Steve Kerr had a clear goal for his team's defense at the start of the season: finish in the top 10.
Now, nearly halfway through the season, the Warriors have the No. 8 defense in the league, but Kerr isn't satisfied.
"It doesn't feel like we're there yet," Kerr said in his pregame press conference Monday night. "The other night was a good indicator of it. If you're truly a great defense you just don't give up easy transition baskets and backdoor layups. Our shell was just a mess the other night. We talk about a tight shell all the time, and it starts from the moment the other team gets the rebound and comes downhill at you. So, while we have been much better than the first couple weeks of the season, we've gradually gotten better, I don't think we're where we need to be yet."
In addition to the team's overall defensive "shell," rebounding and fouling are the two glaring areas the Warriors need to improve on. The Warriors are currently last in the league in fouls per game, averaging 22.4 a night, and second-to-last in rebounds allowed, with 48.3.
Yet, the Warriors have the eighth-best defensive rating with 109.6. The big area that has helped them is their defensive field goal percentage. The Warriors allow opponents to shoot just 44 percent from the field, which is good for the third-best in the NBA.
"I know that before the other night we were second in the league in field goal percentage defense. That's a pretty big gap -- second to eighth," Kerr said. "Field goal percentage defense should be a better indicator of where you stand. So the fouls and the rebounding has really been a problem, so ultimately those are the two things I'd love to clean up. And I do think if we clean them up, we would rise up the rankings. The main thing is in any statistical goal is to just make sure the players understand what the goal is, and where you need to improve as a team."
In the past, a 109.6 defensive rating would be near the bottom of the league, not the top. However, the evolution of the game has made the rules favor offensive players, so to Kerr, the defensive numbers dropping isn't too shocking. It's just a sign of where the game is headed.
However, it is making him re-evaluate his defensive goals for the team. Setting a finish in the top-10 at the start of the season was so his players had a benchmark to shoot for. But, moving forward, if this is what a top-10 defense looks like, top 10 may not be good enough.
"I've mentioned to them several times in recent weeks that we're in the top 10, but we can get better," Kerr said. "So why not aim higher?"