NBA Finals Preview: Can the Warriors’ Switching Defense give Cavs nightmares?

Stephen Curry (Wikipedia)
Stephen Curry (Wikipedia)
The Golden State Warriors are a match-up nightmare with how easily they can go bonkers on the offensive end. It doesn’t hurt to have the Splash Brothers with their videogame-esque skills, perfectly timed releases, and microwave-heating capabilities.

This team is a great offensive team featuring two elite outside shooters plugged in with smart role players who find different creative ways to score. However, what makes this Warriors team deadly is actually what they do on the defensive end.

The Warriors don’t employ a traditional starting unit which often features two tall players protecting the paint, two lengthy wing players, and your point guard. Instead, like most NBA teams nowadays in this pace-and-space analytics era, they have one rim protector and four other players with roughly the same height.

Instead of using the more traditional pick-and-roll defensive schemes, the team employs a great switching defense which helps them minimize the mismatches. Having versatile defenders such as Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes have allowed the Warriors to force their opponents to stagnate their offense because no mismatch automatically presents itself.

A pick-and-roll situation involving switching offers two-sides to the coin: one, it’s great in terms of anticipating what your opponent is doing and adjusting on the flight or it could be a sign of weakness, where without switching there’s an automatic defensive breakdown.

The secret to their success is not only their versatility but also the collective basketball IQ and acumen of the five players playing inside the court. Both Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes have the ability to guard taller and stronger players down the post which allows the Warriors to down size and play their up-tempo style of basketball. Green, despite being undersized, has shown that he has what it takes to take on much bigger defenders on a consistent basis while Barnes has thrived this post season playing power forward in their small ball lineups.

Versatility on the defensive end also has its advantages on the other end of the court. If the Warriors play small with either Bogut or Green in the center position and Barnes at the four, it forces their opponents to whether or not to place a big or small defender on Barnes. By playing big, Barnes can take out the extra rim protection with his much improved shooting and guard-like skills or post up a much smaller defender. Very much like defending Curry and Thompson, it is pick your poison.

The Warriors switching defense will face its biggest test in the NBA Finals going up against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. James is a match-up nightmare to defend as he destroyed whatever the Atlanta Hawks defense threw at him with post ups, blow bys, and timely passes to his legion of outside shooters and talented cutters. But as what ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy pointed out, this Warriors team has the championship habits necessary to finally bring a championship to the Bay Area.