I’m not quite sure why, but I find it strange that everyone seems to be rushing to give Luke Walton credit for the Golden State Warriors historic start to the 2015-16 regular season. Last time I checked, Luke Walton once was an assistant coach for the Memphis Tigers during the 2011 NBA lockout. He also served as a player development coach for the Los Angeles Defenders of the D-League for the 2013-14 season. Other than that, Luke Walton is a 2-time NBA champion as a player, where he learned the triangle offense from Phil Jackson (Tex Winter if you want to be exact.) By the time those championships came around, Walton was far from being a productive player in the league. In fact, the coolest thing that happened in Luke Walton’s career was that he was endorsed by LA Gear (let’s be honest, that’s dope as f*ck).
While Steve Kerr has been leading the charge for Walton to get the wins on his record, should we really be giving up these wins from Kerr so easily? After all, the Warriors aren’t doing much different than last season, other than Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli, and Harrison Barnes improving their games in the off-season. Has Luke Walton been helping Andre Iguodala with his improved 3-point shooting too? The Warriors, coming off a championship season, already have the winning formula in place to be successful. With the winning chemistry already intact, the Warriors players are growing into their roles:
Stephen Curry (offensive and defensive ratings):
2014-15: 122/101 (Usage rate: 28.9%)
2015-16: 127/98 (Usage rate: 33.3%)
2014-15: 110/97 (Usage rate: 17.2%)
2015-16: 117/98 (Usage rate: 18.0%)
2014-15: 111/99 (Usage rate: 17.7%)
2015-16: 120/98 (Usage rate: 17.4%)
2014-15: 116/104 (Usage rate: 14.9 %)
2015-16: 122/103 (Usage rate: 17.4%)
2014-15: 110/103 (Usage rate: 13.3%)
2015-16: 128/101 (Usage rate: 12.1%)
Remember last season? The Warriors struggled to figure out how to use Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston for much of the first half of the season. Barbosa improved his defense and played a key reserve role in the playoffs. Same with Livingston, who is attacking the mid-range and post area against smaller guards to an offensive rating of 114 this year. Harrison Barnes struggled to figure out when to take over offensively and deferred to the Splash Brothers for most of the season. This year, the Black Falcon has been aggressive, dunking and eyeing down his victims after his aerial assaults.
In the current NBA, we have technology monitoring how much each player runs in a given game, how fast they accelerate for each cut, etc. This isn’t the 80’s and 90’s. Do people really think Steve Kerr has been filling in for Neil Patrick Harris this whole time, while Walton has done all the work? Walton has said that Kerr has been to at least 70% of practices and all the home games. Kerr simply isn’t fit to travel with the team at this point.
Let’s put things in perspective. It was Steve Kerr who suited up for the legendary Chicago Bulls dynasty, where he played alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and also played for the great Phil Jackson. It was Steve Kerr who suited up alongside Tim Duncan and David Robinson. He played for a pretty damn good coach there too. Some dude named Greg Popovich. Kerr also was the GM for the Phoenix Suns, who perhaps had the first version of Stephen Curry, in Steve Nash, during his tenure. Although, Kerr did everything possible to break up that small ball team by trading Shawn Marion for Shaq and also trading away the league’s first version of Draymond Green, in Boris Diaw. These are the experiences Kerr needed to go through before bringing his system to Golden State in 2014.
Remember just a couple of years ago, Mark Jackson was in charge. Kerr removed iso-ball from the offense and you are seeing the most beautiful basketball the league has ever seen. Although it’s well documented how Kerr convinced Iguodala to come off the bench, take a look in the difference it made in Barnes’ game, while Iguodala’s offensive and defensive ratings remained the same:
Harrison Barnes offensive and defensive ratings under Mark Jackson:
2012-13 : 102/107 (Usage rate: 17.7%)
2013-14: 100/105 (Usage rate: 16.8%)
Harrison Barnes offensive and defensive ratings under Steve Kerr:
2014-15: 116/104 (Usage rate: 14.9%)
Andre Iguodala offensive and defensive ratings under Mark Jackson:
2013-14: 113/103 (Usage rate: 13.3%)
Andre Iguodala offensive and defensive ratings under Steve Kerr:
2014-15: 110/103 (Usage rate: 13.3%)
That is the true sign of coaching. Iguodala struggled with his new role during parts of last season but the numbers show he was just as effective. The numbers from this year show the increase in the Warriors offensive and defensive ratings are likely to be the result of natural progression, not better coaching.
Don’t get me wrong. I may have been a bit harsh toward Luke in the beginning, he’s been doing a great job with in game maneuvers and managing minutes. I just find it a little too soon to be giving Luke the credit for this start, when clearly he’s just following the game plan the Master of None has set for them.