The Whiteboard: Nobody does the hockey assist like the Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors, The Whiteboard

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Under Steve Kerr, the Golden State Warriors have continually broken offensive norms and shattered statistical benchmarks. The 3-point shooting gets the most attention but the imprints of their offensive styles can be seen in all sorts of statistical markers. Take, for example, their passing.

So far this season the Warriors lead the league in assists, potential assists and points created by assist. That’s nothing new, they’ve been among the league leaders in those categories for most of the past seven seasons. But this season they’re setting a new standard for themselves in secondary assists.

These plays, also called hockey assists, are when a player makes a pass and the teammate who receives it then immediately (within two seconds) makes another pass that records an assist. Here’s what it looks like in real-time, with Draymond Green racking up the secondary assist on the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the open 3-pointer.

The Golden State Warriors are on a historic pace for secondary assists

So far this season, the Warriors are averaging 5.1 secondary assists per game, the highest mark since the league first began logging this statistic with player tracking data during the 2013-14 season. They were on this historic pace from very early in the season but what makes it even more striking is the gap between them and everyone else. The difference between the Warriors’ 5.1 secondary assists per game and the Cavaliers at second-place with 4.0 is roughly the same as the difference between the Cavs and the Raptors in 21st.

You can twist it into all sorts of superlative contexts. The Warriors average more secondary assists per game than the Kings and the Rockets combined. They’re on pace to be the first team to ever average 5.0 or more per game and only six other teams have even managed 4.0 or more in a season since the statistic was first tracked. If you simply look at their cumulative total for the last seven seasons compared to the rest of the league, you can see they’re in a world of their own.

Obviously, having two historic shooters with lightning-fast releases — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — can make assists out of passes that might have otherwise gone nowhere. But the Warriors’ secondary assists aren’t just coming on possessions that end with a Curry 3-pointer. They’re often playing off his gravity and ending elsewhere.

Curry leads the league in secondary assists this season, with 52, and if he keeps up this pace it will be the sixth time in the last eight seasons he finished in the top six in total secondary assists. In fact, his total going back to 2014-15 — 498 — represents 20 percent of the Warriors’ total and well outpaces any of his teammates. Even Green, who rightly gets credits for his game-changing passing ability, has only recorded 313 secondary assists over that time period.

The way you’ve probably seen this play out most often is Curry getting swarmed in the pick-and-roll, sliding a pass to Green who then gets to attack 4-on-3 and find the open man.

Combined, Green and Curry have racked up 811 secondary assists over the past eight years, a testament to their synergy. But this is still just 33 percent of Golden State’s total. However, that doesn’t include plays in which Curry or Green were involved as the other legs of this tripod — as the one recording the actual assist or the one making the shot. The secondary assist is a stat that really captures linked contributions from three players and the historic lead the Warriors have is a reflection of how well everyone on the team has mastered the fundamentals — using the gravity of their shooters, finding the open man, finding the open(er) man and putting the ball in the basket.

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Nic Claxton has played fewer than 70 NBA games, but the Nets’ wiry big man could be the key that unlocks the best version of a title contender. This week on The Long Two, Ben Ladner explains how as well as exploring how Jalen Brunson has helped keep the Mavs afloat.

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