Each day, we'll be counting down the best teams in the NBA and comparing them to mainstream Hollywood films. We'll break down each team into New Cast Members (new players), Castoffs (non-returning players), Featuring (starters), Leading Man (most important player, not necessarily the best), Director (head coach), Producer (GM), Plot (Movie Comp), Rotten Tomatoes Score, and Predictions for this year's record. Today, we take a look at the Oklahoma City Thunder.
4. Golden State
Leading Man: Andrew Bogut
Fact: Andrew Bogut is one of the ten best defenders in the NBA. Another fact: when you type in the words “Andrew Bogut” into Google, this is what you get:
Usually it’s not a good sign when the first word associated with a seven-footer is “injury,” but that’s the case here. Over the past three seasons, Bogut has played in only 111 games – and he’s missed 119. And though the Warriors actually had a better winning percentage without Bogut (11-4, 73%) than with him (40-27, 60%) last season, Bogut has certainly been an integral piece.
No lineup in the NBA had a better plus/minus than the Warriors’ starters, +5.8 in a little over 18 minutes per game over 44 contests last season. It makes sense, as this starting lineup might be the most diverse in the NBA – a perfect mix of offensive skills and defensive ability.
That being said, though, it’s not immediately obvious that this is even the Warriors’ best lineup. In fact, the starters had the third best net rating (difference between points per 100 possessions and points allowed per 100) on the team. Both of the lineups that fared better featured four of the same players – Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and David Lee.
When the Warriors went small and replaced Bogut with either Harrison Barnes or especially Draymond Green, the offense took off – for a couple of reasons. The first and most important of these is that Golden State’s turnover rate fell off a cliff with Green on the court, going from 15 TOs/100 possessions to 10.9. That’s four more shots per game! On those shots, the Warriors had a true shooting percentage of 61.7%, meaning they were scoring about 1.2 points per shot. So, just by not handing the ball to the other team, the Warriors scored about five more points per 100 possessions with Green than with Bogut.
It’s just common sense that a team would turn the ball over less with Green and Lee on the court, because the court is more spread with two good jump shooters on the floor, keeping help defenders stuck to their man rather than doubling on drives. But there are some other benefits, too, like the fact that Green improves the team’s assist rate at the same time, creating a couple extra open shots per game.
Most importantly, though, their defense remained mostly unchanged. Though it’s a pretty small sample size (Green only played with the other starters for 105 minutes last season), they held teams to a defensive rating of 89.5 points per 100 possessions. That’s about 10 points per 100 better than the Pacers, who finished first in defensive rating last year. While you couldn’t expect this team to keep that number up, wouldn’t it be possible for them to maintain a top 5 defense?
Obviously, it’s great to have Bogut on the team when Western horses like Dwight Howard, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Anthony Davis come to town, but other than that? Golden State should explore the option of going small on a much more regular basis. I can’t wait to see how Steve Kerr experiments with going small this season.
Director: Steve Kerr
I still don’t get the concept of hiring coaches that have NEVER coached before. This is the NBA – you should be able to snag just about anyone in the entire world as your head coach. You’re telling me honestly that there are no people who’ve actually drawn up plays before that could do a job? What about snagging an international coach? They exist.
That being said, here are the three things I really like about Kerr. 1. He seems like a smart guy. Really like listening to his commentary on his thoughts on the game. 2. He’s worked in the front office, so he understands personnel and rotations better than a rookie coach like Derek Fisher might. 3. He never averaged 1 turnover per game in his career… for a team that finished 27th in turnovers last season, it can’t hurt, right?
Producer: Bob Myers
I wanted to criticize Myers for not picking up another big after Jermaine O’Neal wasn’t invited back to the team this season, but the fact that he didn’t do so might force Kerr to play small more often this season – something I’ve already admitted to looking forward to.
Other than that, though, I really like the team he’s assembled here. Shaun Livingston might have been a bit of an overpay, but he can play either guard spot and they already have plenty of shooting. I also like the chances he took with Brandon Rush and Leandro Barbosa.
Golden State may not be the best team in the league, but they’re probably the most entertaining. Just last season, they had buzzer beaters against the Thunder and the Heat. They also have one of the wildest crowds, and I love this movie.
It seems a little high to pick this team to be the fourth best team in the entire NBA, but they were 51-31. I don’t think a five game improvement is totally out of order, and that’s what I’m predicting. I think these guys go 56-26 this season and host a round in the West, becoming the team everyone thought they would be this time last year.