When it comes to analyzing sports, chemistry is a tricky subject. Some will claim that it’s impossible to quantify, and therefore should remain secondary to statistics; others assert that chemistry is a massive force, capable of helping a tightly-knit team beat a superior squad. But, no matter where you fall in the debate, the Golden State Warriors may serve as a test case for the importance of chemistry.
After a spell of unprecedented dominance, the Warriors have lost several key players during the offseason. While they’ll have the talent to cope with the change, reestablishing chemistry will be another issue.
Building the Golden State Warriors Dynasty
Like most modern contenders, the Warriors built success around several savvy draft picks. They snagged Steph Curry with the seventh overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft and picked up Klay Thompson in the first round two years later. In 2012, Golden State picked Draymond Green 35th overall, completing their core young core.
The team was moving in the right direction on the court, but things kicked into high gear once Steve Kerr took over as head coach. Behind unbelievable shooting from Curry and Thompson, the Warriors won the NBA championship in Kerr’s first year on the job.
After losing to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors retooled, adding Kevin Durant and Harrison Barnes. The moves paid immediate dividends, with Curry, Thompson, Durant, and Green, all posting all-star seasons and the Warriors winning two more NBA titles. All good things, however, have to come to an end.
The Warriors changing team chemistry
This summer, the Warriors experienced a massive amount of personnel turnover. Kevin Durant left for the Brooklyn Nets, while Andre Iguodala moved to Memphis and Shaun Livingston retired.
Klay Thompson is still a key member of the squad, but he’s still sidelined following a torn ACL in the NBA Finals. All of those factors combine to create a new dynamic in the locker room; one Warriors veteran has already noticed the difference.
“Just the lack of familiarity,” Green told ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “You get used to a certain thing for so long, and then it’s not that. The normal reads that you would make, just kind of second nature, you got to make sure they’re there. It’s just a lot more making sure everyone’s on the same page, or getting there. Everybody’s not on the same page, which is to be expected, so just getting everybody there is the difference.”
Will the Warriors struggle this season?
While the Warriors obviously have a great deal of talent on their roster, they’ve definitely benefitted from some good chemistry. Curry, Thompson, and Green have been playing together for years; on the sideline, Kerr also knows how to bring the best out of his squad. The start of the season will be a little bit rocky, simply due to all the new faces.
It’s quite possible that this year’s incarnation of the Golden State Warriors will be the worst we’ve seen in a while. But that doesn’t mean they’ve going to fall out of contention in an uncertain Western Conference. Curry and Green will have to do some heavy lifting for the first few months, and there will be some nights when things just don’t click, but it would be naive to count them out before the season even begins.