When he took over for Mark Jackson as Golden State coach, Steve Kerr emphasized pace, spacing and ball and player movement offensively. The Warriors’ scoring skyrocketed, and they became the juggernaut we now know.
Then, they added Kevin Durant.
Ever since, there has been a give and take. Kerr and the Warriors – including Durant – still like to run, spread the floor and share the ball. But Durant is also great in isolation and sometimes reverts to that. Remember, Durant’s and Draymond Green‘s infamous argument earlier this season stemmed from a play where Green wanted to push the ball up-court then pass to an open player while Durant wanted to control the ball himself.
The latest disconnect in offensive style came after Golden State’s 108-103 loss to the Jazz last night. The Warriors had just 266 passes and 18 assists, marks that would rank last or near last per game in the NBA this season.
Kerr, via Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle:
“We’re not moving the ball,” Kerr said after watching his club shoot 40 percent from the field, including 10-for-31 (32.3 percent) from three-point range. “We’re not playing the way we’ve played the last few years, where the ball is really moving and we’re taking great shots.”
Durant and Kerr have disagreed after a loss before, and they still came together to win a championship. It’s a long season. This needn’t necessarily blow up into something huge.
But this is the most detached Durant and Kerr have seemed on this issue. With Durant’s free agency looming, his alignment with Golden State justifiably gets put under the microscope. This shouldn’t be ignored.
Durant views basketball a certain way. He values getting buckets in a way that doesn’t neatly overlap with Kerr’s philosophy. I’m not sure that will ever completely change.
But both sides can continue to work to meet in the middle. Durant reportedly left the Thunder, in part, due to frustration over Russell Westbrook commandeering the offense. Yet, Durant must do more to get the ball within a free-flowing system. He can be too stagnant. Durant has shown an eagerness to expand his game, and maybe Golden State can sell him on this being the next skill to develop.
The Warriors are at their best when running Kerr’s equalitarian offense. Green and Klay Thompson particularly perform better in that structure. Stephen Curry too, though he’s good enough to play multiple ways. But, as Durant said, opponents have become more adept at stopping it. Everyone has copied the Warriors, so defenses have adjusted. Durant isolating is a great alternative against defenses slowing Kerr’s preferred system. But Durant is also far too talented to be pigeonholed as Golden State’s last resort.
To some degree, these are first-world problems. Whatever the Warriors are doing, it’s working.
They still lead the league in assists per game (27.6). They still rank fourth in passes per game (309.8). They still rank second in points per 100 possession (113.0, just behind the Bucks’ 113.2).
And, of course, Golden State has won two championships in Durant’s two years there. The Warriors are favored to win another this season.
Most teams would kill to have these offensive problems.
But with Durant’s impending free agency, how he feels matters greatly. Golden State must continue to work to get on the same page with him.