Do the Golden State Warriors Live and Die By the Three?

The Warriors are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA. But do they really too heavily on the three?

Charles Barkley doesn't think the Warriors are a top-three team in the West. Yeah, that's absurd.

But, Chuck has his reasons. He believes that the Warriors are a jump shooting team that shoots too many threes and therefore can't compete for a championship. Now it may be ridiculous to say that they're not even a top-three team in the West, let a lone the favorites to win the NBA Championship (our numbers say they are). However, Mr. Barkley raises an intriguing question.

Do the Warriors live and die by the three ball?

Well, on the season, they do a lot more living than dying. At 39-8, the Warriors have the best record in the league, and they are the number one team in our latest power rankings. Their team nERD of 84.1 is 11.9 better than the next closest team.

So yeah, they're the best team in the NBA and, to quote Mr. Bryan Mears, "it's not really close".

The Warriors' success is in large part due to their top-rated defense. But you also have to score points to win games -- and the Warriors do that as well. Golden State has the league's fourth-best offensive efficiency rating at 111.8, and they are first in points per game with 111. But have they shown us their one flaw?


First of all, do the Warriors shoot too many threes? To help us gauge that, let's compare them to the most efficient offense in the league -- the Los Angeles Clippers.

Golden State Warriors472,8121,2664,0781,4824921,974
Los Angeles Clippers492,7701,2854,0551,4334871,920

As you can see, there isn't a huge difference between the two teams' amount of two point attempts or the amount of total field goals made. And there isn't a huge difference (0.7% and 0.5%) in the breakdown of each team's respective percentage of total field goals (made and attempted) that are two point field goals and three point field goals.

However, the chart above shows that the Warriors actually have way more two point attempts and makes than they do three point attempts and makes -- and they have done so in two fewer games to date. So, in comparison to a team rated ahead of them in offensive efficiency, the Warriors actually take more and make more two point field goals.

Even on a per-game basis, the Warriors trail just the Rockets and Trail Blazers, two playoff contenders in their own right, in three point attempts while making 10.5 per game -- second best in the league. So, no I really don't think they shoot too many threes. They make too many -- if that can be a problem?


Have the Warriors had problems relying on threes?


When making at least 10 or more threes in a game this season, the Warriors are an outstanding 26-2. On the other hand, when the Warriors fail to "splash in" double digit threes, the Warriors are just 13-6. So that means 75% of Golden State's losses have come when making fewer than 10 threes.

Here's a chart that depicts the difference in three point shooting between the Warriors' 8 losses and 39 wins and also their season averages.

Season Avg.10.526.939.0
39 Wins10.826.940.1
8 Losses8.926.633.4

It may only be eight games and eight losses, but there's a sizable difference between the Warriors wins and losses in both three pointers made and three point percentage. It is based upon a small sample size, but nonetheless a correlation exists between poor three point shooting (for Golden State's standards) and Warrior losses.

There may be a time later in the season, or in the playoffs, when we will have many more games and/or losses to examine. Maybe then we'll have a reason to doubt the Warriors. But for now, there isn't anything to worry about. In their 39 wins, the Warriors have shot just above their season averages, which shows just how much those poor shooting nights and losses mean -- not very much.

The Warriors average great shooting nights and, most crucial of all, wins.

So, in the words of Kenny "The Jet" Smith, "Come on, Chuck."