala ranks third in cumulative plus-minus (plus-189) off the bench, though he ranks just 65th in total minutes off the bench (679).
- Kevon Looney has an assist-turnover ratio of 2.76, the best mark among centers that have averaged at least 10 minutes in 25 games or more.
- Curry and Klay Thompson are two of five players that have averaged at least six catch-and-shoot points and at least six pull-up points per game.
- Curry is tied for the league lead (with Buddy Hield) with 113 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Thompson ranks third with 112.
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