The Warriors’ hot start has generated quite a bit of buzz in the national media and they’ve even drawn comparisons to the 2014-15 Golden State team that hoisted the Larry O’Brien.
That comparison may seem lofty but there are quite a few similarities between that squad and this year’s squad. One of those parallels is the impact that the 2014-15 Warriors bench had and the one that this year’s bench is contributing.
But not only does the bench stack up well with some of the Warriors teams of the past, but they also more than hold their own in comparison to the rest of the league right now.
Bench By Committee
One thing that sticks out when comparing these two teams’ benches is that they get the job done collectively.
Golden State doesn’t have a Jamal Crawford or Lou Williams type player carrying the 2nd unit. The old Warriors had Andre Iguodala as their 6th man, but he was never the traditional 6th man in the sense that his role wasn’t to come in the game and light the other team up with buckets. This will likely change when Klay Thompson returns and Jordan Poole inevitably gets moved to the bench, but at the moment this Warriors team doesn’t have a traditional 6th man either.
The scoring distribution between these two bench units is eerily similar. The 2014-15 Warriors bench had Mo Speights averaging 10.4 points per game and three other players averaging 7+ points per game while this year’s Warriors has Damion Lee averaging 10.5 points per game and three other players averaging 6+ points per game.
That type of scoring distribution is a big part of what’s made the Warriors so dominant over the years and they’re following that blueprint once again this season.
How Exactly Do They Compare to the Rest of the League?
The Dubs bench unit is undeniably one of the best in the league. They’re one of the most efficient bench units in the league shooting 47.1% as a group, which is the 5th best in the league, and although they are 15th in 3P%, they’re 6th in the league in makes, averaging 5 triples a night. And like the Warriors often do, the bench shares the ball – averaging 9.8 assists per game which ranks them first in the league.
But their impact doesn’t stop on the offensive side of the ball. The Warriors as a team are the best defensive unit in the league posting a defensive rating of 98.9 – they are the only team with a defensive rating sub-100, and their bench has a significant impact on that.
Defensively, the bench is led by versatile defenders Otto Porter Jr. and Andre Iguodala, but they also have tough players like Damion Lee and Juan Toscano-Anderson that help shape this group’s identity.
One thing that they do at a really high level is that they finish defensive possessions. The bench averages 20.7 rebounds per game and 16.4 defensive rebounds per game which puts them at first in both categories. The team as a whole is first in the league in rebounding and second in defensive rebounding; the Warriors bench is truly an extension of the starters.
Not only are they able to close out defensive possessions, but they force opposing teams to turn the ball over at a rather alarming rate, creating 4.6 steals per game which again, is the best in the league. The Warriors love to get out in transition and get up threes whether Curry is on the floor or not, and the bench is able to create those opportunities at a high level.
Another thing that stuck out to me was that they’re 11th in the league in blocks per game as a team and their bench averages 2.7 of them. They don’t have anyone on the bench or in the starting lineup that I would really consider a shot blocker but these defensive stats speak to how elite the Warriors defense has been no matter who is in the game.
Yet no team or group or lineup is perfect, and this group isn’t without flaws either.
Good But Not Perfect
The biggest weakness of the Dubs bench unit is their lack of valuing possessions. They just don’t take care of the rock. Plain and simple. They average 6.7 turnovers per game (3rd worst in the NBA), and keep in mind they average 20.6 minutes per game, meaning they turn the ball over roughly once every three minutes.
Now, turnovers are something the Warriors struggle with as a whole, and more often than not they’re able to make up for those turnovers because of how good they are in other areas, but it’s something they’re going to want to clean up as the season goes along.
Only Getting Stronger
With reinforcements nearing, the Warriors will have one or two current starters pushed to the bench at some point. Add Jordan Poole and either Kevon Looney or James Wiseman to this bench? The rest of the league is in some serious trouble.
I’m not saying the 2021-22 season is going to end like the 2014-15 Warriors season ended, but I’m not not saying that either.
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