The Golden State Warriors have been one of the pleasant surprises of this 2012-13 NBA season, jumping out to a 15-7 record after a thrilling victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. This strong start comes after a woeful 23-43 campaign last year.
So what has changed for these Warriors? While the offense has remained as similarly effective as last season, the defense has improved by leaps and bounds. SB Nation's Tom Ziller notes just how impressive the improvements on the defensive end have been:
The transformation has been stunning. Golden State was No. 27 on defense last season, and sits at No. 14 after Wednesday's win, according to Basketball-Reference. This was, admittedly, part of the plan. The plan when the team traded Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut last season. Bogut, who has played a grand total of 73 minutes for the Warriors. Bogut was supposed to be the centerpiece of a revived Golden State defense. Bogut isn't in there, but the defense got better anyway. It's mindblowing.
Ziller points out a few stats that are key to understanding Golden State's newfound defensive success. The first is the fact that the Warriors are No. 1 in the NBA in defensive rebounding, helped in large by David Lee. The others involve opponent field goal percentage and expected opponent field goal percentage, which the Warriors come in at No. 8 and No. 2 in the league.
Much of the credit for the defensive turnaround can be given to coach Mark Jackson and his staff. Even without Ellis, Golden State's roster is still full of guys who are not highly regarded for their defense. But thanks to the schemes designed by Jackson that have been executed quite well by these players, the Warriors have become a respectable defensive team.