Of the Warriors’ 40 made field goals last night, 32 came off assists. While this could instead be a blog about overly generous assist credits—and yes, after rewatching many of them, I’m tempted to get petty—even a hater must concede that Golden State dropped many, many sweet dimes while thumping the Jazz. The fact that many of them were dropped by David West shows you just how deep this roster really is. When even your 36-year-old backup center can dish a team-high seven assists in his 17 minutes of play, mining easy layups and dunks down the stretch, you’re in ominously good shape.
In the final quarter, with the Warriors riding a sizable lead, West acted as the fixed point of the Warriors’ offense. He’d park his slow self on either elbow, and scan the wings flitting all around him, trying to slip any defenders who’d gotten either temporarily distracted or confused off a switch. Once one of his teammates shook free, West was ready to hit them with the precision pass.
This was my favorite of his seven: one second he’s just palming the ball, and the next it’s just plopped into the lane for Iggy to finish.
Then he hit a streaking Ian Clark with this laser beam from behind the arc:
He’d find Clark again, lacing a bounce pass between two defenders:
And finally, hitting Durant off a cut for adunk:
The David West passing phenomenon was laid out nicely in a Mercury News story from March, which presents good clips and explains that even the Warriors’ staff was taken by surprise. Essentially, no one was aware that this old dog already knew some very good tricks:
But after just a few days in training camp, Warrior coaches and players were startled by just how adept West was as a passer. Kerr knew it was a weapon he could better utilize.
“Early in the year, we had a couple plays where I could’ve run a couple tricks off him, maybe a backdoor or set somebody up for a back cut,” Durant said. “He’d bring me to the side and let me know, this is going to be open. I’m like: ‘Nah, it can’t be. They’re playing me for it.’”
But then the games started and West would give one of those grizzly head nods for a cut. Durant would try it. Then West would drop it in perfectly and Durant would get an easy two points.
“When I just shut up and listened and did it, I was open,” Durant said. “There’s plenty of times where he says those small things. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, it’s impactful.”
One of the observations made in that piece—that West’s assists per 36 minutes were the highest of any NBA player who was not a guard, Draymond Green, or LeBron James—held true through the end of the season, which he ended with 6.4 assists per 36. And it still remains true in the playoffs: In his 75 minutes of postseason play, West has dropped 18 dimes, good for 8.6 per 36 minutes.
Let’s be honest: The Warriors are probably going to roll the Jazz as they continue their rampage through the playoffs, and there’s a good chance we’ve got lots of blowouts ahead of us. If that’s the case, we can at least wring some joy out of watching a ridiculously stacked team hand the keys to the old guy so he can have some fun.