Less than 20 games in and the Golden State Warriors have already made history. They have been on fire on offense, making shots from anywhere and anytime in the basketball court, and they have been a wall defensively, making stops and holding teams to poor shooting percentages.
They have been special as a group, complete on both ends. But what makes them even more special, is at a certain time in a game, they’re going to unleash their ultimate weapon. A weapon that no team in the NBA has figured out, so far. A weapon so lethal, its name is so fitting. The Small Ball Death Squad.
The Warriors’ small lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green has been one, if not the most effective lineup in the league so far, and they have proven so this year with their two comeback wins against the Los Angeles Clippers and closing out their game against the Chicago Bulls in crunch time, while sporting the unit. A five man group in which their tallest member on the court is 6’7″, that is destroying teams left and right. But how exactly are they doing it? Is it simply just going smaller than the opponent? It’s really not.
That exact same lineup together is posting a ridiculous 154.7 Offensive Rating in 64 minutes of playing together so far. They are lights out, shooting 63.6% from the field, and a mind-blowing 62.5% from 3PT, and an even mind-blowing 82% True Shooting Rate, with 72% of those shots being assisted. The SMDS is ultra efficient in scoring, mainly due to having 5 guys who’s capable of shooting the ball from three at a very good rate. Having 3 elite playmakers for their position in Curry, Iguodala and Green helps to take advantage of a well spread out floor, and their willing passer mentality scrambles the defense all together and creates open shots.
Defensively they have been stellar, posting an impressive 84.8 Defensive Rating, and holding opponents 38% shooting from the field. Big part of this is that the Warriors small lineup is so versatile that they can switch assignments in nearly every opponent and every play possible, especially Draymond Green, in which he could literally guard all five positions if he gets switched on. Opponent 3PT% vs the SMDS is at a lowly 17%, mainly due to the ability to switch on pick and rolls and stay true to their defensive tasks.
They are also clocking in at a 109 Pace Rate, which means they get a ton possessions as a unit. And that’s whats fueling either a comeback or a blowout. The small unit obviously plays fast, and they score fast and efficient, and they stop opponents which generates more possessions. And when needing to come back from 10 down with 4 minutes left, or closing out a tie game with two minutes remaining, this is the best recipe for it.
It’s no secret that the small ball lineup has been working, heck, this is the lineup that won won the Finals last year. But how effective and how tough defensively tough they are is what’s separating them from being just an adjustment to now being the most deadly lineup in the NBA. A squad that hot offensively, generates more possessions, unselfish and can stop literally anyone may not get beat if they continue on with this level of play, and that makes their name, the Small Ball Death Squad so apropos.