What's most aggravating about the arguments as to whether the Golden State Warriors can win the championship as a jump-shooting team, is that the thesis ignores so much of what makes the Warriors great. To call the Warriors a jump-shooting team is akin to calling beer a marinade. Yes, it is that, and a fine one. But it is so much more.
The NBA community is addicted to models, and the Warriors have provided a strong one that goes well beyond shooting threes. Having good shooters and taking plenty of long-distance shots is but one pillar of the Warriors' golden triangle model. They finished this season No.1 in three-point shooting percentage and seventh in rate of attempts. (Interestingly, the three other conference finalists all finished ahead of Golden State in three-point attempt frequency. Only Houston was outside the top 10 in efficiency.)
What set Golden State apart are the two other pillars of their model: defense and passing. The Warriors had the league's No. 1 defense, a credit to assistant Ron Adams and players like Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut. In the biggest year-over-year change for the Warriors, the team also greatly boosted its assist rate. Per NBA.com's stats page, Golden State finished No. 2 in assist rate in 2014-15, versus No. 12 in 2013-14.
Shooting alone isn't enough in an NBA where almost everyone wants to take as many threes as is viable. After all, the 76ers -- run by analytic-minded Sam Hinkie -- finished fifth in three-point rate. Philadelphia shot threes more frequently than even the Warriors ... yet finished with one of the worst offensive ratings in modern NBA history.
Needless to say, the Sixers don't have the shooters to effectively employ the strategy. But every other team who took at least 30 percent of their field goal attempts from long-range this season (Houston, Cleveland, the Clippers, Atlanta, Portland and Toronto) landed a top-four seed in the playoffs. Only the Rockets had an offense that finished outside the top 10.
Only two teams in the top 10 in offensive rating this season took a below-average rate of three-pointers: the Thunder and the Pelicans. So it appears having Russell Westbrook and/or Anthony Davis means you can ignore the current trajectory of NBA offenses.
A commitment to sharing the ball helps, too. The Hawks, Warriors and Clippers finished Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in assist rate, respectively. All three also finished in the top six in offensive rating, with L.A. and Golden State claiming the top two spots. Beyond the threes, Golden State's willingness and ability to pass from every position limits the number of bad shots the team needs to take. (And for the tough shots they do take, they have Stephen Curry.)
Employing passing skills at all positions also infuses Golden State's terrifying transition game. Bogut isn't known for his outlet passes, but he's comfortable taking a few dribbles to get things going. Green thrives going coast-to-coast. Even better, Steve Kerr is comfortable letting Green and Andre Iguodala do that.
Golden State's defense was really good under Mark Jackson, and that remains the top reason Jackson should get another head coaching job. (A second, equally compelling reason is that his players not named Andrew Bogut seemed to love him. Being a defense-first coach beloved by your players is a rare combo.) But the defense got even better in 2014-15. Golden State led the league in defensive rating almost the entire season and claimed the top spot in the most important factor: opponent field goal percentage.
The Warriors get knocked as a jump-shooting team ... but they had a better defense than the vaunted Grizzlies. It's something folks on both sides of the argument tend to ignore. The doubters imply Golden State's only identity is that they rain threes -- some believers argue the Warriors can win shooting a ton without acknowledging it'd be for naught without that defense. What makes Golden State special isn't the threes or defense or the passing, it's all of it put together.
What's interesting is that the Hawks have basically the same model, but less star talent. The Hawks also rank highly in threes, assist rate and defense. And what do you know, both the Warriors' Kerr and the Hawks' Mike Budenholzer trace their basketball philosophy to Gregg Popovich and the Spurs ... who won the 2014 championship relying on threes, passing and defense.
Everything new is old. Everything golden was once silver. And everything always comes back to the Spurs.