The Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Santa Cruz Warriors have more in common then most people know. All three teams have been winning through by putting their energy on defense.
Since the start of training camp Santa Cruz Warriors head coach Nate Bjorkgren has harped on how important defense would be at the start of the season and going forward.
"We don't even think offense these first few games," the coach, whose team is in first place, told season ticket holders Sunday. "Team defense is the top priority."
The Warriors have been able to hold their opponents to a little more than 94 points per game on their way to a 5-2 record through their first seven games. While that number could come down a few points, and the Warriors have given up more than 100 points in their two losses; the fight on defense has been there.
The one stat that paints the picture of the Warriors season so far, is the rebounding battle. In their five wins they have out rebounded their opponents ; however, in their two losses they've been on the losing end of that stat.
The Warriors front court has been excellent at attacking the boards, but Travis Leslie, who has played both shooting guard and small forward at times, has been an exceptional surprise when it comes to rebounding the ball hauling in 8.7 rebounds per game.
Defense isn't the only thing that the Warriors have in common with Memphis and Los Angeles. The Warriors also have scoring coming in from every guy, whether they are coming off the bench or are part of the starting five. They have only one player ranked in the top 30 in the entire D-League in terms of points per game, that being Leslie.
It gives their offense a whole new dynamic, because you never know who is going to go off and have a monster game scoring the ball. We've seen Leslie throw up a 25-point game, Griffin has put in 22 and Stefhon Hannah just recently scored 28 against the Idaho Stampede.
While the offense has not been smooth throughout the entirety of the game coach Bjorkgren has done an excellent job of bringing in all these different diverse players and squeezing out every ounce of talent. Players like Cameron Jones, Mickell Gladness, Justin Johnson, Lance Goulbourne and Maurice Baker have all contributed and played to their strengths.
Hannah has been more giving with the ball as well during a great road trip. Although the veteran Maurice Baker has shown that he can distribute the ball as well.
There isn't much of a question as to who starts, because they are interchangeable at the one and two spots and have Bjorkgren has started both of them in the back court. Sometimes Baker takes the ball up and run the offense and other times Hannah does.
Overall the offense is beginning to catch up to the defense as they flourished in the last game against scoring 115 points while six players were in double figures.
Carlon Brown is still making the switch to the point guard position and while he will be a project player this season, he has brought some scoring ability in the short windows of playing time he has seen.
Chris Daniels and Dan Nwaelele are still trying to make it back from injuries.
The newly acquired forward/center Chris Johnson and he saw time immediately in their two game series against the Stampede which they split. He came off the bench and saw 24 minutes in the first game and 17 in the second. At 6 feet 11 inches he gives the Warriors the size that they missed while Daniels has sat out.
Offense may get the fans on their feet, but defense wins the games. And at the end of the day – and the season – that's what a team wants.