Bone Spurs: Spurs 103 Warriors 91

Another day, another Warrior bites the dust.  Before the game, the Warriors got the news that Mikki Moore will need surgery for the bone spurs in his ankle that have been plaguing him this season.  Moore struggled as best he could on this injury for several weeks, unwilling to leave the team while it was so desperate for big men.  But apparently it got too bad to continue.  As a fan, I am greatly appreciative of what Moore did for the team this season.  He gave everything he had, playing through pain.

As for the game, I was very pleasantly surprised by the Warriors’ effort and competitiveness, given the fact that they no longer have any option but to start Vlad Rad at center and Corey Maggette at power forward.  I loved Don Nelson’s game plan in this game.  He began the game by putting the ball in Stephen Curry’s hands, and emphasizing ball movement.  The Warriors tried to get all of their players involved.  Vlad Rad in particular was the beneficiary of several wide open looks.  Unfortunately, his wretched shooting slump continued.  He went 0-8 in this game.

Monta Ellis once again wound up with over 30 shots, but that doesn’t indicate the kind of game he played.  He really picked his spots in this game, and bided his time. I felt that Nelson was holding him back a little for the fourth quarter, the way that the Lakers sometimes hold Kobe Bryant back.  And sure enough, in the fourth quarter Monta turned it on. He made the first two Warriors buckets of the quarter, and cut the Spurs lead to 7.  Unfortunately, the Warriors got absolutely nothing from their big men down the stretch. Both Vlad Rad and Anthony Randolph continued to come up empty on open jumpers, and Randolph couldn’t hold off Tim Duncan in the paint.

The Warriors really competed in this game.  Watching them play, I got the feeling that having either Biedrins or Turiaf, let alone both, might have been enough to get them over the hump against one of the best teams in the league. So unlike after watching that miserable Sixers game, I wasn’t depressed by this game. As dispiriting as it can be to watch the Warriors lose game after game right now, their play continues to give me hope that once they return to full strength they will be a surprisingly good team.

Monta Ellis: Monta looked like a fully developed superstar in this game.  He laid back when he was supposed to, and took over when he was needed.  He poured in 35 points, but it was a quiet 35, if such a thing were possible.  His 1 turnover, against 5 assists, indicates how little he forced his offense. He just seemed in complete control of his game. His teammates simply weren’t there for him.

Corey Maggette:  Maggette also had a beautifully efficient offensive game.  He was extremely effective in picking his spots, as indicated by his 8-10 shooting, and his 5 assists.  He tortured Matt Bonner, in what turned into an excellent matchup for the Warriors.

Vlad Rad: We’ve been watching the Anti-Vlad in the last few games.  Is there any other way to put it?  Vlad is known for his outside shooting.  He’s not known for his defense or rebounding.  But the Vlad of the last few games has been giving a spirited and surprisingly effective effort on defense and on the boards, without being able to hit the side of a barn with his shot.  Tonight, you could again see how much his shooting slump is messing with his head.  The Spurs were actually daring him to shoot open threes.  I wonder if that’s ever happened to him before.

Don Nelson rotated Vlad and Randolph in and out, trying to find some kind of consistent contribution.  It didn’t work. And when Nellie pulled Vlad for good in the fourth quarter, the Oracle crowd rained boos down on him.  I absolutely hated that.  The fans who booed him are simply ignorant.  Straight up ignorant.

Two kinds of players deserve boos.  Selfish players and players who don’t work hard.  Since he’s become a Warrior, Vlad has been neither of those.  In this game, he drew the toughest assignment on the floor, guarding the much bigger Tim Duncan in the post.  And he did a heck of a job guarding him without fouling.  Duncan went 3-10 in the first half with Vlad guarding him exclusively.

Vlad Rad is a player the Warriors need to hit shots.  He’s in a shooting funk right now, which happens.  His career shooting percentage from 3, which is near 40%, suggests that he won’t be in a funk forever.  But in the meantime, he’s doing everything the short-handed Warriors are asking him to do on the defensive end, and doing it well.

That’s more than enough for this Warriors fan.

Anthony Morrow: Morrow has been an invisible man for the Warriors for several games now.  The league has scouted him, and he’s just not getting left alone at the three point line.  Nellie said before the game that Morrow has to work harder to become a more complete basketball player.  Which means, on the offensive end, do more to make himself open.  Nellie tried to help him out by running a few plays for him, a little two-man-game action.  It worked exactly once.  But left to his own devices, Morrow remained invisible.

The problem with Anthony Morrow, as I noted in my pre-season analysis, is that he’s just too slow and unathletic to ever be anything but a spot-up shooter in a half-court offense.  Now that the Warriors are missing their top 3 centers and are regularly getting outrebounded by 20, their fast break has disappeared.  So half-court offense is what they’re left with.  That’s bad news for Morrow.  He thrives on open jumpers in transition.  In the half court, he’s been wearing a blanket.

Some commentators have been suggesting that the Warriors run plays for Morrow.  Run him around 2 picks to set up his jumper, a la Reggie Miller and Rip Hamilton.  I have news for these commentators.  Anthony Morrow is too damn slow for those plays.  By the time he clears two picks and runs out to his spot, not one, but two shot clocks will have gone off.

The Warriors miss Biedrins and Turiaf terribly.  But they are also badly missing  Kelenna Azubuike right now.  A shut-down defender, and a player capable of enforcing his will on offense every night.  Two things that Anthony Morrow, for all his effort, can never be.

Anthony Randolph: Randolph was brought into this game to play against DeJuan Blair at back-up center in this game (Yes, the Spurs have been playing the 6-7 Blair at center — as I happened to predict).  I know all about what Blair did to the 7-2 Hasheem Thabeet in the NCAA tournament.  I don’t care.  In the NBA, Anthony Randolph should eat DeJuan Blair alive.  And that’s just what happened in the first half.  Randolph used his speed to get around Blair and force him to foul.  In the second half, Randolph suffered from mental lapses.  He settled for his jumper too often, when the drive was wide open.  And he failed to box out Blair on at least two occasions, causing Nellie to yank him and get in his face.  In general, Randolph was terrible on the boards in this game.  4 rebounds in 25 minutes.  That’s not getting it done.

In the fourth quarter, when Nellie gave up on the downcast Vlad Rad, Randolph battled extensively with Duncan in the post.  He did a decent job, but just doesn’t have either the strength or the savvy to stay with Duncan at this point in his career.

Stephen Curry: Curry’s game didn’t make much of an impression in the box score.  But he always manages to do something good to surprise me.  In this game, his defense on Tony Parker was a revelation. He had very little trouble staying in front of Parker, and successfully stripped him on several occasions. Take a look at Parker’s line: 5-11 for 12 pts.  3 assists against 5 turnovers. That’s a pretty great defensive game.  Either Parker has slowed considerably, or Curry is a lot quicker on his feet than people give him credit for.

One thing Curry has on defense that cannot be denied is a phenomenal intelligence.  He’s barely a quarter of the way through his first season, and he appears to know exactly where his man wants to go, and how to keep him from getting there.  And there’s that nose for the ball: 4 steals.

Curry was hampered by foul trouble in this game, which has been a frequent problem for him.  One was a silly offensive foul at the end of the first half, which denied Monta his first quarter ending bucket of the season.  Another was on George Hill.  So three fouls while holding down Tony Parker.  I’m impressed.

34 Responses to Bone Spurs: Spurs 103 Warriors 91

  1. ever notice when randolph sets a pick at the top he never rolls to the hoop. He alwasy stays outside so he can brick that 18ft shot. He needs to watch film on how Amare executes a screen and roll. That should be his bread and butter. That kills me..I cant yell hard enough at the tv for him to move…move dammit

  2. “given the fact that they no longer have any option but to start Vlad Rad at center and Corey Maggette at power forward”

    You’re joking, right? Randolph/Vlad is not an option? Randolph/Maggette is not an option? Hunter/Randolph? Hunter/Maggette? Hunter/Vlad? Of the six possible options, we absolutely *had* to pick the one that offered no rim defense whatsoever? I’m not going to contend that Chris Hunter is any kind of player, but he could at least smack Duncan to the line for fifteen scattered minutes.

    Vlad had a genuinely poor offensive game, shooting stupidly as well as coldly, and for all of your talk about his grit, he netted ONE rebound in 25 minutes tonight. I agree that he’s playing hard, and that he shouldn’t be booed, but he shouldn’t be starting either, especially at center.
    Randolph did not have a good game by any means, but he outplayed Vlad in every conceivable way. I mean, you do realize the degree to which Randolph has even been *outpassing* Vlad, right?

    It wasn’t a horrible overall effort… Monta and Maggette had extremely strong games, and there were a few offensive ideas on display in Nellie’s return. But come on, man. Vlad’s starting at the five was due to neither necessity nor brilliance. It was stupid coaching, pure and simple.

  3. I disagree onlxn. Randolph has loudly and repeatedly stated to both the coaching staff and his teammates that he does not want to be played at center, period. His agent weighed in on the same subject today. He is playing backup center out of necessity, and is none too happy about it– as his attitude has made more than clear. STARTING him at center, against the bruisers he would face there, is simply not an option, not for the coaches, not for Randolph himself, no matter how much you and other commentators agitate for it.

    As for Hunter, he has shown himself to be somewhat effective against far bigger players, who have no outside shot: Oden and Howard in particular.

    But he has gotten absolutely torn up against more mobile players who can spread the floor. There is a reason after all that this guy was stuck in the D-league, and he has shown it repeatedly ever since the Magic game.

    And he showed it again tonight, in the brief stint he got before Nellie yanked him.

    Don Nelson refuses to coach to lose, which is what he’d be doing by matching up Hunter against Duncan. By starting Vlad Rad, he at least made an attempt to force the Spurs to adjust to the Warriors style of play. Vlad Rad did his job defensively against Duncan. If he had made even 2 of his 8 wide open shots, this would have been a completely different game down the stretch.

  4. A simple question: if you don’t think we can play Randolph at the five because of his wishes, why isn’t he our STARTING POWER FORWARD instead of our backup center? He’s been playing the five, willingly and well, all season, but there’s no rule precluding him from going back to his natural position, is there?

    Also, the talking point that “starting centers are too physical for Randolph” doesn’t pass the smell test. Who’s more physical, Nenad Krstic or Nick Collison? Are we contending that DeJuan Blair isn’t physical? It’s a cute way for Nellie to frame the situation, but it simply isn’t true. Backup NBA centers are *also* extremely physical, and Randolph has been holding his own against them since January. That theory is testable, and has been tested, and has been proven wrong.

    As for Chris Hunter, I agree: he sucks, particularly against mobile guys. He wouldn’t have had much success against Duncan. But he has the bulk and inclination to send a guy to the free throw line, and that’s not the worst way to handle Duncan, even if he is shooting a little better from there this year. Hunter can block the occasional shot, and can box out a big man every now and again. That doesn’t make him a better player than Vlad, but it makes him a better *center*, especially when Vlad is struggling to this degree.

    “Don Nelson refuses to coach to lose”

    Don Nelson INSISTS on coaching to lose. For over 80% of the last 107 games, the playbook is exactly the same: small early and always. When the defense adjusts to our speed and pressure, we stay small anyway. And we lose.

    I get that you like watching an unconventional coach go about his business, and indeed, it can be quite fun at times. But you’re losing the forest for the trees. Nellie’s mismatches have hurt us for over a year now… they’ve been predictable, and poorly executed, and they’ve kept some of our more talented players off the floor. He’s my favorite coach of all time too, but I know crappy decision-making when I see it.

  5. I think the only way Don Nelson will ever start Anthony Randolph is if there are only five healthy players to choose from.

  6. Yea, onlxn, let’s blame the coach for failing to win with this brutally injured roster. Right.

  7. During the pregame interview, Nellie was asked if Randolph was still a center. This indirectly answers why Randolph is not a starting 4 right now, and that Nellie WANTS Randolph to be a 4 later on:

    -Q: Randolph is still mostly a center?

    -NELSON: I think that’s the easiest way for him to get minutes and kind of understand… and then I think eventually he’ll be able to play more than one position. But that’s way too early right now.

    When we get our centers back, and I hope the experience he gets at the 5 will carry over and he’ll be a better 4 for me.

  8. So MWLX, what is your contention? That there are no coaching expectations whatsoever when your team is injured? Nellie can just do whatever amuses him until Biedrins comes back?

    I wasn’t expecting a win. But I was hoping for a reasonably intelligent coaching performance. Nellie didn’t give one.

  9. Thanks eeqmcsq (that’s not easy to type!). I heard part of Nellie’s show tonight, in which a caller also ragged on him for starting Mikke Moore in front of Randolph.

    Nellie replied “You won’t have to worry about that any more!”

    But then he answered seriously, to the effect that, there’s only so many minutes you can give Randolph against centers, because he fatigues so easily. And its better to play him against backup centers 1) because the matchup is more favorable, and 2) it actually allows him to play more minutes than otherwise.

    Two assumptions are being treated as gospel by those who are criticizing Nellie over the Randolph PT issue. 1) That Nellie PREFERS playing small over playing big; and 2) Nellie likes to play mind games with young players, and plays veterans ahead of them for perverse reasons. Neither of these hold water. Nellie played big all game every game in Dallas, and he blew up the greatest small ball unit in history, RunTMC, in an effort to get bigger. And Nellie throughout his career has played rookies ahead of veterans, whenever they were READY, and were the best player.

    The idea that Nellie is somehow holding Randolph back is absolutely ludicrous. Did you watch the sequence in the Lakers game, where Gasol abused Randolph like a step-child, humiliating him so thoroughly that he couldn’t bear to remain on the court? Did you see the sequence last night, where he slept on consecutive possessions against the 6-7 Blair, and let him sneak in for offensive rebounds and putbacks? When Nellie got in his face about it from the sideline, Randolph basically told him to go F*** himself. Did you miss that? Then go play back the tape, and listen to what Barnett had to say about it.

    Did you see the comment from the NBA executive who leaked the Randolph trade rumors, who stated that no one in the league is now as high on Randolph as they once were? The league knows what is going on with Randolph. They can see how inconsistently he plays. They know how resistant he is to coaching.

    Or perhaps this has expanded beyond a simple conspiracy between Nellie and his coaches to destroy Randolph’s career? Perhaps it’s now a league-wide conspiracy?

    Nonsense. As Randolph grows, and proves himself capable of more playing time and more responsibility, he will get it. Not before. Which is just as it should be.

  10. In the name of accuracy felt, that caller was asking how Nellie could justify starting Moore in front of Randolph limiting his minutes, when the season has now turned towards development. Which Nellie had been talking about.

  11. That was the text. I was supplying the subtext :>

  12. No problem felt, but this didn’t happen “Nellie’s show tonight, in which a caller also ragged on him …” Caller asked a fair question repectfully.

    BTW are u a KNBR call screener on the side? ;o)

  13. <>

    Anthony Randolph’s averages for the last twelve games of his rookie season: 32.7 minutes, 13.5 points (.504 FG%), 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 1.6 blocks, 1.4 steals, 3.4 fouls. The theory that he gets too fatigued to play effective full-time minutes is testable. It has been tested. It has been proven false.

    You could quibble with the above “proof” in two different ways… I don’t think either holds any water. The first would be to point out that he was generally playing the four as opposed to the five in that stretch. That is true. But seeing as NBA centers only have about 10-15 pounds on average over NBA power forwards, and that the additional pounding at the five is counterbalanced by the additional chasing at the four, there is no reason to believe that playing center is more fatiguing than playing power forward. I have never heard a single basketball pundit of any type advance that theory. Not only do I not believe that, I don’t believe that you believe it.

    The other possible quibble would be to suggest that Randolph came in this year out of shape. While he was certainly *mentally* unprepared to start the year, and Nellie rightly sat him as a result, there was no indication, whether on a visual, statistical or anecdotal level, that he was having fatigue issues. The only two players who’ve shown signs of fatigue in their play and their numbers have been Curry (hard to blame him, as he’s a rookie) and Monta (hard to blame him, as he’s being ridden into the ground). Nellie’s mention of Randolph’s *physical* conditioning problems last night was the first mention of that I’ve heard from anyone associated with the organization all year. Which suggests two possibilities: 1) that Nellie just revealed a secret that the team has brilliantly been keeping under wraps, or 2) that Nellie was talking out of his ass with Ralph and Tom for the 180th straight week. Which do you find more plausible?

    <>

    Yes, the matchup is more favorable… like every other NBA player, Anthony Randolph would be expected to have an easier time against backups than against starters, because backups tend to be worse. That does not mean that playing him against backups is necessarily the right choice for the team; Monta could shred the hell out of backup SGs, but it’d be counterproductive for us to use him that way. I more or less addressed the minutes claim above; suffice it to say that neither Randolph’s conditioning nor his (high but not abnormally so) foul rate preclude his playing 30 minutes a night. Both you and Nellie seem to be forgetting that he’s done it before, and produced an extremely high level when doing it.

    <>

    It may be that some critics accept these assumptions as gospel. But I, the loudest critic on your blog, do not, and have made that fairly clear. Nellie has no historical bias against either big players or young players. He has showed a slight bias for shooters over non-shooters, but other than that, there’s not much pattern. Over the course of his career, he has coached flexibly, adaptively and very, very well. He is a legend for a reason.

    But don’t make the same reductive mistake that some Nellie haters make: don’t conflate this particular issue with a referendum on his entire career. Nellie’s handling of Randolph should not particularly taint his overall record, but at the same time, his overall record does not automatically excuse any mistakes he makes now. If Woody Allen makes a crappy movie now, that movie is not somehow legitimized by the fact that he once made “Annie Hall.” A crappy movie is a crappy movie; a crappy coaching job is a crappy coaching job. Performers, even great ones, have to stand behind the quality of their work. Nellie’s current work stinks, and his great work in Milwaukee and Dallas and 1992 and 2007 doesn’t change that.

    <>

    Did I see one of the best players in basketball absolutely clown a twenty-year-old? Yes, I did. Have you seen the dozens of times that each of our players has been humiliated on defense this season, and the pathetic body language that has often accompanied it? Did you see Vlad dreamily try to dunk on one of the ten best defenders in league history? Did you see the multiple times Mikki Moore let a point guard drive straight into him for an uncontested layup? Did you see Corey Maggette pass the ball to himself on a fast break? Did you see the nine different fourth quarters where Monta predictably drove into double teams, costing us chances to win?

    Anthony Randolph makes tons of mistakes. So does everyone on this team — it’s a bad, undisciplined, poorly coached team. The fact that he makes mistakes should not disqualify him from a chance to start. Randolph is one of the few players on the team who does enough actively good things to make up for his mistakes.

    <>

    I did see that — that sucked. And you know whose body language Randolph’s reminded me of? Brandan Wright. Wright was in a similar situation last season — he was the only player to get benched and buried for making mistakes. Did he make mistakes? Sure, tons of ‘em. But so did everyone else, and all told, Wright was playing better than most Warriors. Any coaching philosophy with even the slightest shred of internal consistency would’ve made Brandan Wright our full-time power forward by December 1st last season. But it didn’t happen — Nellie held Wright to a higher standard than anyone else on the team. And he’s doing it again with Randolph.

    Why does Nellie do this? I have no idea… I certainly don’t believe it’s because he gets some sort of perverse pleasure out of it. My best guess is that he thinks this is the best way to teach a young big man the ropes. And I have some sympathy for that. But these players are not commodities in a vacuum — they’re human beings, who interact with each other and recognize how others interact with them. And there is a basic unfairness about being strict with only a select couple young players that both Wright and Randolph have notice — these guys aren’t stupid — and resented. That unfairness negates any possibility of the plan working. The way Nellie has gone about this has only alienated his young players, and he should’ve been smart enough to realize that that would happen.

    <>

    Of course they’re not. No one in the league is going to be high on *anybody* in this cesspool right now… we are embarrassingly, idiotically, record-breakingly bad. If I were an opposing GM, I wouldn’t trade for Anthony Randolph right now, either — I wouldn’t know what the hell to make of the mess in Golden State. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be starting for us.

    “As Randolph grows, and proves himself capable of more playing time and more responsibility, he will get it. Not before. Which is just as it should be.”

    That is as it should be. THAT IS NOT AS IT IS. Nellie is not Scott Skiles, a harsh coach who’s demanding credible play out of all of his players in equal measure. Nellie is a guy who’s letting most players do whatever they want, but making an example out of a twenty-year-old kid. It’s unfair and counterproductive… it’s stupid coaching. Nellie should be smarter than that. And so should you.

  14. Looks like my quoting style didn’t quite pan out… *I* should’ve been smarter than *that*. But you can more or less tell which sections of feltbot’s post I’m responding to.

  15. Thanks for the post onxln. I’m away at my Friday poker game right now so I can’t do it justice, but it willbe apleasure debating this with you going forward. I will note however that both Nellie and smart have mentioned Randolph’s stamina since the start of the season.

  16. “but it will be apleasure debating this with you going forward.”

    And with you, friend. And you may be right that Randolph’s overall stamina has been mentioned — I have only seen it mentioned in context with his early back injury, not as an overall issue. He certainly has neither looked nor played tired of late. But there may well be something I’ve missed.

  17. And good luck at poker… here’s hoping you get more big guys to work with than the Warriors tonight.

  18. Man, onlxn, that response post was outstanding. All excellent points. Enjoyable to read.

  19. Yes, an excellent post onlxn, that states the rational pro-Randolph case for more PT as well as it can be stated. However, unlike Jared, I don’t buy any of it :>

    “Nellie is not Scott Skiles, a harsh coach who’s demanding credible play out of all of his players in equal measure. Nellie is a guy who’s letting most players do whatever they want, but making an example out of a twenty-year-old kid. It’s unfair and counterproductive…”

    Huh? Please take a moment to compare the minutes that Scott Skiles has given to Joe Alexander, a player taken 6 spots ahead of Anthony Randolph in the draft.

    Is Scott Skiles making unfair demands of Alexander? Is he “making an example” out of him? Or is Alexander just not playing the way Skiles wants him to?

    I’ll give you a hint. There have been intimations out of Milwaukee that Alexander has trouble learning the plays, and remembering to do the things on the court that Skiles wants him to do. Does that sound familiar?

    There are several reasons that Nellie has yanked Randolph and Wright from games: 1) failure to rebound (that was Wright’s problem especially, but has also been Randolph’s on occasion, as in the Spurs game), which according to Nellie, is the primary reason they are on the court; 2) Blown defensive assignments (again a Wright specialty, but also very much a Randolph problem, which I think you noticed in the last game); and 3) Inability to remember the plays, and do the right thing on offense.

    This last has been driving Nelson nuts, and not just him. Its driving Monta Ellis nuts too, and before him Stephen Jackson, right on the court. Randolph is not making the same kind of mistakes that veterans make. His mistakes are from lack of work ethic, lack of game preparation, lack of concentration, or a simple inability to comprehend. Or, and this is a strong possibility, a simple refusal to play the right way.

    This has been reported over and over and over again in the press, today included. http://www.mercurynews.com/sports/ci_14035467?nclick_check=1

    I wonder why you and Jared and so many in the media (including the very reporters who speak to the Warriors insiders) simply refuse to credit it?

  20. I have consistently acknowledged, here and elsewhere, that Anthony Randolph makes frequent mistakes. I’m sure that drives Nellie nuts. It drives me nuts as a fan.

    But you have, yet again, dodged the point. My point is not that Anthony Randolph doesn’t make mistakes. My point is that Anthony Randolph is the only player who’s benched for making mistakes. And as the very article you cite points out, I’m far from the only person making that case:

    “Members of the organization said he’s not ready for regular action because his game and work ethic is inconsistent. Those close to Randolph say the organization is inconsistent in their goals and standards, and that Randolph is an easy target because of his demeanor and sometimes-abrasive personality.

    What’s more, it appears to some that veterans are allowed to make mistakes and take ill-advised shots while Randolph gets benched for the same.

    Now, that doesn’t prove me right. But the article certainly doesn’t prove you right, either. There is a legitimate debate about whether or not Nellie’s sitting on Randolph is justified… that’s the whole point. So while we could just bluster back and forth about what’s happening behind the scenes, it won’t really get us anywhere. I’d rather talk about what we’re actually seeing on the court. And your Joe Alexander comparison gives us a great place to start.

    “Huh? Please take a moment to compare the minutes that Scott Skiles has given to Joe Alexander, a player taken 6 spots ahead of Anthony Randolph in the draft.

    Is Scott Skiles making unfair demands of Alexander? Is he ‘making an example’ out of him? Or is Alexander just not playing the way Skiles wants him to?”

    There is a teeny, tiny, eensy-weensy difference between Joe Alexander and Anthony Randolph: Joe Alexander sucks. Joe Alexander has been a consistently bad player since joining the NBA. When Joe Alexander plays, he makes the Bucks worse and more likely to lose. Scott Skiles doesn’t need any reason beyond that to punt on the guy.

    Anthony Randolph, on the other hand, is pretty good. When Anthony Randolph plays, he makes the Warriors better and more likely to win. A lot better and a lot more likely to win. In fact, by Basketball Prospectus’s Individual Win %, Anthony Randolph has not only been our most effective player this season, he has been one of the 50 most effective players in basketball.

    I can hear your scoffs now. “Numbers, schnumbers… all that proves is that those nerds don’t know what they’re talking about! There’s no way a kid who makes this many mistakes can be that good!” Argue that if you like. But in doing so, you will have to ignore a helluva lot of evidence. You’ll have to ignore the fact that he’s one of the best rebounders in basketball. You’ll have to ignore the fact that he not only affects a ton of shots, but has the length and quickness to recover even when he guesses wrong. You’ll have to ignore the fact that he is passing well — not decently, WELL — for a big man. You’ll have to ignore the fact that his ability to get to the line and to convert from there negates most of the damage done by his inaccurate shooting. You’ll have to ignore so many things, in fact, that you’ll be at great risk of becoming, well, ignor-ant. And I don’t think you’re ignorant.

    Any remotely clear-eyed examination of his record shows that Anthony Randolph, mistakes and all, helps the Warriors win basketball games. That doesn’t mean that Don Nelson absolutely has to play him. But at least acknowledge that the bar for Nellie should be a little higher than the bar for Skiles. There’s a big difference between denying a crappy young player minutes on a 11-14 team and denying a good young player minutes on a 7-19 team.

    Want an even more salient comparison than Joe Alexander? Here’s one: Stephen Curry.

    I know you like Stephen Curry. And I do too… he’s fun to watch, and eventually, I think he’s going to work out fine. But Stephen Curry does a lot less to help us win than Anthony Randolph. Stephen Curry scores a bit more efficiently than Randolph, but shoots so rarely that his (mediocre) efficiency doesn’t help us much. Stephen Curry’s passing, pretty as it is, has been downright ineffective: out of 77 point guards in the league, his assist/turnover ratio is 63rd. Stephen Curry gets obliterated on defense all the time. Hell, Stephen Curry fouls more than any other point guard. Right now, for all the hype, the kid’s actually one of the worst starting point guards in the NBA. He’s too tentative, he gets burned on D, and he makes tons — TONS — of mistakes.

    Now, Curry’s mistakes are much less unsightly than Randolph’s, and his overall game is much prettier. If you want one of them to do a better job of remembering the plays, the safe bet is Curry. If you want to give one nightly SportsCenter highlight appearances, the play is Curry. If you want to make a reel of their play that will please John Wooden, Curry will fare much better. And if you want to interview one of them for your magazine, Curry’s the obvious choice.

    But if you want to win an NBA game, the choice is even more obvious: you want Anthony Randolph. Spazziness, attitude, blooperosity and all, he will do a lot more to help you win than Steph Curry will. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact… by any measurement you care to look at, the gap in value between the two is enormous. The basketball gods may think more highly of Curry’s style, but I don’t really care about that: I just want to see this crappy team I root for win some games. Randolph would help them do that a lot better than Curry. And yet Steph Curry gets 32 minutes a night and praise from every corner of the benighted Warriors universe; Anthony Randolph gets 22 minutes a night and unending snark about his work ethic and intelligence.

    Will end my side of this debate (which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed) with another quote from that MTII article, just to drive home how wrong-headed some of the Randolph criticism has been: “Undoubtedly, [Randolph’s] occasional ill-timed jumpers or head-scratching turnovers drive Nelson mad.”

    Seems like a very reasonable claim, given Randolph’s brick-‘n-blooper performance on Friday. Only problem is, it ignores what Randolph has actually been, y’know, doing.

    In the thirteen games preceding the Wizards loss — in other words, since Smart first took the reins in Dallas — Randolph played 225 minutes and turned the ball over seven times. Seven… once every 32 minutes or so.

    You know how many Warriors took care of the ball as well as Randolph during that stretch? Zero. The eternally underrated CJ didn’t, the knows-his-limits Morrow didn’t, the praised-for-his-savvy Vlad didn’t… the incandescently-talented Curry certainly didn’t. Monta? Monta turned it over at least seven times in five different games in that stretch. A big part of the criticism of Randolph is based on his propensity to turn it over, but for the last month, he’s been taking better care of the basketball than anybody on the team. And in fact, he recorded eighteen assists against those seven turnovers. Steph Curry would kill for a ratio like that.

    But of course, Nellie comes back and makes Randolph, a flaky spaz who’s still the sixth-youngest player in the league, a point center. Nellie decides that this big raw-boned kid should run our offense and shoot jumpers (something he’s bad at and has been doing less often of late); Nellie gives the kid a role that, without any exaggeration, no NBA player has ever assumed with any success.

    And so Anthony Randolph bricks some jumpers and commits some turnovers and has a C-plus game. And then people jump on the kid: what’s his problem, shooting all those jumpers and committing all those turnovers?!

    It’s a friggin’ joke, at this point. A coach is letting a number of middling young players screw up to their hearts’ content, but applying Draconian standards to the one young player who is actually helping. The only way you can support that is if you are, first and foremost, a Don Nelson fan. If you’re a Golden State Warriors fan, the inconsistency and idiocy of it should make you sick.

  21. Onlxn, I enjoyed your post, but I think I should save my breath a little right now, as we’re sure to return to this topic a lot going forward. Like in the next game :>

    I do want to make a point about “Randolph leads to winning” which you seem to have derived from that ridiculous Basketball Prospectus stat. I reviewed this stat at the beginning of the season on Adam Lauridsen’s blog, and it is simply garbage. I know it got written up by Freakonomics and the Wall Street Journal, but I don’t care, it’s garbage. If you want to see my take on it, you’ll have to hit up Adam’s archives, because I can’t recall the details now. But some of the results this stat reaches are so ludicrous that they destroy all credibility.

    Here’s one thing I do remember: it does not take into account how a coach uses a player. If the coach uses him poorly, the player will come up “not a winner” (think Pau Gasol being posted up in the teeth of the Celtic’s defense by Phil Jackson). If the coach uses him well, he will come up a “winner” (think Ty Lawson coming off the bench for the Nuggets. Did you see his stats as a starter tonight?)

    Now, think Anthony Randolph selectively coming off the bench to face second tier stiffs, and being played at point-center. He’s a winner!

    A ridiculous stat.

  22. I do not regard BP’s stats as the gospel. No sport can be fully captured by statistics, and basketball even less than others, as there’s just too much complexity in the interactions between players, especially on defense.

    However, in rejecting the stat and its brethren out of hand, you’re ignoring an important point: the people who designed it know a lot about the sport. Many of the people involved in designing stats like Win % are now working for NBA teams — almost exclusively for *successful* NBA teams. Darryl Morey, who is probably the best GM in basketball (and yeah, if you want to have that argument, we can do that too), thought enough of Basketball Prospectus to actually write the foreword for their book this summer. You can act contemptuous towards their findings if you like, but by doing so, you are disagreeing with a lot of people who, with all due respect, know a lot more about basketball than you do. And, yes, by criticizing Don Nelson, I am doing the exact same thing. I’m just pointing out, we’re both criticizing figures who have more credibility than we do. You can’t stand on ceremony here.

    Now, down to business. Your criticism of Win % is primarily based on the fact that “it does not take into account how a coach uses a player.” In fact, that is exactly what it measures. You’ll notice that at no point did I say that Anthony Randolph was our “best” player. I said that Anthony Randolph was doing more to help us win than any other Warrior. The question a stat like Win % asks is not, “who is the best skilled player?” It is, “who is most effective in the role that they’re given?”

    By Win %, Anthony Randolph is more effective in his role of backup center than any other Warrior is in their role; the gap between him and Maggette, the second-most-effective Warrior by Win %, is not small. You contend that this is merely because Randolph’s facing “second-tier stiffs”… this is a reasonable contention. But there are three points worth making:

    1) Anthony Randolph’s minutes can not cleanly be termed those of a backup center. His stretches of playing time have come at varying times and lasted for varying durations; he has spent a good amount of time, particularly in the second halves of games, facing starting centers. Randolph has already spent big stretches of minutes going up against, among others, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Brook Lopez and Greg Oden. He has held his own (actually badly outplaying Howard and battling Oden to a draw), and his overall results are still excellent.

    2) Anthony Randolph has spent over a month in the NBA as a starting power forward; in that time, he not only held his own against opposing fours, but outplayed them dramatically. That doesn’t prove that he’s playing well now. But since all indications are that he is playing well now, it’s not entirely irrelevant.

    3) Do you know how many players have, by Win %, been as consistently successful against backups as Randolph and not earned a starting job? Zero. Not twenty, not ten, not three… zero. Every other NBA backup who’s dominated as much as Randolph has already been given a starting job. Don’t you think that makes something of a case for starting him? Nobody’s lobbying to give him a $90 million extension or name him to the All-Star Team… some of us just think he’s done enough to merit a start over Vladimir Radmanovic and Chris Hunter.

    I get loving Nellie. I get having faith in Nellie. I get defending Nellie against some of the genuinely unfair accusations that are leveled against him. But I will never understand why some intelligent observers insist that Nellie never makes mistakes. Part of his charm has always been that he tries a bunch of crazy stuff, some of which blows up in his face; hell, he’s the first to admit that he’s made a million coaching mistakes. There is a mountain of evidence alleging that he’s making a mistake here, and only occasional whispering alleging that he’s not. Don Nelson is a legendary coach and a prince of a guy, but he’s keeping one of our more effective players on the bench despite not having any credible players to start over him. That’s a mistake. Why bend over backwards pretending otherwise?

  23. One last point:

    “Now, think Anthony Randolph selectively coming off the bench to face second tier stiffs, and being played at point-center. He’s a winner!”

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean here. Are you suggesting that it’s easy for a player to succeed if he’s asked to both play center and run the offense? You can’t possibly believe that. Whatever you think of Randolph, you have to admit that Nellie has given him a pretty difficult task in the last game or two.

  24. the stat measures nothing. trust me. I can’t remember the list of players I ran down that were rated absurdly, but it was big.

  25. As to your second point, Randolph apparently has an easier time remembering the plays when he’s at point center, as opposed to at power forward, where he’s asked to set picks, space the floor and move without the ball. That’s coming from Don Nelson.

    The team performs better, and he gets more shots and more assists.

    You’re forcing me to go look up my work on the BP win stat :> I’ll get back to you.

  26. “the stat measures nothing. trust me.”

    No offense, but… I don’t trust you. Have you researched enough to understand its underlying logic? Have you done a multi-year analysis of its effectiveness? Can you actually explain what about the metric is flawed, other than that it outputs some results you don’t like?

    Here, I’ll do some of your work for you. The twenty most effective NBA players, on a per-minute basis, by Win % thus far:

    1. LeBron James (.813)
    2. Chris Paul (.810)
    3. Tim Duncan (.797)
    4. Paul Gasol (.758)
    5. Josh Smith (.747)
    6. Dwight Howard (.744)
    7. Chris Bosh (.720)
    8. Dwayne Wade (.712)
    9. Steve Nash (.707)
    10. Marcus Camby (.701)
    11. Rajon Rondo (.690)
    12. Kobe Bryant (.676)
    13. Dirk Nowitzki (.668)
    14. Manu Ginobili (.661)
    15. Carmelo Anthony (.647)
    16. Kevin Garnett (.645)
    17. Carl Landry (.638)
    18. Kevin Durant (.636)
    19. Marc Gasol (.625)
    20. Nene Hilario (.624)

    Now, this isn’t quite how I’d rank the top players in the league. Nobody in their right minds would trade Dwight Howard for Josh Smith just because Smith ranks a tiny bit higher here. As I have stated repeatedly, and as the proprietors of Basketball Prospectus state repeatedly, these rankings are not the gospel.

    At the same time, if there’s something *absurd* about these rankings, I’m sure failing to see it. LeBron, CP3 and Duncan have pretty clearly been the three best players in basketball this year; Pau’s been a monster since returning. The Hawks are just slaughtering people, and Josh Smith is the main reason why… he’s playing out of his mind right now. In fact, every team that’s winning a lot is well-represented on this list. And while seeing a guy like Camby in the top ten might surprise you, I’d argue that it shouldn’t. You know full well how valuable a no-mistakes rebounding and defensive ace can be.

    So I’ll bite. Where’s the absurdity in these rankings? Do you have any good reason to justify throwing them out the window? Because not liking the results they show for the terrible, dysfunctional team that you root for is not a very good reason.

  27. …posted that before I saw your second post about looking up your work. I look forward to seeing it.

  28. I looked for it and couldn’t find it. Its somewhere in this summers archives of Adam’s blog.

    But just looking at the list you posted is enough.

    I love Chris Paul. Would I take him over Kobe Bryant when starting a franchise?

    Would I trade Dirk Nowitzki, a guy who carried a mediocre team to the finals, for Chris Bosh, a guy who’s never managed a winning record?

    Josh Smith over Kevin Garnett?

    I mean, come on.

    But as absurd as these results are, they don’t come close to the results for role players. How good a role player is, is incredibly dependent on the role his coach gives him.

    I wonder how Channing Frye’s win% changed between last year and this?

    How does Ty Lawson’s win % change going from a reserve to a starter?

    Does your stat give you these answers?

  29. And is Carl Landry really the 17th best player in the league?

    I wonder why Houston doesn’t start him?

  30. “I love Chris Paul. Would I take him over Kobe Bryant when starting a franchise?”

    I certainly wouldn’t. The recent track record for little guards *in the playoffs* is not great. But this stat isn’t pretending to measure that… it’s measuring how effective each has been during the regular season so far. And a keen observer like you should realize why Paul would rate better than Kobe is regular-season stats: Paul has to completely exert himself every night to get the Hornets into the playoffs, while Kobe has the luxury of coasting at times, particularly on defense, and letting his teammates carry the day so he can save energy for key moments. If you think Kobe does more for the Lakers than Chris Paul does for the Hornets *during the season*, you’re not paying very close attention. Kobe’s smart enough and lucky enough to be able to take his foot off the gas pedal the whole time.

    “Would I trade Dirk Nowitzki, a guy who carried a mediocre team to the finals, for Chris Bosh, a guy who’s never managed a winning record?”

    You’re wrong on the last point: Chris Bosh carried a pretty talentless supporting cast to a 47-35 record three years. Bosh has never had supporting casts as talented as Dirk’s. Dirk has been the better player for the last several years, but the gap has not been large… with Bosh’s rebounding surge this year, he has rather obviously been the more effective player. And if you wouldn’t trade Dirk’s next five years for Bosh’s next five years, you have literally no idea what you’re talking about.

    “Josh Smith over Kevin Garnett?”

    In 2009? Yes… it’s not even close. Have you really not noticed how limited Garnett is physically at this point? He’s a brilliant enough player to still be quite effective, but he’s playing in horrible pain, and not half the player he was two years ago.

    These numbers are not measuring who has had the better career or who was better last year or who you should pick in a single game if your life’s on the line. All they’re measuring is *who has done more for their team so far this season*. And they’re doing a much better job of measuring that than you are. I mean, Kevin Garnett? Really? Watch some Celtics games.

    “How good a role player is, is incredibly dependent on the role his coach gives him.”

    For the 300th straight time: that’s the whole point. That’s what this statistic measures. Every player is a “role” player; Win % rates how effective they are in their role.

    “I wonder how Channing Frye’s win% changed between last year and this?”

    Channing Frye had a .352 Win % last year; BP’s metrics, like everybody else, thought the guy absolutely sucked. This year, Channing Frye has a .482 Win %. He rates much better, and for good reason: a guy who turns all of his 20-foot jumpers into 23-foot jumpers is going to score a lot more points and help his team a lot more. But Basketball Prospectus still rates him as a below-average player… it still recognizes that he can’t rebound or defend worth a damn. Do you really think that the people who designed this rate system are stupid?

    “How does Ty Lawson’s win % change going from a reserve to a starter?”

    Hard to say… guys do tend to play less effectively against starters than against backups, but the difference is not big. My guess is that Ty Lawson will continue to be a pretty good NBA player, however he’s used. If you want to shove his eighteen weak minutes against Memphis in my face, be my guest, but you know better than to base an evaluation of a player on eighteen minutes. I am happy to bet cash by-God money that Ty Lawson will be an effective full-time starter whenever he gets the opportunity.

    “Does your stat give you these answers?”

    Stats rarely give concrete answers. But good stats can give you a pretty clear impression of what a player is actually contributing. Win % is a good stat; its conclusions are credible. And your attempts to discredit its opinions are really doing more to discredit your own. You haven’t thought your player evaluations through as carefully as this mindless statistical system has.

  31. “And is Carl Landry really the 17th best player in the league?”

    For the 301st time: no. By Win %, Carl Landry has been the 17th-most effective full-time player in the role he’s been given. That doesn’t mean that he is absolutely, beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt the 17th most effective guy. But at the very least, it suggests he’s pretty good. And if you don’t think Carl Landry has been, at the very least, one of the 25 or 30 most effective players in the league this season, you should read a little more and watch a little more basketball.

    “I wonder why Houston doesn’t start him?”

    In large part because the guy who starts over him, Luis Scola, is also very good; Scola also rates as one of the 50 best players in basketball, and given that he’s faced a higher calibre of opponent on average, he may be a better player than Landry. The Rockets aren’t keeping Carl Landry on the bench for guys like Mikki Moore and Vladimir Radmanovic.

    I think this Win % discussion has pretty much run its course; if you’re going to deliberately refuse to understand the stat, there’s not much point in arguing it. Gonna make one more Randolph-related comment and then we can both move on with our lives.

  32. “As to your second point, Randolph apparently has an easier time remembering the plays when he’s at point center, as opposed to at power forward, where he’s asked to set picks, space the floor and move without the ball. That’s coming from Don Nelson.”

    While I don’t put any stock in things the big man tells reporters, all of that seems fairly plausible. And to be clear — I’m not against the Randolph-as-point-center experiment. It’s an interesting idea, and I love the potential it has to let Curry focus on scoring, as he did against the Wizards. This is a Crazy Nellie idea I fully endorse.

    But let’s put this in perspective. Nellie is attempting to make a twenty-year-old big man’s job easier by giving him additional decision-making responsibilities. There are not many young big men for whom that would even possibly make sense; it’s not like Kosta Koufos or Hasheem Thabeet or even Greg Oden could last thirty seconds if asked to run the offense from the top of the key. The fact that Nellie is considering this speaks to Randolph’s unusual weaknesses (remembering plays, moving without the ball), but also to his unusual strengths (uncommonly strong handling, passing and slashing skills for a big man). In a way, that strategy sort of sums Anthony Randolph up: a guy who’s both bad at incredibly simple and easy things, and good at incredibly complicated and difficult things.

    It’s reasonable to obsess over either side of the equation. You can salivate, as I do, at the potential of a guy who rebounds, affects and passes as well as Randolph often does. Or you can shake your head, as you do, at the completely easy things he screws up. I get your end of it… I do. It’s not like he doesn’t make me want to throw my remote at the TV a couple times a game. His bad moments are horrible. Both the pro-Randolph and anti-Randolph factions have very legitimate points.

    To me, the stat that pushes things towards the pro-Randolph side is this one: 7-19. We’re twelve games below .500, and one of the four worst teams in basketball; an abject inability to grab rebounds and defend our rim is the primary reason we’re so bad. If we were 19-7 and doing those things well, I wouldn’t be clamoring to see the weird awesome/terrible freaky kid… I’d want us to stick with the players who were succeeding. If we were 13-13 and doing those things decently, I wouldn’t be clamoring to see the weird awesome/terrible freaky kid… it’d be too risky to go to war with him, as we’d have almost no margin for error in terms of making the playoffs. But the Warriors are neither good nor decent. The Warriors friggin’ suck. As such, it seems like a perfectly fine time to give the weird awesome/terrible freaky kid some extended time. Because the weird awesome/terrible freaky kid is one of the better players on this weird terrible/terrible freaky team. Anthony Randolph would not merit 30 minutes a night on the Lakers or Blazers or Jazz. But in this sad little corner of the NBA world, he does. We can’t demand perfection from him; all we can demand is that he’ll help us. And he will.

  33. “if you’re going to deliberately refuse to understand the stat”

    I am not deliberately refusing to understand the stat, I honestly don’t understand it. And with all due respect, I don’t believe you do either. Because I don’t believe the guy who invented it understands it.

    “By Win %, Carl Landry has been the 17th-most effective full-time player in the role he’s been given.”

    Is Carl Landry a full-time player? It looks to me like he gets 25 minutes a game. Limited minute role players historically are among the statistically best players in the league. They are represented among the leaders in Points/min, Reb./min, PER and Win%. But that doesn’t mean that they are as good as even below average starters in this league. Why? Because it is a lot easier to go full-bore for limited minutes, and it is a lot easier to go against second units, and garbage time units, than it is to go against front-line units in meaningful fourth quarters. That is one major way in which ALL of these stats lie when they are applied to role players.

    Do Carl Landry’s and Anthony Randolph’s Win % represent their innate skills as players? Or do they represent the skill of their coaches in designing their role? In selecting their matchups, in deciding when to bring them in and take them out. Or do they represent the fact they are rarely in the game against front-line starters, and in crunch time?

    I truly don’t know the answer to those questions, and I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar that neither do the authors of basketball prospectus.

    As to Anthony Randolph, I admire your belief in his upside, and his passion to see him play. You seem to think I don’t share that, but I do. Check out my pre-season projection for him and the Warriors. I think its fair to say that few people were higher on the kid than I was coming in to the season.

    Where you and I differ is that I don’t share your impatience with the way that Don Nelson is handling him. I see Randolph acting with frequent immaturity and a great deal of stubborness, and I think Nelson’s firm hand is the best thing for him. I also, as someone who has closely watched Don Nelson for decades, have never seen him fail to get the absolute utmost out of a talented player. If a player has talent, Don Nelson will bring it out, and get it to blossom. All it requires is the player’s cooperation.

    Do you honestly believe that Anthony Randolph would get more playing time, and be played to his strengths, by any other coach in the NBA? Do you think that Phil Jackson and Larry Brown, for instance, would even let him off their bench, let alone lead the fast break, run the point-center, and jack up 20 footers? Anthony Randolph does not know how lucky he is, just like Chris Webber did not know how lucky he was, until the end of his career, when he admitted he blew it, and blew his best chance at multiple championships.

    By the way, we are both going to get our wish to see Randolph at power forward very soon. Did you see today’s Chron? Biedrins and Turiaf are coming back for Saturday’s game, and Don Nelson said, with a smile, that he now thinks Randolph is ready to play power forward.

    Hopefully, fingers crossed, we are about to finally see what I predicted before the season: that when Don Nelson has the big players he wants, he wants to play big. And Biedrins, Turiaf and Randolph are the big players Don Nelson wants.

  34. We’ll have to agree to disagree on most of this. But I share your excitement about the impending returns of Biedrins and Turiaf. And if Nellie actually starts using two bigs at once and relegates smallball to the occasional moments it deserves, I will bring my Nellie’s #1 Fan foam finger out of retirement.