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NBA Futures: What’s Wrong With the Warriors?

Defending NBA Champion Is Struggling

Warriors’ Outright NBA Odds Remain Intact Regardless

With an 8-4 record in their last 12 games, the Golden State Warriors have worked their way back to a .500 record. While that is commendable, it is below this dynasty’s standards. Golden State opened with a 52½-win projection. Even if their outright NBA odds have them as a top-three title contender, the Warriors need to improve on a few glaring weaknesses to return to form.

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Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors | Ezra shaw/getty images/afp

Road Blues: Warriors Get Bodies on the Road

The most obvious issue for Golden State is its inability to win on the road. Golden State is 2-10 as a visitor on both the money line (ML) and point spread. It took the Warriors their ninth road game to win one and it was against the hapless Rockets.

Golden State’s defense, which was top-four (109.7) on the road last season, is the second-worst this season (119.1). The Warriors have allowed 120 or more points in seven of their 12 road games and lost all but one of these matches.

The Warriors’ Kryptonite has been long-distance shooting (ironically). Golden State’s opponents have shot over 40.1 percent from beyond 25 feet, which is the highest a visitor is allowing. In their two losses to Phoenix, the team let the Suns score 130+ points. Phoenix shot 47.8 percent from deep (33 of 69).

Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson are tied for the worst defensive rating (116) and box plus-minus (-2.1) on the team. The Warriors are hard to bet on online if they continue to be this bad defensively as a road team. But it also brings up another point…

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Thompson, Poole, and the Bench are Getting Cooked

The Warriors rose to power thanks not only to Steph Curry‘s efforts but also because of its team’s depth. Last season, Golden State had the second-best reserve unit in the NBA. The Warriors’ bench had an average plus-minus of 2.0 while averaging 36.8 points (11th). This season, the reserves are second-last in the NBA with a -3.9 plus-minus while averaging 35.6 points.

A big reason for this is Poole’s deterioration in performance. He opened this season as one of the favorites to win Sixth Man of the Year, according to the online sports betting lines. But not only has Poole’s scoring efficiency gone down – he’s averaging 15.9 points with a 49.5 effective field goal percent – he’s also a liability on defense.

Golden State is six points worse (per 100 possessions) when he’s on the court versus being 6.3 points better last season. And he’s not the only one that’s laboring as Thompson has as well.

The five-time All-Star is shooting just 40.1 percent from the field, which is a career low. He’s started to turn it around (50.6 percent in his last six games) and uncoincidentally, Golden State has been winning more. Whenever he shoots better than his average, Golden State is 8-2.

Playing Down to Competition

Another aspect of the Warriors’ underperformance is their record against teams below .500: 5-4 (55.6 percent). In comparison, the top six teams of the West have a combined winning percentage of 81.6 percent (40-9). Golden State has lost to Charlotte (6-15), Detroit (5-18), and Orlando (5-17). These three are in the bottom five of the league.

Last season, the Warriors went 26-8 against teams of that ilk. This winning percentage (76.5) was the fourth-best in the conference. And as a favorite this season, Golden State has only covered 47.1 percent of the time (8-9-0).

No Need to Panic

But as their recent records have suggested, there is no need to push the panic button on the Warriors. This may not be an ideal start for the team, but shades of the NBA champions are starting to show.

For one, the Warriors remain indomitable at home. Golden State is 9-1 at home and 7-3 against the spread (ATS). This Friday, they face Chicago looking for their ninth straight home win. The team has had some emphatic victories over the Clippers and Jazz. Their defense ranked 15th in rating (113.0) in their last five games and Thompson is beginning to find his old form.

It will still be a rocky ride for the Warriors as they still struggle on the road. But as the odds have it, this team is still a dangerous contender.

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