Fixing Leaky Defense Essential for Warriors’ Championship Chase

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Warriors chasing championship means fixing leaky defense originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – With the NBA preseason in the books, the Warriors essentially ended their 2023 training camp on Sunday. Though some aspects went smoothly, at least one critical challenge remains very much unfinished.

The preseason exposed their defensive shortcomings. That element has a lot of repairs ahead before it can hope to reach the level required of a championship contender.

And Game 1 of the regular season now is two days away.

“Come Tuesday night,” Klay Thompson said, referring to opening night, “I think you’ll see a much better defensive effort than you’ve seen these last two weeks.”

Coach Steve Kerr, while hopeful, is more cautious.

“We need to be more consistent,” Kerr said after a light scrimmage on Sunday. “I didn’t think our defense was great in the preseason. It’s got to improve.”

Preseason games are the first steps toward building good habits, and the Warriors were wildly inconsistent on defense. The result was a 108.7 rating that ranked 22nd among 30 teams.

Those numbers reflect the absence of Draymond Green, who missed all five preseason games, but also the sloppy habits of those on the court.

“At times, our shell is great. At times, our shell isn’t there,” said Green, who was able to participate in the scrimmage. “At times, when we have certain groups on the floor, they’re communicating. And then other groups aren’t quite communicating. That’s something I can help with.”

Green is an eight-time All-Defensive team selection and the 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year. He conceivably is the most versatile defender in the league, able guard all five positions. Golden State’s defense is bound to suffer in his absence.

It will improve upon his return. He might be available for the season opener on Tuesday but almost certainly will be ready by the second game on Oct. 27 against the Kings in Sacramento.

“Draymond will automatically make us better because he’s Draymond,” Kerr said.

“But that doesn’t excuse us from making some of the mistakes we’re making because those mistakes are going to happen whether Draymond is there or not unless we correct them.”

One of most troublesome areas was turnovers. Golden State averaged 17.6 per game, tied for 18th in the league. More troubling were the 21 points per game opponents scored off those gifts. That’s an indication of a team with too many live-ball turnovers.

“That has to be a focus of ours,” Green said. “It’s hard to defend that.”

Green conceded that he and Stephen Curry tend to be most responsible for the turnovers — but that Chris Paul, a low-turnover player throughout his career, will be something of an antidote.

That, however, does not account for the half-court defensive issues visible last season and against during the preseason. There simply are too many breakdowns, often leading reach fouls or surrendering easy baskets.

“The No. 1 thing for this group is going to be communication,” Green said. “It’s a new group, still getting comfortable with each other, learning each other’s strengths. What helps speed that process is communication.

“I’m going to say this publicly because I want to put that pressure on and I know he’ll handle it: We need Kevon Looney to talk more. Loon is someone who has blossomed into a focal point of everything we do. He knows everything. Everything.”

Draymond is asking Looney to do what former big man Andrew Bogut was so good at during his time with the Warriors. Recognize what the opposing is trying to do and loudly call it out. And, also, to organize traffic, particularly inside the 3-point arc. And always let your teammates know the conditions behind them.

“It’s going to be important for us to hear his voice more because everyone on the court feels more comfortable when they hear the big voice,” Green said of Looney. “And he’s been growing in that area. I think it’s time for him to take that ultimate step in that area. I have no doubt that he will, and that will be huge for us.”

Until that happens on a regular basis, it’s merely theoretical.

For now, the issues about the defense are more routine concern than a matter of high anxiety. The Warriors believe they are fixable. What they don’t know is how long it will take.

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