SAN FRANCISCO — With the NBA preseason in the books, the Warriors wrapped up their 2023 training camp on Sunday. Although some aspects have gone smoothly, at least one critical challenge remains largely incomplete.
The pre-season exposed their defensive shortcomings. This element has a lot of repairs to do before it can hope to reach the level required to compete for the championship.
The first game of the regular season is now two days away.
“Come Tuesday night,” Klay Thompson said, referring to opening night, “I think you’re going to see a much better defensive effort than you’ve seen the last two weeks.”
Although coach Steve Kerr is optimistic, he is more cautious.
“We need to be more consistent,” Kerr said after a light scrimmage on Sunday. “I didn’t think our defense was great in the preseason. It’s got to get better.”
Preseason games are the first steps toward building good habits, and the Warriors have been largely inconsistent on defense. The result was a rating of 108.7, ranking 22nd among 30 teams.
These numbers reflect the absence of Draymond Green, who missed all five preseason games, but they also reflect the annoying habits of those on the court.
“Sometimes, our shell is great. Sometimes, when we have certain groups on the floor, they communicate,” said Green, who was able to participate in the scrimmage. Then other groups do not communicate well. This is something I can help with.”
Green was an eight-time All-Defensive Team selection and 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year. He could be the most versatile defender in the league, capable of guarding all five positions. Golden State’s defense is bound to suffer in his absence.
He will get better when he returns. He could be available for the season opener on Tuesday but will almost certainly be ready by Game 2 on Oct. 27 against the Kings in Sacramento.
“Draymond is automatically going to make us better because he’s Draymond,” Kerr said.
“But that doesn’t excuse us from making some of the mistakes we make because those mistakes are going to happen whether Draymond is there or not unless we correct them.”
One of the most concerning areas was turnovers. Golden State is averaging 17.6 per game, tied for 18th in the league. What’s even more troubling is that opponents got 21 points per game from those giveaways. This is an indicator of a team that has too many live ball turnovers.
“That should be our focus,” Green said. “It’s hard to defend that.”
Green acknowledged that he and Stephen Curry bear the most responsibility for the turnovers, but Chris Paul, a player with a low turnover rate throughout his career, would serve as the antidote.
However, this does not take into account the defensive issues that arose in the half court last season and against it during the preseason. There are simply too many breakdowns, which often leads to fouls being made or giving up easy baskets.
“The No. 1 thing for this group is communication,” Green said. “It’s a new group, still feeling comfortable with each other, and learning each other’s strengths. What helps speed up this process is communication.”
“I’m going to say this publicly because I want to put that pressure on and I know he’ll handle it: We need Kevon Looney to speak up more. Loon is someone who has blossomed into a focal point of everything we do. He knows it all. Everything.”
Draymond is asking Looney to do what former big man Andrew Bogut did best during his time with the Warriors. Know what the opponent is trying to do and talk about it out loud. And also to regulate traffic, especially within the three-point arc. And always let your teammates know the circumstances behind them.
“It will be important for us to hear his voice more because everyone on the field feels more comfortable when they hear the big voice,” Green said of Looney. “And he’s been growing in this area. I think it’s time for him to take that final step in this area. I have no doubt that he will do it, and it will be big for us.”
Until that happens on a regular basis, it’s just theoretical.
Currently, defense-related issues are more of a routine concern than a matter of serious concern. Warriors believe they are fixable. What they don’t know is how long it will take.
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