Click here to Skip to main content
Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry form one of the high-scoring backcourts in the NBA.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

StatsCube: Warriors defense better, but still has ways to go

Posted Dec 2 2011 7:11AM

To get ready for the 2011-12 season, StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.

Only four NBA franchises have more championships than the Golden State (formerly Philadelphia and San Francisco) Warriors. Yet current high school seniors have seen the Warriors make the playoffs just once in their lifetime.


In the last year, Golden State has undergone changes in ownership and management. And now it enters the 2011-12 season with another new coach, tasked with improving the product on the floor. If Mark Jackson is going to turn this team around, he'll have to start with defense, where his predecessor failed to make much headway in the wake of the Nellieball era.

2010-11 Basics
Pace: 97.4 (5)
OffRtg: 105.5 (13)
DefRtg: 107.6 (26)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Taking over for Don Nelson last summer, Keith Smart was tasked with improving the Golden State defense, and the Warriors allowed 6.7 fewer points per game last season than they did in 2009-10. But the decrease was more about a slower pace than improved performance.

No team slowed down last season more than the Warriors, who averaged 5.3 fewer possessions per 48 minutes than they did in '09-10. They ranked either first or second in pace in Nelson's final four seasons on the bench.

The Warriors were the seventh-most improved defense last season though, allowing 1.8 fewer points per 100 possessions than the previous season. Most of their improvement came from defending the 3-point line much better.

Warriors defensive numbers, last two seasons

Season DREB% Rank OppTO% Rank OppFTA Rate Rank Opp2PT% Rank Opp3PT% Rank
2009-10 68.5% 30 17.1 1 .340 26 51.5% 26 37.5% 28
2010-11 69.3% 30 16.4 4 .333 29 50.1% 26 35.8% 13
DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTO% = Opponents turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponents FTA/FGA
No help on the glass from David Lee

The Warriors were still the worst defensive rebounding team in the league, despite the addition of David Lee, who ranked second in defensive boards per game the previous season. In fact, the Warriors were a worse rebounding team when Lee was in the game than they were when he was on the bench ... on both ends of the floor.

Warriors efficiency and rebounding

Lee on-off MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg OREB% DREB% REB%
Lee on floor 2634 107.0 109.2 -2.3 25.8% 68.5% 46.9%
Lee off floor 1332 102.5 104.3 -1.8 28.4% 70.9% 48.7%
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
REB% = Percentage of total rebounds obtained

Now, a defensive rebounding percentage of 70.9 (with Lee on the bench) is still really bad and just slightly better than the Washington Wizards, who ranked 29th last season. But when Lee was on the bench, the Warriors still had decent rebounders like Andris Biedrins and Lou Amundson up front. And perimeter players like Stephen Curry, Reggie Williams and Dorell Wright each grabbed a bigger share of the boards when Lee wasn't in the game.

Lee clearly wasn't a difference-maker on the glass, but he was affected by a nasty elbow laceration he suffered in a collision with the Knicks' Wilson Chandler on Nov. 10. It's a small sample size, but in the eight games before the injury, Lee had an offensive rebounding percentage (percent of available offensive boards that he grabbed himself) of 13.9 and a defensive rebounding percentage of 22.3. In his first 20 games after the injury (and an eight-game absence), those numbers were just 8.9 and 18.9.

Compatibility in the backcourt? Consider the Biedrins Factor

Since the Warriors drafted Curry two years ago, much has been made about his compatibility with Monta Ellis. In fact, before Curry's first training camp, Ellis famously told reporters that the two couldn't play together.

Last season, the Warriors were a minus-40 in the 2,100 minutes in which Curry and Ellis were both on the floor. That's not too bad when you consider that the team was a minus-151 in the 1,866 minutes when at least one of the two was on the bench.

It's even better when you consider the Biedrins Factor.

Andris Biedrins may have been a better rebounder than Lee last season, but in every other aspect of the game, he was just awful. The Warriors were much worse both offensively and defensively when Biedrins was on the floor than they were when he was on the bench. In fact, when Biedrins wasn't in the game, the Warriors were a plus-41 in 2,569 minutes over the course of the season.

In Biedrins' 1,399 minutes on the floor, the Warriors were a minus-234. Around the league, only four players had a worse plus-minus in fewer minutes: Manny Harris, Stephen Graham, Martell Webster, and Alonzo Gee.

Biedrins clearly had a negative impact on the Curry-Ellis backcourt. In fact, when you take away Biedrins, that backcourt looks pretty good, at least offensively.

Warriors efficiency with Curry and Ellis on the floor

With/without Biedrins MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
With Biedrins 950 98.3 105.1 110.7 -5.6 -119
Without Biedrins 1,150 99.1 108.7 106.6 +2.1 +79
Total 2,100 98.7 107.1 108.5 -1.4 -40

The Biedrins Factor can be seen in the Warriors' five-man lineup data as well. Two of their three most-used lineups, the ones that don't include Biedrins, were very productive.

Warriors most-used lineups

Lineups GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Curry, Ellis, Wright, Lee, Biedrins 46 686 99.1 105.3 108.9 -3.6 -67
Curry, Ellis, Wright, Lee, Udoh 35 361 98.1 108.1 101.3 +6.8 +43
Curry, Ellis, Wright, Radmanovic, Lee 36 155 99.7 120.4 109.2 +11.2 +58
Ellis, Williams, Wright, Lee, Biedrins 21 149 95.8 98.1 112.3 -14.2 -52
Curry, Ellis, Wright, Admundson, Lee 21 130 98.2 103.0 110.5 -7.5 -13

Incredibly, Biedrins is owed $27 million over the next three seasons, making him an obvious candidate for the new collective bargaining agreement's amnesty clause.

Freebie disparity

As you can see from the first table above, the Warriors did a solid job of forcing turnovers. But they were still a bottom-five defensive team, because they couldn't rebound and they put their opponents on the line too much.

And not only did they put their opponent on the line too much, but they didn't get to the line nearly enough on their end of the floor. The Warriors' offense ranked dead last in both free throw attempts per possession and FTA/FGA.

As a result, they attempted 567 fewer free throws than their opponents, which was the third-worst discrepancy in the last 11 seasons.

Lowest free throw attempt discrepancy since 2000-01 season

Season Team FTA OppFTA Diff.
2007-08 Minnesota 1,693 2,266 -573
2002-03 New York 1,620 2,193 -573
2010-11 Golden State 1,695 2,262 -567
2005-06 Phoenix 1,906 2,462 -556
2000-01 Orlando 2,165 2,716 -551

Monta Ellis ranked 10th in the league in usage rate (percentage of his team's possessions used while he was on the floor), but had, by far, the lowest FTA Rate of the top 10. He attempted just 27 free throws per 100 field goal attempts. The next lowest among the top 10 players in usage rate was Derrick Rose, who attempted 35 free throws per 100 field goal attempts.

Among the eight Warriors who played 1,000 minutes, Ellis had the third-highest FTA Rate. Only Lee's and Ekpe Udoh's were higher, and not by much.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

photoReactions To Westbrook, George Press Conference
The NBA TV analysts react to Russell Westbrook and Paul George's press conference following Game 4.
photoMcCollum: We Got Swept Last Year, It Was On TV Everyday
CJ McCollum explains how last year's playoff failure led to their motivation against the Thunder.
photoInside The NBA: Players vs. the media
The Inside crew talk about how players should handle the media.
photoEJ's Neat-O Stat
The crew go fishing with the Pacers after they have been eliminated from playoff contention.
photoBlazers-Thunder Game 5 lookahead
The NBA TV analysts look ahead to share what they expect between the Blazers and Thunder in Game 5 of the West First Round.

Copyright © NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved. No portion of may be duplicated, redistributed or manipulated in any form. By accessing any information beyond this page, you agree to abide by the Privacy Policy / Your California Privacy Rights and Terms of Use. | Ad Choices Ad Choices is part of Turner Sports Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network.