'Positionless' Warriors set the bar for interchangeable defenders

Rick Bonnell, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Basketball

"Positionless" doesn't sound like a compliment in sports, but it's definitely praise in regard to NBA defense.

That's the word Charlotte Hornets associate head coach Stephen Silas used Tuesday to describe the defending champion Golden State Warriors. By "positionless," Silas meant the Warriors' roster is full of long, interchangeable defenders. Think Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston all equipped to guard multiple positions.

That allows Golden State players to constantly switch who they're guarding when encountering picks. The Hornets thrive off pick-and-roll offense, particularly in how it opens the floor for point guard and leading scorer Kemba Walker.

The Warriors play their one game in Charlotte Wednesday. They will be without two-time Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, who sprained his right ankle Monday in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Warriors are 19-6, and are top 10 in the NBA in offensive (1st) and defensive (7th) efficiency (defined as what a team scores, or allows, per possession). Their interchangeable parts are a big factor in the Warriors having won two of the past three championships, and playing in all three of those Finals.

"They're all long and athletic, and they'll be switching a whole bunch," said Silas, who is filling in while Steve Clifford recovers from an illness. "In pick-and-roll basketball, you're trying to get two defenders (converged on) the ball. The way to combat that defensively is to switch.

"That means a lot less draw and kick (by the ballhandler) and help and recover (by other defenders). It's a lot more one-on-one game. They really kind of changed it, as far as pick-and-roll coverage."


Other teams (the Boston Celtics, for instance) have built rosters equipped to switch more. But in Hornets forward Marvin Williams' 12-plus NBA seasons, no team has switched as extensively or effectively as the Warriors.

"I haven't seen a team that switches more than them; they can legit do it 1 through 5 (point guard through center)," Williams said. "Anybody who switches onto the (ball-handler) can guard the ball. People talk about their offense, but I think their defense is a major strength.

"They've got guys who can guard the ball, who really want to guard the ball."

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