Since winning the 2021-22 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors have not lived up to the expectations that come with being defending champions.

They watched five key rotation players leave in free agency. The team was overtaken by a week-long media frenzy after leaked footage revealed a physical altercation between Draymond Green and Jordan Poole.

Then there’s the team’s payroll situation where they could pay over $400 million in salary next season. This quite literally has the NBA considering the idea of instituting a hard salary cap, something that has never been brought up until recently.

Now the season is underway and through ten games, things haven’t gotten better as they are 4-7 which is good for the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference.

It was understood that the team had some question marks entering the season. But after seeing ten games of it on the floor, it seems that those issues are more glaring than anticipated with the defensive issues being the biggest headline.

To get a good understanding of just how bad the Warriors’ defense has been this season, we must first compare it to where they left off. Last season, even with Stephen Curry and the emergence of Jordan Poole dominating the narrative around the team, the calling card of the team was how elite they were on defense.

Spearheaded by the likes of Draymond Green, who was a leading Defensive Player of the Year candidate before missing time with injury, Golden State finished last season with some of their best regular season defensive rankings since the start of their “dynastic” run.

Here are some of the notable defensive statistics from last season’s championship team:

·  1st in the NBA in Defensive Rating (106.9)

·  Allowed the 3rd Least Points Per Game (105.5)

·  2nd Best Defensive Rebounding team (35.7)

Now compare that to so far this season:

·  3rd Worst Defensive Rating (116.1) only ahead of the San Antonio Spurs (117.0) and the Detroit Pistons)

·  Tied for the Most Points Allowed Per Game (120.6) with the San Antonio Spurs

·  3rd Worst Defensive Rebounding team (31.1) only ahead of the Phoenix Suns (31.0) and the San Antonio Spurs (31.0)

Now many will ask: Where is the disconnect?

The team pretty much returned their core guys in Curry, Thompson, Green, Wiggins, and Poole. They even finally have their former 2nd overall pick James Wiseman back healthy along with another year of development for Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga.

The problem is that the team’s depth lacks defensive versatility. Yes, the returning group is strong enough to currently command the league’s third-highest-scoring offense in the league. But aside from Green and Wiggins, there are not many impact defenders on this Warriors team.

As mentioned earlier, Golden State lost five players in free agency headlined by Gary Payton II who now plays for the Portland Trailblazers and Otto Porter Jr. who is with the Toronto Raptors.

According to, Payton II is the top-ranked defensive point guard in the league amongst guys that have played 1200 minutes or less. Under the same parameters, Porter Jr. was the fourth-ranked small forward and amongst all positions, Payton II and Porter Jr. are both top-35. Losing those two alone is a huge blow to head coach Steve Kerr’s lineup versatility.

Now add that to also losing Damion Lee, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Nemanja Bjelica and now you have a much thinner depth at the forward position. Not to mention all five guys averaged double-digit minutes per game while playing at least 60 games. So that’s a ton of minutes allocation that now has to go to other players.

But so far the minutes re-allocation has not worked in their favor. The Warriors brought in Donte DiVincenzo as a reclamation product to replace Payton II and so far he has only played in three games for a total of 45 minutes.

They also acquired JaMychal Green to help buffer the blow to their wing depth, but he has been subpar. Through ten games, Green has not been an impactful team defender and is shooting a horrific 23.5% from beyond the arc.

Now you would think the next best option is to hand more of those minutes to the second-year players in Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga right? Well instead, that oddly has not been the approach.

Moody has seen a slight uptick in minutes going from 11.7 last season to 17.7 this season but has not amounted to much. He is averaging 6.6 points and 2.3 rebounds while struggling to shoot the ball with splits of 39.6% from the field and 35.3% from three on low volume.

Then you have Kuminga who has seen the floor less getting his minutes reduced from 16.9 last season to 14.7 this season. For further context, the former 7th overall pick is playing less than former 2019 24th overall pick Tye Jerome who is on his third team in four seasons.  

The issue there of course is that coach Kerr still does not believe in the raw ability of Kuminga despite the flashes he showed last season. Or the other reason is simply that there is a disconnect between Kerr and Kuminga that can only be understood by those more closely connected to the organization.

Nonetheless, the Kuminga situation only further emphasizes the Warriors’ depth issue and so far this season, that problem is rearing its ugly head on the defensive side of the ball. Hence why Stephen Curry has had to be nearly flawless offensively as he is currently averaging 32.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game while being a ridiculous +53 when he is on the floor. That has been for them to just stay competitive in these games.

Just the other night, Curry had to score 47 of the team’s 116 points to help secure a three-point victory over the Sacramento Kings. Those same Kings have the fifth-worst scoring defense in the league and were coming off an overtime game where it took a logo three from De’Aaron Fox to beat the Orlando Magic.

All in all, for the first time in a while the Warriors are having an identity crisis anchored mainly by their defensive troubles. The team has been reduced to Curry having to play hero ball and hoping that the team can simply win shootouts.

It is too early to say that the Warriors are out of contention especially when they have a generational scorer Stephen Curry playing at such a high level. But this organization’s run over nearly the last decade has built off of strong play from Curry, versatile lineups, and reflecting the “Strength in Numbers” motto through having elite depth.

And so far this season, they are lucky to still have one of those things.

Jalon Dixon
Jalon Dixon

BSL Analyst

Hi there! My name is Jalon Dixon, but most people just call me Jay. As an aspiring, young sports writer and podcaster, I enjoy discussing sports (mainly basketball and football) and sharing my knowledge with others. Growing up right in the middle of Towson University, Morgan State, Goucher College and others, I have gotten the chance to learn so much about a handful of the different athletic teams that thrive here in Baltimore. I want to be the voice of local fans and teams that may not get the same spotlight as others, but still play a big part in our everyday lives. My motto is “Always Embrace Conversation,” so if you ever want to give me feedback on a piece or even just have a friendly sports debate, feel free to email me! Hope you enjoy my work and maybe even learn something along the way.