KERR TOPPED OUT WITH WARRIORS

At the start of the 2014/15 regular season, TV analyst and five-time champion Steve Kerr had a real dilemma on his hands; become coach of the New York Knicks or the Golden State Warriors?

The Knicks, under the presidency of Kerr’s former coach Phil Jackson and led by perennial All-Star Carmelo Anthony in a roster packed with big names and championship experience were, for many, the obvious choice.

So, when it was announced that Kerr had elected to go to California and the more loaded Western Conference instead, it came as a bit of a shock, with sceptics questioning if he could improve upon what former Warriors coach Mark Jackson had already done during his time there.

Kerr however, had clearly seen something in the Warriors that he believed he could take to the next level, and as it goes he could not have been more right.

Fast forward almost a year and Kerr’s decision is looking like a stroke of genius. The Knicks lie at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a franchise worst 15-64 record, which in turn is the worst in the league. The Warriors on the other hand, have gone from strength to strength under Kerr. They have the best record in the entire association, 64-15, and have already secured the number one seed in the Western Conference, currently ten games ahead of second placed Memphis.

They have also won their first Pacific Division title since 1975/76 and in the process Kerr has recorded the most amount of wins by a rookie coach ever.

The numbers too back up the fact that the Warriors have been the stand out team all year. They are number one in offensive and defensive efficiency, scoring more points than any other team in the league at 109.9 per game. They also have more assists per game than any other team at 27.4, the highest field goal percentage, .477, the highest three-point percentage, .397, and the biggest point differential at 10.7. Two more wins would take the Warriors to 14 more than last season’s 51 wins, the most ever for a 50-win team.

The thing that had caught Kerr’s attention when deciding to opt for the Warriors in the offseason has ultimately proved to be the catalyst for all their success this year. That thing is the Warriors’ backcourt, consisting of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.

Thompson has had a standout year, becoming an All-Star in the process and establishing himself as one of the best two-way shooting guards the league has to offer. He is tenth in points per game with 21.3 and his 37 point third quarter against the Kings in February will go down as one of the greatest shooting performances ever.

It is Curry though that has truly been the difference this year. Alongside James Harden of the Houston Rockets he is favourite to win Most Valuable Player, but if the old adage is true that the best player on the best team should win MVP, then it is Curry that should come away with the league’s most prestigious individual award.

The point guard is fifth in points per game with 23.9, first in free throw percentage at 91.5%, sixth in assists with 7.8 per game and fourth in steals per game with 1.99. He has also notched up sixteen games with 30+ points including a 51 point game against the Dallas Mavericks and has broken his own single season NBA record for 3 pointers, with 276 and counting.

But what is perhaps most impressive about these incredible numbers is that he has achieved all of this despite averaging just 32 minutes and sitting out 16 fourth quarters.

The level that these two players have taken their game to has been no coincidence. The “Splash Brothers”, named so because of their ability to drain three pointers at a breath taking rate, owe much to Kerr, himself one of the most deadly and consistent shooters of all time. Indeed under Kerr’s tutelage the whole roster has improved, with Draymond Green, a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Marreese Speights all having the best years of their career and Kerr’s ability to work with young players has been clear for all to see.

Kerr has also instilled a philosophy in Golden State much like his former coaches Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich did with the Bulls and Spurs respectively. The Warriors have cut down turnovers and played at a tempo unlike any other in the NBA; with their ability to shoot from long range they have been virtually unstoppable in transition, picking apart teams all season long with three point after three point.

That Kerr has a high basketball IQ is an understatement, and to think that at the beginning of the year he didn’t envisage the Warriors reaching these heights is to do the coach a disservice. Kerr’s foresight into just how good this team could be has been incredible and I fully believe he knew the potential they had when accepting the job. For all that he has done, he is a shoo-in for Coach of the Year.

For the neutral fan, a Spurs vs Warriors Western Conference Finals is surely the series they hope to see. Kerr vs Popovich is the ultimate master vs student clash, and what greater stage to play it out than in a conference finals.

Kerr should be proud of his achievements this year in what has been a special season for all those associated with the franchise, regardless of what happens when the Playoffs start this weekend.

Just how special remains to be seen but for now he and the Warriors deserve all the plaudits they get.

JOSHUA ROGERS

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