The Golden State Warriors had been known as an organization of futility. After making the playoffs in 1994, the Warriors made the playoffs just once from 1995 to 2012. But after hiring coach Mark Jackson, the Warriors’ fortunes began to turn.
The big picture: What happened in a three-year span that helped the Warriors evolve into a championship dynasty, starting in 2015?
A new foundation is laid in Golden State
A hard-nosed and tough defender during his time playing with the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, Jackson brought a defensive mindset as a coach. In his first year in 2012, the Warriors ranked 27th in the league in defensive rating, en route to winning 23 games. In a way, 2012 marked the beginning of the Warriors’ defensive identity as Jackson preached accountability on that end of the floor.
The next two years saw the Warriors skyrocket on defense as:
- The Warriors ranked 14th and 4th in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
- They held opponents to 43% and 34% from the field and three-point land, respectively, in 2013.
- In 2014, the Warriors were even better, holding opponents to under 100 points and 43% shooting.
Even after the defensive turnaround, Jackson was fired, due to his inability to get along with the rest of his organization.
The Bay Area meets Steve Kerr
Though he had no prior coaching experience, Steve Kerr was hired as the new coach in 2015. However, as a player, he learned under Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich and brought in a new offensive system.
Taking parts of the Triangle Offense, a pace-and-space offense and the “Seven-seconds-or-less” offense from Jackson, Popovich and Mike D’Antoni, respectively, the Warriors ushered in a new era of basketball: the three-point revolution. This offense was mainly catered to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s phenomenal shooting.
With a new offense in place, the Warriors:
- Ranked first in field goal and three-point percentage at 47% and 39.8%, respectively.
- Were second in offensive rating at 111.6.
- Didn’t slouch on defense, ranking first in defensive rating.
- Had a 10.2 net rating, best in the league.
The Warriors’ fortunes begin to turn in the playoffs
After losing in the first two rounds of the playoffs the previous two years, the 2015 playoffs marked a turnaround for the Warriors. Taking what worked in the regular season, the Warriors:
- Shot 45% from the field and 37% from three-point land, both second among all teams.
- Held opponents to 41% from the field and 30% from three-point territory, which was second and first, respectively.
- Met the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals, beating them in six games.
The Warriors also introduced the “Death Lineup,” a starting five consisting of Curry, Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. This hyperactive, offensive lineup featured players that can pass, shoot and drive. Additionally, that combination allowed for incredible defensive interchangeability as Thompson, Barnes, Iguodala and Green could all defend multiple positions.
The Bay Area has an NBA Finals MVP
For the first time in 40 years, the Warriors made it back to the NBA finals and won their fourth championship. Because of his defense on James, Iguodala won the NBA Finals MVP. Though, a case could be made for Curry as well.
Offensively in the Finals, Iguodala:
- Averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 37 minutes a game.
- Played in all six games but only started three of them, averaging 20.3 points, seven rebounds and four assists in his starts.
- Shot 52/40/36 percent from the field, three-point land and free-throw line, respectively.
Curry, on the other hand, was a game-changing presence by himself.
- He averaged 26 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 42.5 minutes a game.
- Shot 44/38/88 percent from the field, three-point land and free-throw line.
- Had 1.8 steals per game and committed 13 fouls – about two per game.
Whether the Finals MVP belonged to Iguodala or Curry is up for debate. Nevertheless, the Warriors parlayed an incredible regular season to even-greater success in the playoffs, eventually culminating in one of the most dazzling runs in NBA history.
Bottom line: The Warriors’ 2015 season was spectacular
Coming into the 2015 season, no one expected the Warriors to run roughshod over the rest of the league. The immense three-point shooting and offense along with the introduction of the “Death Lineup” took the NBA by storm. Instead of trying to catch up to the league, other teams were now trying to catch up to the Warriors.
Winning the NBA championship was the culmination of a marvelous season for the Warriors. Though the Cavaliers were missing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, it was still an enjoyable series all around.
Jackson laid the foundation and Kerr continued to build up the Warriors’ dynasty, a dynasty that features incredible highs and unbelievable lows. However, it all had to start somewhere and that was in 2015.