Tank, continued + Ekpephenomena + KaChing!: Thunder 115 Warriors 114

If you want to know why the Warriors lost this game, you need look no further than their GM, Joe Lacob.                                  

It was Joe Lacob who stripped the Warriors’ bench bare in the pre-season, and restocked it with bargain basement non-NBA players, Lou Amundson and Jeremy Lin.  Those two non-NBA players played a very prominent role in this loss.  Lou Amundson did what Lou Amundson does: -13 in 11 minutes. And Jeremy Lin did what Jeremy Lin does: Sit on the bench. Despite the fact that there is once again absolutely no one backing up Monta and Curry. Lin sits because Lin cannot play.

It was Joe Lacob who failed to make a deal, or reach into the D-leagues, for a developable big guard who could spell Monta and Curry, even when it was obvious to all that the Warriors’ bench was woefully inadequate.  Lacob was utterly indifferent, at best, to the Warriors’ struggles. He preferred to hoard his “trade assets” up until the trade deadline.

And at the trade deadline, it was Joe Lacob who did nothing but further strip the already thin Warriors bench right down to the bone, by giving away Dan Gadzuric for a coveted second-round draft pick.  This despite Andris Biedrins’ well-known injury history, and not having a single other center on the roster.  Would it have been useful in this game to play Gadzuric against Kendrick Perkins, and bring Udoh off the bench? Would it have been useful never to have to bring Lou Amundson into the game?

And of course, it is Joe Lacob who has relegated Vladomir Radmanovich to the bench for the second half of the Warriors’ season.  Vlad Rad, who has been a key part of the Warriors’ best fourth quarter lineups this season.  Vlad Rad, who shoots the three at 40%, spreads the floor for Monta and Curry and Lee, and passes the ball beautifully. Vlad Rad, who is the Warriors’ best defender of quick power forwards. Vlad Rad, who is +52 on the season, second only to Ekpe Udoh’s +90 (now +99).  And the only Warriors regular other than Udoh to actually have a positive +/- this season.  That Vlad Rad.

Vlad Rad has been relegated to the bench because Joe Lacob wants Keith Smart to play Lou Amundson and his new acquisition Al Thornton instead.  You see, Lou Amundson and Al Thornton are low-post basketball players, which is something Joe Lacob covets, and something that Vlad Rad can never be.  Vlad Rad is not in Joe Lacob’s plans, and only players that are in Joe Lacob’s plans are going to play for the Warriors for the rest of this season.

Winning? Forget about it. Never mind that Vlad Rad has helped and can help the Warriors win, and Lou Amundson and Al Thornton can only help them lose. Winning is not important to Joe Lacob. Not this season.

This game wasn’t lost, it was tanked.

The Nightmare: Before Ekpe Udoh had ever played a minute in an NBA game, I wrote this about my intuition regarding his talent:

Udoh’s combination of talents — the combination of extraordinary intelligence with extraordinary length and extraordinary athleticism and an extraordinary desire to play defense — is one of the rarest of all combinations to be found in NBA players. When you are lucky enough to find it, it has the potential to be a game changer. A franchise changer, even.

It’s the combination that Bill Russell had. The player — as I’m sure I don’t need to remind you — whom Don Nelson regarded as the best to ever play the game.

Ridiculous hyperbole? Perhaps. But backed up by my reading of the scouting reports, and my faith in Don Nelson, the best GM in NBA history. Remember him, the guy who didn’t care about defense?

After watching tonight’s game, I am ready to state that Udoh has more than met my ridiculously high expectations.  He is a phenomenal basketball player.  Right now, in his rookie season, after missing summer league, training camp and half the season. Phenomenal.

His ability to cover the entire floor and intuitively make the right reads is supernatural.  You’ve already heard this from me, and Gary St. Jean, and his coach, Keith Smart. Tonight it went to another level with his end of the game switch onto Kevin Durant.  I recommend re-watching that play, to see Udoh make the decision to switch, and then push Durant into a fade-away in the right corner that he almost blocked. Phenomenal.

And then there is his shot-blocking.  Here are the top 4 NBA shot-blockers per game this season:

  • Bogut 2.7
  • McGee 2.4
  • Howard 2.4
  • Ibaka 2.3

Udoh has now started 6 games since Biedrins went out.  In those 6 games he is averaging 33 minutes. And 2.8 blocks. What do you make of that?

Phenomenal.

And how about the WAY he blocks shots?  Towards the middle of the court. Towards his teammates.  Not just keeping the ball in play, but triggering the fast break.  So rare. So brilliant. So, dare I say it…?  Bill Russell.  Hell yes I dare, I said it before he set foot on an NBA court.

Two of Udoh’s blocks in this game made me spill my Lagavulin.  Two very different blocks, that illustrate the total extent of The Nightmare’s prowess:

The first came at 6:20 of the 3rd Q against Russell Westbrook.  He picked up Westbrook on a switch at the free throw line, and Westbrook spun around him and drove for a layup.  Udoh caught him with ease from behind.  Russell Westbrook.

The second, of course, came against Kevin Durant in overtime.  On a driving layup, Udoh caught Durant at the very top of his leap and sent it away. The other way, on a Warriors’ fastbreak.

Quickness. Length. Anticipation. Timing. Finesse. Control. Phenomenal.

One other play, very similar to his blocks in a way, stood out to me. At 5:15 1st Q, Udoh fronted Perkins in the post, and stole the entry, tipping it softly to Monta to initiate the fast break.  A steal-tip-outlet.

Phenomenal.

Ok, that’s the great stuff.  Not everything about Udoh is phenomenal.  Let’s run down the problem areas:

  • Size and Position: At 240 lbs., Udoh is not a starting center. We’ve seen him get overwhelmed by the bigger centers he’s had to play. Kendrick Perkins, by the way, is not one of them.  But even Perkins steamrolled Udoh on the sole post-up he was given (early 3rd Q), and although he bricked his free throws, it was a good thing he wasn’t given more.  Until either Udoh puts on 20 lbs. of muscle or David Lee is traded,  I see Udoh as the back-up center on the Warriors. The Serge Ibaka role, before Jeff Green was traded.
  • Rebounding: It’s gotten a lot better in the last few games, but is still a problem area.  Some of it is a function of his rim defense, that pulls him out of position.  A lot of it has to do with his size and strength, and playing out of position. He clearly needs to get stronger.  But there also may be one other problem:
  • Small Hands: I’m climbing out on a limb here.  I haven’t heard or read this, it’s just something that I suspect.  I think Udoh has small hands.  It’s why he only dunks with two hands.  Why he can’t rebound with one hand.  And it may be why he struggles with his handle on occasion. Just a guess. But I’ll bet I’m right. And this means he has another problem:
  • Finishing: Because he has to go up with two hands when under the basket, Udoh is slow off the floor.  He has to gather himself for a higher jump.
  • Outlets: Right now Udoh is holding the ball too long when he rebounds, and is reluctant to throw the ball upcourt.  I place the blame for this entirely on Keith Smart.  Udoh has great passing ability, and only needs encouragement and the example of David Lee to become a great outlet passer.

Offense: Note that I don’t include Udoh’s offense in the list of problem areas. His offense is clearly a work in progress at the moment, but I think it is obvious that when he gets with the right coach he will be a very fine offensive player.  I really like his jump shot, and think he will eventually be as deadly with it as David Lee. Perhaps as soon as next year.

He is highly intelligent and a fine passer, which means that like David Lee, he is perfectly suited for the high post.

He is also well suited for the low post, as we have seen with his jump hooks and counters. But he’s not going to be able to post up against front-line centers, as tonight’s foray against Perkins should have clearly demonstrated to everyone who is not Keith Smart or Joe Lacob.

He is very mobile as a back-up center, which if it weren’t for his occasionally bad hands, would make him great in the pick and roll. His high pick and roll with Curry at 3:35 3rd Q was a perfect example.  He left Mohammed completely out of the play. But struggled catching Curry’s perfect pass, and had to settle for free throws.

KaChing!: Nearly lost in the misery of this wasted Warriors season is the fact that I cashed my preseason bet that the Warriors would win over 30.5 games. Given the fact that the team’s players were betrayed by both their GM and their coach, I think it’s obvious that line was ridiculous, and a great betting opportunity.

And because this season is being so badly tanked, it is quite likely that the next preseason line that appears on the Warriors will present an equally good opportunity.

I have also clinched the other preseason bet I made, that the Wizards would win fewer than 32.5 games.  And I stand by my opinion that John Wall was one of the most over-hyped number ones in history.  He cannot shoot.  And he clearly has no idea what he is doing on the basketball court.  He may eventually develop into a Russell Westbrook. But Russell Westbrook doesn’t impress me either.

Stephen Curry — freed from the restraints of an incompetent coach by the poor shooting of Monta Ellis and the absence of Acie Law — impresses me.

 

 

 

 

 

20 Responses to Tank, continued + Ekpephenomena + KaChing!: Thunder 115 Warriors 114

  1. You are on to something with Udoh’s hands. The combine hand measurements for Udoh were a length of 9.5″ and a width of 8.8″. The combine average (all positions) was 8.8″ and 9.65″ respectively. While his hand length compares favorably with a lot of front court players, there were many players measuring over 10″ in hand width. It could be a factor.

  2. What is the Warrior’s problem with using the +/- statistic? It doesn’t have to be a perfect statistic to be useful. It’s not because exceptional interpretations are possible with the statistic, that useful information cannot be taken from it. Looking around the league, it is generally true that the widely acknowledged best players have the best effect on their team’s +/-. The Warriors seem to disregard the effect players have on the team, preferring to spew praise and playing time on the most impressive individual averages, highlight reel abilities and end of game heroics.
    Your take on Udoh, both preseason and current is excellent and you opened my eyes on Vlad Rad. Of course Udoh didn’t start getting consistent minutes until Smart was forced to use him, but voila – a positive effect on the +/-.
    The biggest disappointment of this season for me though, was the favoring of Monta’s leadership and ball dominance to Curry’s, by Keith Smart. Smart essentially castrated Curry’s game. I would love to know how the team would have performed, looked and felt if this decision of Smart’s had been reversed. I really don’t care how many assists Monta gets, he’s not a PG and the only way he becomes a consistent plus to the team is if he becomes the highly skilled off guard to an elite point, like he did with Baron a few years ago. Curry could have made this team go. All Smart had to do was take his leash off.

  3. The only player that I would attribute to Lacob not resigning is Tolliver, not Morrow or Watson. Do you disagree?

    I wish you would share with your readers that while others were pushing for Udoh to start you still favored Biedrins, and were withholding judgment on Udoh. And by the way, he has huge hands. They are not small.

    Do you want Udoh altering and blocking shots, or garnering defensive rebounds? It’s difficult to do both.

  4. At least the weak bench spared us Smart’s bizarre substitutions. If Law were healthy, would he have kept Curry on the bench much of the 2nd. half, bringing him back only the last 5 minutes?

  5. Thanks for the combine data on Udoh’s hands, YouTired. Very interesting…

    Just figured out the moderation issues, so comments should be appearing immediately now.

  6. I would be curious to know what has happened the last weeks, actually all the games since the break–several very fine games, many dismal ones, and bizarre substitution patterns throughout. MT said Ellis was having “personal issues” those games he did not play well a week ago but did not specify. Curry’s minutes during that stretch is just mysterious.

    But all we needed last night was some kind of bench. Tolliver tips the scale. It’s hard to believe Lacob would call to bench Vlad Rad. Then again, it’s hard to understand why he wasn’t played.

    Lacob has repeatedly said he is being open with the fans, but I haven’t heard anything about any decisions he’s passed on to Smart. He says he’s been hands off with the coaching. Yet it’s hard to believe he hasn’t given some directives, and not passing these on is a disservice to us, to the team, and especially to Smart, who has to take the brunt of the blame for the losses. Even if Smart is on his last and only year, has Lacob done anything to support him?

    His behavior is malign neglect.

  7. Udoh having hands over 9″ long and 8″ wide are fairly big hands.

    Good analysis regarding Ekbe Udoh. He has not been given credit by the scorekeepers for some defensive tips and blocks as his hands are so quick. It should also be noted that he is a good offensive rebounder.

    Radman v. Thornton is pretty much a wash. I like Thornton shooting 51% on 2 pointers vs. Radman’s 42.5%.

  8. It’s always interesting to watch Curry play against the other top young pg prospects in the League. He dominated Westbrook last night.

    Tonight against Memphis, though, poor Curry was exhausted. Lin looked good tonight, though. I think by next year he’ll have worked on his jumper and be a pretty good backup pg.

    The one trait that amazes me about Udoh, and did from the first game I saw him play for the Warriors, is his tremendous lateral quickness. I can’t recall seeing another player as big as he move that quickly. And, as felt points out, last night watching him switch onto Durant and cover him effectively on the perimeter in crunch time was truly exciting.

    Re Udoh taking to much time near the hoop on O gathering himself before shooting, this is a result of his inexperience, not some athletic defect. He will correct this over the offseason and next year.

    Regarding Smart and Lacob, Smart’s substitutions have been so bizarre all year long that I certainly can’t ascribe some of his moves now to Lacob. This coach is bizarre; I stopped trying to understand the logic behind his moves–as Lacob said during the ASBreak–Smart is very “cerebral” in his approach. What Lacob didn’t add, but I think he was dying to imply by that, was “he’s spends a great deal of time thinking about his strategic approach to games which makes these crazy substitutions and other strategic decisions of his even bigger head scratchers.”

    In short, I’m still giving Lacob a lot more leeway than you felt. I believe he’s giving Smart latitude but grinding his teeth at night waiting to install a new coach in the offseason. Lacob is a smart guy; he can’t be happy seeing how Smart has mishandled Curry and the Udoh/Biedrins situations this year. This offseason will tell us all we need to know about Lacob I think, good or bad.

  9. I agree with Our Team, Felty, that the core of the problem is Keith Smart, not Joe Lacob. Smart’s so-called “cerebral” approach is really just an inexperienced and overmatched head coach trying to outthink himself. Then he passes that distorted brain food to his players, especially Curry, by overcoaching them. When he’s standing near the Fitz/Barnett microphones, listen to how often he shouts instructions to his team during the game — on both offense and defense.

    Is there another head coach in the pros or even in college who comes anywhere near the volume of instructions being shouted at players while they’re trying to play? Do we see Phil Jackson or Greg Popovich or Mike Krzyzewski yelling even a single word during the game flow?

    It’s a perfect example of why Smart is simply not head coach material. He’s trying desperately, but he’s in way over his head. I think Lacob is gritting his teeth because he wants to give Smart a genuine opportunity to succeed — or fail — on his own terms. We all can see how it’s turning out, and I’m thinking/hoping Lacob will make the right move when the time comes.

  10. I’m waiting for Lacob to make his first good move. So far, all bad. Firing Nelson,, signing Amundson and Lin. Not resigning Tolliver. Trading B.Wright and Gadzuric for Murphy who was released. Leaving a roster spot unfilled. Can’t wait till the off-season.

  11. Keith Smart can never yell too many instructions, just ask Augustine or Coach Silas my replacement. The only solace Warrior fans should take this year is Captain Jack is on a worse team than the one HE WANTED to leave. HA HA.

  12. WheresMyChippy

    Can a 240 pound, 6’11″ 23-year-old put on 20 pounds of muscle in one summer?

  13. After Curry gets a jump shot, maybe he can work on his lateral quickness and then jumping ability. Better get in the weight room too. And in the rest of the spare time this Summer, watch Curry run an offense.

    Anybody who reads Feltie and understands the NBA knows Jeremy Lin is not and will never be a ‘backup’ NBA point guard. If he were from any other continent besides Antartica (and maybe there is a frozen pt guard there), he does not fit Nelson’s or the current makeup of the Warriors.

    Just watch for the rest of the season as Lacob most certainly has ‘requested’ JLin play.

    1) JLin takes the inbound pass after a made basket — right next to the inbounder — all the while he can WALK it up instead of what Steph and Monta do (they take it above the free throw and on the move). Why are
    Steph and Monta accountable for being too small and not Lin?
    Lacob is trying to sell merchandise and tickets that is it. Stop with the backup stuff! At least he is our 15 th player (I hope maybe Smart has him at #6 right behind Curry).

    BUT he does sell shirts, and head bands…Thanks Mr. Lacob can we get some of those royalties as a ticket discount?

  14. If you want people to read your post, I would suggest starting with something other than “After Curry gets a jump shot…”

  15. Thanks Feltbot – I like how you see the game.

    Udoh must be the W’s version of the Tyson Chandler and the Mavs – regarding shot-blocking/defensive focus to teams with matador defending smallish guards and a starting big who is much more offense than defense (Dirk and David Lee).

    Yes, I don’t know why Udoh seems to be a poor finisher for a big. I think he will develop his outside shot, but at 23 and not having shown his offensive dominance much in college – I have many doubts. Nevertheless – Udoh’s impact on the defensive end is impressive as he blocks and changes shots in the paint. Even in Biedrins’ best days, opposing players never feared taking it to the rim on Andris.

    My book on Lin is still open – a decent prospect as the 15th player – I have no problem. Lin has shown he can take it to the hoop with authority and finish well. He will be out of the league if he cannot improve his shot, which is unacceptable. Lin plays solid fundamental defense.

  16. Marcus Thompson on David Lee’s year: http://bit.ly/i3b1q0

  17. The Truth Fairy

    Boy, are you a moron?

    Warriors losing by one point to the Thunder at this point in the season is a win. The W’s had nothing to gain by winning, but they hung with the Thunder (a solid playoff team).

    And really, Jeremy Lin, Louis Almundson, and Rad Vlad aren’t important to the team. Sure, those roster spots maybe, possibly could have become marginally better players. But the real issues for this team are Biedrins and Lee. Biedrins is one of the worst offensive players in the league, and lately he’s not even an average defender. At least Lee manages to bring good passing and fair shooting to the table, while remaining a pretty inept defender. This team won’t have a positive season until they add at least one decent big man. Hell, I think the warriors could win 42+ with Perkins and Lee.

    I’m pretty sure Biedrins is just a wait-it-out kind’ve contract, but if the warriors can ditch David Lee at any point they’d damn well better. I think they ought to trade ellis just to trade Biedrins, if any such offer becomes available.

  18. Truth Fairy: Watch many games? David Lee is tied for 9th in the NBA with 9.6 rebounds/game. He’s 39th in scoring, just half a point/game behind a great shooter like Ray Allen. You fault his defense, but did you see him defend Novitzki last night and frustrate him to the point of getting himself T’d up? And that doesn’t even count Lee’s strong intangibles. Agreed, Biedrins is a huge disappointment, but going after Lee tells me you’re unable to assess talent as well as you think you are.

  19. Small ball beat the Lakers on their home court today.
    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/boxscore;_ylt=AscQhHNSWCJH.aeCnQVkq5.8vLYF?gid=2011040313

    Please note, Felton + Lawson 30 minutes apiece. Curry and Ellis can’t play together?

  20. I made the mistake of leaving the TV on after the Dallas game and heard Smart’s post-game comments. (From memory) He was highlighting key moments down the stretch and said the most important play was Curry’s pass to Thornton for the layup and foul instead of taking a “quick three.” Smart said it showed real growth and maturity for Curry.

    1. I’m pretty sure Curry figured out the pass to Thornton was a good play, would have figured it out last year, would have figured it out in grade school.

    2. Curry’s 3 pointer at the end didn’t hurt either. And he only took eight shots last night.