Editor's note: Grant Liffmann and Drew Shiller are the co-hosts of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, they will drop their Outsider Observations on the state of the Dubs, and this time, it's Grant's turn.
It's crazy, I know. An article that has nothing to do with speculation on where Kevin Durant will end up next season.
Instead, let's focus on the season at hand and the Warriors' trends and statistics that are worth knowing at this very moment.
The Warriors go as Klay goes
The Warriors have won 14 of their last 16 games. What changed?
Well, 17 games ago, the Warriors lost to the Portland Trail Blazers, as Klay Thompson hit just 6 of 19 shots and only two of his nine shots from deep. This was the final nail on the coffin on a rough 14-game stretch in which the Warriors won just eight games. During that stretch, Klay averaged under 18 points per game, on sub-40 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from deep. The frustration from Klay was mounting, and questions started about how long the "slump" would last.
To many, the Warriors' success is directly related to Steph Curry's productivity, and the same can be said for Kevin Durant. But to me, the real indicator of success is when Klay is shooting well. Curry and Durant will draw double teams and make the opposing team strategize to get the ball out of their hands.
In doing so, the ball will often end up with Klay, so it is up to him to spread the floor and make the defense pay.
Over the last 16 games, pay they have. Klay has been on fire, scoring an average of 24.3 points, on an outstanding 55 percent from the field and 51 percent from three-point land. And the Warriors' record has reflected it.
Looney's better AFTER Boogie's return
Justifiably so, there were question marks regarding Kevon Looney's role once DeMarcus Cousins returned. Looney had replaced the injured Damian Jones in the starting lineup and had played very well in Jones' absence. Looney had issues competing defensively against large bruising centers, but other than that, Looney was everything the Warriors could have asked for.
He attacked the rim, showed great burst, defended smaller guards when forced into a switch, scrapped for rebounds especially on the offensive end, and even showed a newly confident jumper. So with Boogie's return and Looney's return back to a bench role, there were fears that his newfound aggressiveness would fade away coinciding with diminishing playing time.
It could not have gone differently. Before Boogie's return, Looney was averaging 21 minutes per game, scoring 6.6 points on 63 percent shooting and six rebounds. In the eight games since the return, Looney is averaging nearly 21 minutes per game, scoring 8.8 points on 60 percent shooting and 6.3 rebounds. His assertiveness has taken a leap and he no longer fears taking contact or getting blocked under the hoop. He uses his length and growing explosiveness to attack the rim.
The best way to summarize this change can be seen in this statistical comparison: In 66 games last season, Looney dunked the ball 39 times. This season in 53 games played, he has 80 dunks. Looney is blossoming, and he is STILL the youngest player on the team at only 23 years old.
Shaun Livingston is back
We have looked into how Klay's turnaround was a catalyst for the Warriors winning 14 of 16 games, but let's also check out Shaun Livingston's impact on the second unit. The 33-year old veteran had a slow start to the season for his standards.
Over his first 26 games played, sprinkled with missed games due to minor injuries, he averaged 16 minutes per game, scoring 4.4 points on 43 percent shooting. The shooting percentage was the most concerning, as Livingston in his Warriors career has shot a great 52 percent from the field, with his lethal mid-range game and his pogo-stick type hops.
Was Livingston finally over the hill and starting his decline?
Nope. Not yet. Shaun has turned it on during the Warriors' successful 16-game stretch.
Shaun has played fewer minutes than before, averaging 13.5 minutes per game but has raised his scoring to 4.8 points and most importantly, an exceptional increase in efficiency to 62 percent shooting. It seems like he is finally playing healthy, pushing the tempo and hunting shots.
He has solidified the second unit alongside a resurgent Andre Iguodala, pushing the Warriors to reach new levels offensively.