Why Kevin Durant is Statistically a Perfect Fit in Golden State

It’s no secret that the Warriors have an explosive offense. In fact, most sane people would say it’s the best in the NBA, maybe of all-time. The 2015-16 Warriors scored 114.9 points per game. The last time a team hit this mark was the 1991-92 season. By the way, they added one of the best scorers in NBA history this offseason.

On paper, this should be the best offense of all-time. Whether you judge teams predominantly based on stats, or go by eye test, this team is a juggernaut. Just think about their personnel:

  • Two of the best shooters ever (possibly the two best)
  • A top three scorer ever, also the most efficient scorer with this volume in NBA history
  • One of the best passing big men in the NBA

The “there’s only one ball” argument at this point is idiocy. As Klay Thompson himself said best, “There’s only one ball…we’ll put it in the hoop.” With limited shots to go around, players won’t have to settle. Kevin Durant does not have to hold the ball for 15 seconds only to take an inefficient shot. The majority of their shots will be open. Open shots are efficient shots. That bodes well for the offense.

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This chart symbolizes greatness. Imagine an elite offense, with the back-to-back MVP, adding the best scorer of their generation, and fitting perfectly. Just look at this chart. Read it, comprehend it, marvel at it’s greatness.

Now, obviously this isn’t picture perfect, but Durant doesn’t need to change much in terms of play style. The Warriors most frequently shoot in transition, with 17.5% of their total field goals coming in that fashion. Kevin Durant took 15.1% of his shots from there, slightly below the Warriors mark, but close enough that he doesn’t have to change his approach.

The biggest discrepancy between Durant and his new team is isolation frequency. Looking at both the plays deemed isolation along with the pick and roll Ball Handling, there is a large difference. Both of these play types involve Durant creating for himself, and shooting off the dribble. Durant scored 0.99 points per possession in isolation this past season, ranking 6th amongst the 50 players with 100+ isolation possessions.

The Warriors ran a lot of set plays for Stephen Curry, having him dribble around screens to free himself up. This is a shot that most players don’t want to fall in love with, but the Warriors have Stephen Curry, so they can run this efficiently. Durant is more efficient than most, so expect the Warriors to fit around his play style to a point in this area. He will still create for himself, just not as often.

Stephen Curry is the primary ball handler in Golden State when it comes to using screens, with a frequency of 26.2% last year. Curry was remarkably efficient in the pick and roll last year, ranking 1st in the NBA in points per possession amongst players with 200+ FGA. No efficient team wants to take this shot often. The Warriors had the lowest frequency of this shot in the NBA last year. Since the frequency as a team should not go up much, this means This is one of the areas that Steph will have to sacrifice a bit for Durant. Curry was the only Warriors starter that took these shots with frequency last year. Now, he will have to share these opportunities with Durant, who also was very efficient in this shot type, ranking 6th in the league in points per possession amongst players with 200+ FGA.

These are strong points in KD’s game, but they aren’t a big part of the offense in Golden State. This is the type of adjustment that may take time. He has developed tendencies over his nine years in Oklahoma City, these tendencies can’t be broken mentally. The ‘adjustment period’ that you may see mentioned a lot is caused by this type of thing.

Some of the most successful shot types for the Warriors include field goals off screens and in transition. Golden State led the league in FGA off screens with 954. For reference of how much that actually is, the next closest team was the Pacers, with 633. Kevin Durant was 3rd in the league in FG% on these shots amongst players with 200+ FGA, with a mark of 45.3%. Transition was another huge piece of the offense in Golden State. As a team, they were 4th in the league in FGA in transition with 1,228. Amongst those who attempted 200+ shots in transition, Durant tied for 1st in the league in points per possession with 1.32. He was also 2nd in the league in FG% with 62.3%.

It’s not hard to see the similarities in the games of both KD and the Warriors as a team. From play styles to shot types to their demeanors, similarities can be drawn between Durant and his new team.

The Warriors death lineup has caused nightmares throughout the NBA. Durant will fill the Barnes role. And he will fill it very well. The following chart is Kevin Durant’s 2015-16 Positional Splits:

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Obviously Durant produced more at the power forward spot. Across the board, his numbers were better in small ball lineups. Guess what…his new team runs with a small ball lineup more effectively than any team in NBA history. Last year Durant only played 25.8% of his minutes at the four. His minute total there is expected to go up as Harrison Barnes played over double that time at power forward, with 54.3%. The quickness of Durant and lack thereof by his traditionally big men opponents allow for him to be even more dangerous in this scenario.

It’s crazy to think that a team that was already so well put together could add another superstar that fits in exactly with what they have. The Warriors have definitely struck gold in their signing of Durant, and vice versa. It will certainly be interesting to see how KD’s desire for wide-open 3s and layups plays out on the court, because on paper, this is scary. With the season tipping off in the near future, it’s time to sit back and watch this machine work. Whether you like it or not the Warriors, with Kevin Durant, are coming.

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