In the days after being unceremoniously tossed into the offseason, the Warriors collectively gazed into a mirror and saw cold truth staring back. They could not deny that their best selves had been sabotaged by their worst selves.
How many times did a player smack himself upside the head after flipping a careless pass? How many times did a coach sigh as an opponent raced to a transition layup? How many times did the Warriors bite themselves in the backside with turnovers?
Too many to earn a top-four seed in the Western Conference. Too many to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.
Too much finally was enough.
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Golden State executives went on the prowl for basketball balances and believe they found them in the likes of Chris Paul and Cory Joseph.
“We all watch the game. We enjoy it. We see the greatness of these guys,” general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. said on the “Dubs Talk” podcast. “And at the same time, you see some of the silly passes when even they hit themselves on the forehead. They know better, but that’s sort of how they play.
“So, if we can bring in another guy or two that can complement them and still allow them to play the way they play, I think that’s the right answer.”
Paul’s 18-year history is an illustration of respecting the ball. He has been the primary ball-handler on every team which he has played yet his career assist-to-turnover ratio is a startling 4-1 and was a more impressive 4.6-to-1 last season. That makes him particularly valuable to the Warriors, and it’s why he’ll go directly into the rotation and play crucial minutes.
Golden State Warriors
Joseph is not projected to play big minutes, but his career assist-to-turnover ratio of 3-1 is good enough to buy a lot of trust when he is needed.
Acquiring Paul and Joseph is a textbook of a team recognizing a weakness and committed to addressing it. This is, on paper, a very good and much-needed patching of a leak.
While staggering and tumbling to a 44-38 record last season, the Warriors were six games over .500 (20-14) when opponents committed more turnovers. They were 24-24 when they committed the same number or more. The 20-14 record extrapolates to 48. 34 over a full season, good enough for a top-four seed.
Instead, The Warriors earned the No. 6 seed. That’s the kind of cost paid when leading the NBA in turnovers, first in number, last in ball security.
The turnovers that occasionally hurt the magnificent days of yore were ruinous for the 2022-23 Warriors. So, the front office studied the data and reached an evident conclusion.
“We do everything really, really well except, ‘Oh, wait, we turn the ball over the worst in the league,’” Dunleavy said. “If we could remedy that a little bit, if we can get to 20th in the league, how much better would our offense be? From a front-office, 25,000-foot view, that’s how we look at things.
“But it’s not as easy as that. You’ve got to find ways to address it. It’s also something Steve talks about in terms of (last) year. We’ve got to clean up some areas, and one of them is turnovers, if we can.”
If the regular-season finish was a stern warning for the Warriors, the postseason was a blaring siren. They escaped with a seven-game victory over the Sacramento Kings in the first round before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in six in the conference semifinals. Over 13 games, Golden State was 3-2 when committing the same number or fewer turnovers, 3-5 when committing more.
These factors are more easily overcome when the roster had Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, prime Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson and more. Those Warriors had enough firepower to obscure their worst impulses. And they knew it.
The Warriors of last season weren’t good enough to offset their tendency to provide gifts to opponents. Some of the turnovers were directly responsible for excruciating fourth-quarter collapses.
“That has, to be fair, been an issue for a few years,” Dunleavy said. “It’s just the way we play. You’ve got to live with it because of what it leads to in terms of shots and chaos and all that. There’s that balance.
“But knowing Chris and believing that he can do both – thrive within the chaos and help our guys . . . and at the same time also have some stability, where we’re taking care of the ball, creating more possessions and not giving up possessions. It just seems like, on paper and in person, it makes a lot of sense.”
Golden State’s shot-callers were no mood for another season of watching the Warriors inflict as much or more misery upon themselves as did their opponents. Weakness addressed. About as well as possible.