Brilliance of the 18-19 Golden State Warriors' offence, in data

They say that it ain't over until the fat lady sings. To not count your chickens until they've hatched. That is no certainty in this life.

The '18-'19 Warriors will certainly attest to this. For so long, it seemed like they were cruising to their third title in a row, and fourth in five years. Until, that is, it famously came crushing down as we know. They took one rushing blow after another, KD going out with a calf injury, to come back during the Finals only to go out with a torn achilles - culminating in Klay Thompson tearing his ACL during the Finals and Durant leaving for the Nets, resulting in what may have been the end of a dynasty.

With all that said, the Dubs were still undoubtably great throughout the 18-19 season, and in many ways still head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.

Let's take a look back at Warriors' 18-19 offence through the eyes of data, and wonder what may have been.

Team offensive data

You know that a team with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant could shoot. But what does the data say about how good their shooting was, and where they were great from?

Shooting percentages

This chart looks at the Warriors' shooting averages by a simple measure, the distance from the hoop. The orange line shows the Warriors' averages, and the blue line shows averages for the mere mortals of the NBA, who still happen to be the best 400 or so players in the world.

The Warriors' shooting is simply spectacular.

They are above the NBA average at every distance range! Look at their accuracy from the midrange (14-20 ft), and deep 3s (30-34 ft). The gap between them and the rest of the league in these areas is just absurd.

The next charts illustrates the Warriors' shot percentage based on whether they were better or worse than the league average.

18-19 Warriors' shots - where they were better than average (left), and worse (right)

I was going to highlight the particular areas where they are stronger than the league, but I would be more or less highlighting the entire court! The only areas of 'weakness' could be the 3s left side above the break, and the occasional shots around the rim - but by and large, the positives overwhelm the negatives.

Efficiencies (points/100 shots)

Modern NBA offences are far more efficient than they used to be. One of the reasons is that there is an enhanced focus on avoiding low-efficiency shots, like the long 2, which is a low-value proposition for most NBA players. This Goldsberry chart illustrates well just how different the game is.

So, the data in this section is presented based on efficiency of a shot. An average NBA shot has an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 52.4% (equivalent to 34.9% in 3 pointers). In this section, 'good' shots are those with higher eFG% than the average are shown in red, whereas 'bad' shots are those with lower eFG%.

The 'EV' is for expected value of points per 100 shots.

Good shots will be shown in red, bad shots in blue. Think of it like a 'hot' (red) spot, or a 'cold' (blue) spot for the team.

The Warriors' shooting stats are compared below to that of the NBA at large:

Shot data by EV (points / 100 shots) - GSW (left) vs League average (right)

This chart reminds us that Golden State was never an extreme Moreyball (3s & layups) team like Houston.

A better comparison is probably the early 2010s' Spurs, who had a focus on ball movement, and included a steady stream of midrange shooting sprinkled in with their threes and layups. The difference is that Warriors dialled the system up to 13 with 3 of the best shooters of all time on their team.

Still, the chart can be confusing to parse. Let's break the data down to high & low efficiency shot areas, and then compare against the league at large. Here is a shot chart of high-efficiency areas for the GSW vs the league.

High efficiency shot areas - GSW vs NBA average

These are areas where GSW is gaining points on the rest of the league - look at the sea of red strewn everywhere on the court, especially compared to the right. If you could cover the left corner, the right corner, above the break, the right wing, and the rim, you might have had a chance.

They took plenty of low-efficiency shots too, of course, as shown here.

Low efficiency shot areas - GSW vs NBA average

Their deep 3s above the break are inefficient, but more than made up by their other, efficient 3s, and the lack of volume in inefficient midrange jumpers.

The averaged a gaudy, league-best 56.4% effective field goal percentage, against a league average of 52.4%. The gap between the Warriors and the league average was 4%, a bigger gap than that between the worst team (you guessed it - the Knicks) and the average.

Individual offensive data

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are without a doubt three of the best shooters of all time - and luckily for this Warriors team, their strenghts do not overlap too much, as evidenced by this chart.

Similarly to above, we'll look at the areas on the floor where they are better than average, and where they produce net positive points.

Shot charts (vs average accuracy)

Warriors' big 3 - shot chart (showing relative accuracy)

Um, okay, then.

As before, the red dots are the spots where they were better than the league average, and the marker sizes were how often they shot from each position. How many of these spots translate to above-average value shots, you ask?

Warriors' big 3 - shot chart (showing points per 100 shots)

Just a few.

From all of these spots, the Warriors' big 3 take shots that perform better than an average NBA shots.

From outside the three point line, Steph and Klay dominated as much as ever, making a joke of the average shooting figures from distance. They are, along with guys like Harden and Lillard, the poster boys for the 3 point revolution.

What stood out to me more was Durant's midrange shot chart, though.

It is absolutely preposterous. Midrange shots are not supposed to be shots where you do better than an NBA average shot, which includes things like corner 3s - for which you are, you know, awarded 50% more points than these shots.

Yes, some of these spots are pretty small samples, but go back and look at that line chart above? KD shot 55%(!) from 15-20 feet over the entire season. The NBA average is 41%. 55% is almost as good as what the entire league averages on shots 0-5 feet from the rim. Compare KD's stats to the NBA average here.

KD vs the NBA

It is night and day. Having someone this lethal from the midrange meant that the others were afforded more space, and when the offence bogged down, these shots were still available.

It wasn't a given that they would win the title, but a full-strength Warriors team was absolutely monstrous, and there was probably a great chance that they would have won the title last year if not for the injuries.

As much as I loved seeing the Raps and Lowry get their first ring, these charts make me really wish that we saw the best of the Warriors against Kawhi and the Raptors. Let's hope that Steph and Klay get back to their best, and that they've got another run or two left in them.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time.

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JP Hwang

JP Hwang

Data, numbers and analytics geek. Moreyball enthusiast.