If you were a Golden State Warriors fan over the last decade, you spent a significant amount of money getting a ticket to a home game with the expectation of a win for your team. After all, the Warriors lost just 61 games over the last eight seasons at home (excluding the 2019-20 season where Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were mostly out). That’s an average of 7.6 home losses per season, and it’s a reason Golden State’s been so hard to keep out of the playoffs.
That hasn’t been the case this season. The Warriors have already lost 10 home games and they are three away from the most home losses in the Steve Kerr era. The root of the issue is Golden State’s defense, which has usually been lights out in the Bay Area. Last season, the Warriors were an epic disaster on the road. However, they went 33-8 at home which was the best mark in the league. Here’s a look at Golden State’s defensive metrics from a season ago by location.
Home: 111.7 ppg allowed, 108.4 defensive rating
Road: 122.5 ppg allowed, 118.3 defensive rating
There were some easy excuses for last year’s team having these marks with Curry and Andrew Wiggins missing time, and it appeared Golden State had turned a corner winning two road games (including a Game 7) in the first round of the playoffs against the Sacramento Kings. Despite being bounced by the red-hot Lakers in the next round, there was reason to believe a few tweaks around the core could keep this run going.
This year, the Warriors have been unraveling at home. Here’s a look at their defensive splits by location.
Home: 117 ppg allowed, 116.6 defensive rating
Road: 116.9 ppg allowed, 115.8 defensive rating
Those home marks rank 20th and 22nd, respectively, across the league. That isn’t what Golden State is about. A good portion of the blame can be placed on Kerr, who has stuck with some objectively bad lineups. The Warriors’ two most frequent 5-man lineups are both net negatives, and the head coach has not shown any willingness to move away from those. Golden State’s next two 5-man lineups are both net positives but even those aren’t viable options with Chris Paul set to miss at least a month recovering from a fractured hand.
The obvious explanation for Golden State’s defensive struggles would be the absence of Draymond Green, who is set to return after his second suspension this season. Green hasn’t been as good defensively this year after signing a four-year, $100 million deal this summer, and now he’s on an extremely tight leash with the team and league. He had to be talked out of retiring, so it’ll be interesting to see if he will be able to give his all to this team.
Even if Green does come back and make an impact, the rest of the dynasty core isn’t quite holding up either. Curry remains a force at 27.1 points per game, but his efficiency is down and he’s in the midst of a slump. Klay Thompson, who couldn’t reach an extension with the Warriors, has been inconsistent. He’s on pace for his second season ever shooting below 40% from deep, and his scoring has dipped from the previous two seasons. Thompson was never going to return to form defensively after two major leg injuries, but his offense had come back. That dip is hard for Golden State to make up.
The peripheral players haven’t been good either. Wiggins has declined in a big way offensively, averaging almost six fewer points per game than last season. His efficiency has dropped 10% from behind the arc, and he’s on pace for the worst scoring season of his career. Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II are important veterans, but they aren’t going to make up these numbers. Dario Saric has been playing well and should see more time going forward.
That leaves the youngsters of the group to make strides. Moses Moody and Brandin Podziemski have grown up quickly, but the rise of Jonathan Kuminga is something Golden State should embrace. Kuminga can score and defend, something the Warriors desperately need. However, there are reports the forward doesn’t believe in Kerr when it comes to his basketball potential. That’s a problem, especially since Kuminga is the exact type of player the Warriors need to step up as this aging core remains a big portion of the salary cap.
And the Warriors are capped out. Even if they decide not to bring Thompson back, Golden State is committed to $174 million in salaries next season with only Payton II possessing a player option. Not bringing Thompson back would signal the end of the dynasty anyway, and it’s a move Golden State is unlikely to make unless this season truly goes south.
The Warriors are 4.5 games out of the sixth and final automatic playoff spot, but only a half-game back of the final play-in tournament spot. They’ll wrap up their home stand with the Pelicans Wednesday before going on a four-game road trip. Their next home stand will feature games against the Mavericks, Hawks, Kings, Lakers and 76ers which will take them through January. They’ll likely have Green back.
We’ll know more about Golden State after that five-game stretch. For now, it’s hard to say the dynasty that went to five straight Finals and six overall in the Kerr era is completely kaput after 36 games. The panic button has definitely been pressed, and now it’s up to the Warriors to respond. We’ve seen them pull many rabbits out of the hat before, but now they’ll have to do so without a crucial advantage they used to possess until this season.