OAKLAND (AP) — With an NBA title, 67 regular season wins and an MVP performance from Stephen Curry, it would seem it would be hard for things to get much better for the Golden State Warriors.
Not the case.
Despite ranking second in the league in offensive efficiency in what was a dream season, the Warriors maintain they only scratched the surface of what they can do on offense in the first year in coach Steve Kerr’s system.
With almost the entire young roster back again this season, the confidence of winning a championship and upgrades to the bench, the Warriors see plenty of room for improvement.
“That second year of that new offense is when things start to really click,” Curry said. “(Kerr) always was telling us that second, third year is when you really take off. So if we did what we did last year and we’re still learning about the system and how we’re going to go out and play it, I like our chances going into this year, too.”
It’s not as if it was a struggle on offense last year. The Warriors led the NBA in shooting, 3-point shooting, assists and points on the way to an NBA-best 67-15 record and the franchise’s first championship in 40 years.
But there were also bouts of careless play with too many turnovers and too often when things got tough the Warriors just gave the ball to Curry or Klay Thompson and got out of the way.
The Splash Brothers combined to score 45.5 points per game, make 525 3-pointers and had the ability to take over games for long stretches.
“I think a lot of times last year we kind of would depend on Steph to bail us out, depend on Klay to bail us out, and I think that’s where Year 2 you get more comfortable with the offense, you learn to get to the third, fourth and fifth option,” forward Draymond Green said. “I think that’s going to help this team continue to grow.”
Kerr was pleased that his players bought into the message that he started delivering at the beginning of last season that it would take a year until the players would understand all the options of the offense.
Even with Kerr on the sideline for most of training camp recovering from back surgery and lead assistant Alvin Gentry gone as head coach in New Orleans, the players believe the knowledge they gained last season will provide a foundation to build on this season.
“I think this year now we can finally get better at those and add those different layers that Coach Kerr always talks about, add those nuances that when you look at teams like the Spurs, it looks like they’ve been playing together for a lifetime,” forward Harrison Barnes said. “When you add new guys into the system and they get more comfortable, everyone starts to play better.”
Golden State hopes to incorporate new aspects into the offense, whether it’s corner 3-pointers from Shaun Livingston and Mo Speights, consistent minutes from Brandon Rush, who played sparingly last year, or newcomer Ben Gordon.
Gordon gives the Warriors a needed shooter off the bench as a former 20-point-a-game scorer who has shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range in his career.
“One of the things I heard a lot of guys say is they want to get better than they were last year,” Gordon said. “With most of the team here, the chemistry is already there. And the style of play is just a lot of ball movement. The longer guys are together, the easier the reads are going to be. I think they’ll definitely be able to do that.”
Along with newcomers and increased knowledge, the Warriors are also counting on the natural improvement that comes with a young team. Curry is still 27, while Thompson and Green are only 25.
Thompson talked about being more aggressive and getting to the foul line more often. Curry, despite a brilliant MVP campaign, also wants to add more to his game.
“I’m just trying to be more explosive in what I do, create more space with the dribble, getting stronger and trying to hold my lines more when they’re attacking the basket and things like that,” he said. “I’m going to be smarter.”