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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why the Warriors Won the NBA Championship

It is fun to watch Golden State but it will not be much fun to listen to all of the nonsense and revisionist history that will likely be spewed in the wake of the Warriors' 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals.

My newest article at The Roar explains that Golden State's triumph is in no way a vindication of the style of play employed by Mike D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns:

Why the Warriors Won the NBA Championship

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:20 PM



At Wednesday, June 17, 2015 7:32:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I mean, you're right that GS had much better defensive personnel, but they actually deployed a fairly similar defensive gameplan; they just had guys who could actually execute it and/or get the damn rebound. Both teams are/were liberal with non-center switching on PnRs (though as the Nash era progressed PHX worked harder and harder to keep him from switching), both teams emphasized leaking out in transition over defensive rebounding (though GS had better rebounders). Both teams also trusted undersized forwards to take on bigger matchups in smallball lineups (Marion/Hill/Green/Barnes)- though again GS' men were more up to the task.

I agree that the Nash Suns- with the possible exception of '07- weren't strong enough defensively or on the boards to win, but I feel like that had more to do with personnel than style. At the very least Golden State is pretty openly running a D'Antoni/Gentry descended offense, right down to having Gentry as their lead offensive coach. The difference is more in team construction than in style- they're running the same stuff, they're just running it well. You could make the case, perhaps, that PHX should have emphasized defense more- and that may well be- but if you look at the careers of PHX's biggest defensive problems- namely Nash and Stoudemire- they didn't play good D in NY/LA/Dallas either. Raja Bell and Shawn Marion, on the other hand, both had their best defensive years in PHX. Again, I think the problem was more personnel than philosophy.

The biggest stylistic difference, though, was in rotations. Golden State actually trusted their bench and was willing to alter rotations to counter-match various problems. PHX was stupidly rigid in their rotations- you could set your watch by Nash's end of 1st and 3rd quarter rests- and almost never went more than 7 deep; that hit them both in terms of fatigue (too many minutes) and versatility (smaller toolbox). The most damning example is game 6 against SA in '06, with Amare and Diaw suspended, D'Antoni played all of six guys. They blitzed the Spurs early, then ran out of gas.

It certainly doesn't vindicate PHX- who built their frontcourt very poorly by never pairing Amare with a Bogut-type rim protector or a Green-esque lockdown artist- but I think it's fair to say you can win a ring- as GS did- playing that style so long as you have the personnel to actually play it.

At Wednesday, June 17, 2015 10:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of rim protectors. Add another title team without needing a rim protector. Sure, having Bogut for the full season and available for the playoffs helped, but he was rendered expendable and had almost no impact in the finals. An undersized PF, Green, played center a lot, and it worked. Kerr decided to try to speed up the game, and wanted more offense, since CLE's defense was really clicking, even with James' spotty defense. He didn't want an offensive liability like Bogut on the court for very long or at all, as it turned out, despite how good defensively Bogut can be. Green really struggles guarding bigger players one-on-one in the post, which is what you'd expect, since he's a very small PF

At Thursday, June 18, 2015 2:42:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Yeah, Cleveland specifically is a team you can survive against without a rim protector (particularly with Kyrie and Love gone), but it's hard to argue GS would have been in the Finals without Bogut.

At Thursday, June 18, 2015 12:26:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Kerr's Warriors place a much greater emphasis on defense than D'Antoni's Suns did. I disagree that the difference is only the quality of the personnel. Also, D'Antoni did not try very hard to get better defensive players. He sought out guys who could further juice the offense.

The D'Antoni Suns tried to win a championship based on the theory that their running style and barrage of three pointers would wear down the opposing team. It was kind of like Paul Westhead's concept of giving up layups in order to shoot three pointers. That stuff can work in high school or college or other lower levels of the game but you cannot win an NBA championship with that style.

Kerr's Warriors emphasize defense. Every player is an integral part of the defense. No player is being hidden. No layups are being conceded to shoot three pointers. Visually, the Warriors' offense may look like the Suns' offense but philosophically the teams are quite different.

At Thursday, June 18, 2015 1:21:00 PM, Anonymous Jack said...


Should we really call Lebron's performance one of the greatest given that he shot 28% outside of 5 feet???
I understand where you are coming from b/c that's position you've always taken with performances like this, but i'm surprised at media members moving the goalpost and change their tune on something they've bashed kobe about in the past.

How big of a mistake do you think it was for the Cavs(lebron) to trade Wiggins for Kevin Love??

At Thursday, June 18, 2015 3:30:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I'm not disagreeing that D'Antoni didn't do a good job seeking out defensive personnel- I said as much above. It's the main reason he never won.

But, systemically, they're doing 80-90% of the same stuff; the difference is that Golden State is doing it well, and doesn't have any bad defensive players that need to be hidden (which is personnel, not system).

At Thursday, June 18, 2015 5:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amare at center is much better than anything GS could shove out there. And Nash is supposedly better than Curry according to you. Those are the 2 most important positions, and PHO wins both of those. GS has a better variety of wings, but not by that much. Bell would be the best perimeter defender on either team.

GS best players care about defense, while PHO's best players didn't. That's the main reason why GS is better than PHO was.

So, you don't need a rim protector or do you? When going up against a team that has James, you'd think you'd want a rim protector for sure, right? The truth is that most teams, no matter how good or bad they are, have at least one rim protector. PHO wanted to play small and fast, and sacrificed size/defense to do that. Curry et al., at least made efforts to play defense. Nash did not. D'antoni deserves some blame, but the players are the main ones that need to be held accountable.

At Thursday, June 18, 2015 9:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


David and other commentators. I'm a bay area native we waited fourty years for this. The mainstream media need to stop talking about lebron and talk about curry. He is the greatest shooter ever. He has a ring and mvp and he only 27. I think he a lock hofamer and gon be best pg in the game the next five years. He did what Westbrook harden Durant Paul griffin haven't done. Be a number one option on a title team. This kid is special he is the Floyd may weather of the NBA. The best pound for pound.

Dantoni and Kerr fell out cause Kerr wanted him to play defense. Dantoni didn't but I agree I believe this warrior team is a defensive Phoenix.

At Friday, June 19, 2015 3:03:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


LeBron James posted dominant statistics and he should be credited for that. However, he did fall apart down the stretch in multiple games and he made some bizarre remarks during the series, calling himself the best player in one breath and then in the next breath complaining about being fatigued and being saddled with "no talent" around him. As is often the case with James, I think that the quality of his performance is not as high as the numbers suggest--bu it is still very high. He is the best player in the NBA, even if he is not the right person to be saying that. He can do things that no other player can do--and yet, he is 2-4 in the Finals. He has been an enigma for me for a long time and he remains an enigma, a supposedly pass first, unselfish player who actually shoots first (I have no problem with that) and often throws his teammates/coach under the bus when adversity strikes (which does not sound good when you disappear down the stretch in close games, because obviously the "no talent" was good enough to keep the games close for three quarters).

At Friday, June 19, 2015 3:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree for the most part with your take vis a vis Golden State and D'Antoni's Suns, but I think that D'Antoni deserves some blame for the players' mindsets because the coach can/should influence that.

At Friday, June 19, 2015 3:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Curry shot .443 from the field and .385 from three point range in the NBA Finals, so we might want to pump our brakes on the greatest shooter ever idea. As a regular season MVP winner and key player on a championship team he probably is a lock Hall of Famer. Regarding the next five years, a healthy Westbrook could certainly give Curry a run for his money as best point guard in the NBA.

At Friday, June 19, 2015 3:39:00 PM, Anonymous Tokez said...

So because curry won his first title at the age of 27 and has an MVP (questionable) to his name, he is the greatest shooter ever? His performance in the finals was not that amazing which is why Iggy deservedly was awarded. Kob won his first title at 22 and I don't see anybody anointing him with the title of greatest shooter ever. Curry is good but Westbrook will smash on him with a healthy team. It wouldn't even be close..you bay area natives should be thanking the injury gods for your title..and I'm not talking about the cavs. Very high chance (actually pretty much certainty) that GS does not repeat next year.

At Friday, June 19, 2015 10:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tokez Westbrook is no curry. He def can't shoot pass or near as efficent as as curry plus he a turnover machine. He doesn't have a ring as best player on a team or a mvp as well.

David. U kno most analyst call him the best shooter ever. His percentage is 40 percent and he took eleven three a game in the finals. If he took less three he would have a higher percentage. He made 273 and 275 three in reg season the last two years NBA record. He made 103 threes in 22 games. Reggie miller made 58 three in 22 games playoff games as well. Basically he shoots 40 percent taking 11 three a game. If he took less like most players it would be a higher percentage. He shot 46 percent from three in reg season. He has the best pure shot I ever seen. Without a doubt

At Saturday, June 20, 2015 6:23:00 PM, Anonymous Tokez said...


Westbrook never had the luxury of having a fully healthy roster the past few years. Curry is the best player on that team but when you have a team as stacked as gsw then that's not saying much. Westbrook can't pass as well as curry? That's laughable. Where are your arguments to back up that gem? Westbrook was smashing through the western conference with a crappier team than lebron had in the finals. Curry averages more than 3 turnovers a game with lower assists. What's your point? Like I said let's wait til curry actually has a chance to try hard for his ring instead of being blessed with injured teams all around them. Warriors are a flash in the pan.

At Saturday, June 20, 2015 6:25:00 PM, Anonymous Tokez said...

"If he took less like most players it would be a higher percentage"? Exactly how are you going to prove this metric? That's hilarious. I guess we are going to make up vague correlations to prove our point now huh? BTW Steve Nash has better percentages over a longer period of time so slow down with your accolades.

At Sunday, June 21, 2015 12:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tokez Steve Nash said curry a better shooter than anyone ever. He shot 49 percent from the field Russell shot 39 percent. This is not close. Russell motor better than curry. Passing dribbling shooting less turnovers. Leading his team to the promise land. Curry is above all. The excuses about thunder being hurt is not curry fault or gsw. And Russ couldn't carry his team without Durant as we see. Russell not good enough to be a one option on a title team like curry.

Far as gsw being stack. Take curry off that team they can't make the playoffs he gets everyone on that team open shots.

At Tuesday, June 30, 2015 1:29:00 AM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

I'd be interested to hear your opinion on something that has been worrying me. Full disclaimer, I think Lebron James is the best player in the world by far right now, but it can be hard to meaningfully critique his style of play anywhere else but this blog unfortunately.

What do you think about Lebron and travelling? I really feel like he travels more than I remember any other star player travelling and I have a few issues with this.

1. I think it hurts the defenders of this league and dims their stars. The amount of times AI in the finals performed great defence and Lebron travelled to get off a shot seemed too many to me.

2. It is destroying the art of footwork, which is a real beauty of the game. I don't mean this as a Lebron bash, but his footwork is terrible compared to previous stars. His lack of footwork does not make him "not as great" as previous stars, with the right environment he would learn great footwork and be all the better for it. We let him get away with it, and thus he has no need to develop good footwork.

3. The travelling issue isn't only Lebron, although he seems to be the most notable offender. The issue is bleeding across the league and it is killing the value of players with GREAT FOOTWORK. Why bother learning footwork when there is no value in it?

As I said this issue is worrying me because so many of the classic moves that made this the game I love are amazing precisely because they weren't travels. These days highlights are invariably travels, and honestly they just look clumsy, not graceful. They don't shock me with, "How did he do that?!" They just underwhelm me with "Of course you can do that if you can just walk over there.."

At Wednesday, July 01, 2015 4:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James might be the best player, but to say he's by far the best player is a bit much. He was too tired at the ends of almost every game in the playoffs. He played average defense at best for most of the time. He shot poorly from everywhere, and finished the playoffs with a TS% of .487. Plus, chilled for a lot of the regular season, and didn't outperform every other player.

But, you're right on about his travelling. I don't think someone his size would ever have great footwork, but he certainly has lots of room for improvement. If he was forced to actually follow the rules more correctly(aka not travelling), his impact would be much less. He gets away with so much.

I do think fans(and it's mostly casual nba fans) make way too much about travelling, though. I think part of this is because travelling actually gets called too much at the college and lower levels. I have seen an increase in travelling calls in recent years in the nba. NBA officials frustrate me so much, but they are the best in the world still. However, there are some absolutely ridiculous non-travel calls that they let go sometimes. I'll admit though, that even watching slo-mo replays over and over sometimes, it's hard to actually distinguish travelling sometimes. If things were called more, players would then have to adjust accordingly. Even with so many supposed missed calls today, remember that team defenses are so much better today. I seriously doubt officials were better 30-40 years ago either. With technology, etc., today's officials, even if only by default, are going to be better.

At Friday, July 03, 2015 4:31:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with you that LeBron's footwork is not as good as players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

In general, you are probably correct that there has been a lowering of standards regarding traveling in the NBA. On the other hand, though, it is worth remembering that a player is allowed to make a jump stop and use either foot as his pivot foot and also that these players are so big and so fast that they can make moves that look like traveling but really are not traveling.

The occasional extra half step on an uncontested fastbreak dunk does not bother me as much as what you are talking about, which is a well defended player getting free by taking an obvious and illegal extra step or by illegally changing his pivot foot. I agree that this should be cleaned up by the league.

Something that bothers me even more, though, is the nonsense that James Harden does, which his hook his defender, flail his arms and get bailed out with two free throws even though he initiated the contact with no intention of attempting a shot that he realistically could make.

At Sunday, July 05, 2015 11:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James, Kobe, Pierce, Durant, on and on, all have moves where they're not even wanting to shoot/score, but rather pick up a foul to get to the line. Harden isn't doing anything illegal most of the time, and certainly not more than almost anyone else. The "initiating the contact' comment I hear often is mostly nonsense. It doesn't necessarily matter who initiates the contact. The offensive player is initiating the contact 99% of the time, but it's usually a defensive foul, which is usually correctly called. The defense is reacting to the offense. While they aren't initiating the contact, that doesn't mean it's an offensive call. If the defense is silly enough to foul Harden, then it's a foul. That's not Harden's fault. It's only a bailout from the officials if incorrectly called, which very rarely isn't. But, this is where your opinions of Harden's style clearly shows to affect your judgment on his abilities. You think that other violations are acceptable, and I"ve never heard you call out Ginobili, Paul, James, etc. flopping. Harden is rarely committing a violation when he draws his fouls. It's ugly to watch, but not illegal. He uses his old-man approach to the game very smartly. It's a wily veteran, even though he's a younger player. You might not like it, but it's smart. And so is flopping for that matter, since it often works, though flopping seems like cheating the game. And sometimes you need to embellish a little to sell the foul. Sometimes it's a foul, but the officials won't see it or call it if you don't sell it a little. It's the non-contact flopping which guys like Ginobili and Paul do so often that's annoying. Harden puts the ball low to the ground, enticing defenders to reach. If they want to reach, that's their decision, but they must pay the consequences as well.

Can't wait to read upcoming articles of all these awful recent contracts.

At Sunday, July 05, 2015 1:27:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Pump-faking to draw a defender off balance is a smart move. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant mastered that skill, as did Adrian Dantley. Sticking your leg out and then falling as if a sniper shot you is not a basketball play. Reggie Miller did that and I hated it. Establishing good defensive position and taking a charge is a smart move. Scottie Pippen and Jason Kidd mastered that. Jumping to a spot a split second before the offensive player arrives and then falling backwards as if a Mack truck ran you over even though there was hardly any contact is not a basketball play. Manu Ginobili and others do that and I hate it.

Harden is smart in the sense that he knows what he can get away with doing but I don't understand why officials fall for it or why opposing players stand for it. Harden will grab a defender's arm and then flail as if he has been fouled. Officials supposedly watch film to learn players' tendencies, so Harden should not have gotten away with this more than once or twice. If Harden tried that nonsense in the 60s or 70s and got away with it then the opposing players would use the arm that Harden grabbed to elbow Harden, which would teach Harden that this "trick" comes with an unpleasant treat and Harden would learn to not do that anymore.

I enjoy good footwork and good fakes. I do not enjoy flopping or offensive moves that are done without any attempt to make a shot and I have always called out players who do those things.

Some of the contracts are eye-opening but a lot of this has to do with the anticipated increase in the salary cap. Also, keep in mind that each team must spend a minimum amount of money as well, so that factor plus the bidding market leads to increased salaries. I am kind of taking everything in before I write about it.


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