2010-11 Golden State Warriors Final Grades

Monta Ellis: A+

A great scorer, yes, but this year he became so much more.  A great distributor, a great clutch closer, a great teammate. A team leader.  A superstar in the making.

A couple of years ago, I wrote that I believed that Monta had the makings of a supreme point guard, because his passes had laser-like accuracy: they always seemed to hit his man in the hands.  This opinion was scoffed at.  Well, in last night’s broadcast, we learned that Monta leads the entire NBA in shooting % by recipients of his passes.  Hmmm.        

As an inveterate stat hater, I’m naturally inclined to pick apart this statistic. So yes, he’s been passing to some guys who can really shoot the ball. Lee, Curry, Wright.

But there is also no question that Monta’s ability to completely warp a defense gets his teammates more wide open than almost any other player in the league.  And if you are a close observer, there is also no question that his passes, more than almost any other point guard in the league, not to mention the other speed demons in the league — Parker, Rose, Westbrook — hit his target on the hands.

I’m with Kobe.  There is no one else in the world I would rather watch play basketball. Unless it’s this next guy:

Stephen Curry: A-

Curry took a step back this year, particularly from that phenomenal stretch of basketball at the end of last year in which he lead a D-league team to a 7-5 finish.

It wasn’t his fault.

Curry suffered two major obstacles to his game this season.  The first was the ankle sprains he started the season with, and from which he never fully recovered.  Physically, this season was a difficult grind for Curry.

The other obstacle, of course, was Keith Smart.  The coach who took away from him much of his offense, and frequently left him completely exposed and subject to foul trouble on defense.  The coach who took away much of his team leadership, by de-emphasizing his role, and benching him for long stretches of fourth quarters.

There was a newspaper article recently that illustrated what Curry was up against this season.  It was about how the Warriors coaches want Stephen Curry to get to the free throw line more, to utilize his 93% free throw shooting ability. Ok, fine.  Curry can definitely learn a little from Steve Nash on how to draw a foul. But what Keith Smart has had Curry do all season long is to pass up wide open early threes, in order to drive the lane and try to pick up a foul.  This has been particularly evident in recent games.  I’ve seen Curry pass up innumerable walk-up threes that he would have blithely drained playing for Don Nelson.

This is completely idiotic.  Curry shoots 44% from three.  The Warriors average 1.32 points per possession every time he launches a three.  Here’s a handy reference:

Points Per Possession

  • Celtics: 1.06
  • Bulls 1.08
  • Laker’s: 1.11
  • Heat 1.12
  • Nuggets 1.12

Do you see anything there that looks like 1.32? I’m not sure what Stephen Curry produces whenever he turns down an early three to drive a congested lane. Anecdotally, I can tell you I have seen it frequently result in turnovers and forced shots, or a pass that resulted in a far worse shot than the one he turned down. And I can tell you I seriously doubt it produces anything close to what the top offensive teams in the league produce.  Better than 1.32?  Not a chance in cat hell.

Stephen Curry is a phenomenal basketball player, trapped in the wrong system under the wrong coach.

David Lee: A

We’ve seen from Lee everything I predicted we’d see from him before the season.  Additionally, we’ve seen a player who gutted through a serious injury to help his team.  A great locker room guy.  A team leader.

Like Curry, Lee suffered greatly from playing under Keith Smart. For more than half the season, his otherworldly offensive talents were largely overlooked, as Smart tried to spoon feed Andris Biedrins.  And for more than half the season, he received many of his touches in ludicrous post-ups.  Only lately, since the collapse of the season, and the substitution of Udoh for Biedrins, have we begun to see Lee in his true role: the high post, and the pick and roll.  And the results have been sensational.

Did you happen to catch the recent NBA Unscripted episode on the Warriors on Comcast?  I recommend it, if it’s still playing.  There was an interesting moment where David Lee described his relationship with Keith Smart.  In the midst of praising Smart, he stated there were times when they came close to physically fighting with each other.  About what were they fighting, I wonder?

Dorell Wright: A

This would be an A+ if he were truly as advertised, a defensive stopper. But what he became this season is pretty special: one of the best all-around basketball players in the league. And one of the greatest finds in Don Nelson’s illustrious history.

Ekpe Udoh: A

Exceeded even my absurdly high expectations.

I believe that Stephen Curry and David Lee have genius level basketball IQs. Ekpe Udoh makes three. Three basketball geniuses on one team. And the other two guys, Monta Ellis and Dorell Wright, would be the smartest guy on half the teams in the league.  At some point, that is going to translate into wins.  The point where they get a coach that is smarter than they are.

Udoh was severely handicapped by missing training camp and the first half of the season.  He was also severely handicapped by his inability to weight train.

But he stepped right into the Warriors rotation and figured out almost immediately how to make a positive impact.  Willingly played out of position against much bigger players, and gave it his all.  Wound up with the best +/- of any Warriors player.

A phenomenal rookie season, given the circumstances.  I expect him to make a huge leap, on both sides of the ball, in his second year.  Oh No!

Andris Biedrins: F

It might not be all his fault.  I believe he is chronically injured, and washed up as a basketball player.  But the cowardice is hard to excuse.

Reggie Williams: C

Aside from Biedrins, Reggie was the greatest disappointment of this season. He virtually disappeared from Keith Smart’s rotation, despite the Warriors’ desperate need for guards, and despite shooting 47% from the field, 42% from three, and a better than 2 to 1 assist/to ratio.

Others may disagree, but I think the main thing holding Reggie back is Keith Smart.  He needs to get with a coach who can emphasize his strengths.

Vlad Rad: B+

Created tremendous matchup problems whenever he was in the game. A defensive stopper on more than one occasion. 40% from three. Spread the floor. An offensive facilitator.

After Udoh, the second best +/- of any Warriors player, and along with Udoh, the only player to finish with a positive +/- this season.

And yet, used only begrudgingly by Keith Smart.  In fact, it is a miracle that Vladdy played as well as he did given the infrequency and unpredictability of his playing time.

Say goodby to Vladdy. This was our last look at him in a Warriors uniform.  Not a Joe Lacob player.

Al Thornton: C

An odd NBA small forward, in that he can’t shoot from outside.  I suppose that’s what endears him to Joe Lacob.  None of the players Lacob has signed to the Warriors can shoot: Amundson, Lin, Law and Thornton.

Al Thornton also can’t defend, and can’t pass.  He’s trying, now that he’s on the Warriors, but he’ll never be very good at either.

What he can do, is score inside and rebound.  The Joe Lacob perfecta. But are these positive attributes in a small forward?  I would say yes, in two situations: 1) Where he can be paired with a spread four, like Vlad Rad.  We saw that lineup exactly once this season. 2) When he is played out of position at the small-ball four. I don’t see the Warriors doing much of that going forward.

So why is Al Thornton on this team?  Name me one NBA contender whose 3-man doesn’t shoot the three.  Go on, try.

Lou Amundson: C

Amundson fought through injury, and played with his characteristic energy and heart.  He did everything in his power to earn an A. But I don’t grade on a curve.

Lou Amundson is a winner, and he is a basketball player, but he is not a winning basketball player.  That’s not just my opinion, but the opinion of the Phoenix Suns, and the opinion of every GM in the league, including David Kahn.

Except one, who considers him the best rebounder in the league, per minute.

Acie Law: C

Again, if I you could earn a grade from me solely through grit and determination, Law would merit an A.  Played through a debilitating injury, and gave it his all on both ends every minute he was on the court.

The problem is simply that, like Lou Amundson, Law is just not very good, even for a bench player. Poor three-point shooter, zero midrange game, not exceptionally quick.

Jeremy Lin: C

This grade would be lower if it weren’t for Lin’s extraordinary defensive ability and heart.

On offense, I don’t believe he is an NBA player.  If you want to know what I mean by a “right-ear release,” it was caught on tape beautifully in last night’s game.  Take a look at his free throw at 6:54 2nd Q, and his three point attempt at 1:25 2nd Q. I last saw a release like that while playing pick-up ball in high school.

Jim Barnett says that Lin has to get into the gym this summer, and shoot 500-1000 jumpers a day.  I’m going to tell you right now that that won’t help.  It would have the same effect as Charles Barkley hitting 5 buckets of golf balls a day. You cannot get better by practicing what is broken. Jeremy Lin needs to completely remake his shot, and that is a long-term project. At best.

Before one of the Warriors games I attended this season, I watched from courtside as Lin practiced shooting 8-foot floaters off the dribble in the lane. More than half of the attempts I witnessed were airballs.

This is a kid with very limited offensive skills, and it is very far from a sure thing that they will ever improve enough to make him a viable player.  He also has no left hand to speak of, which last I checked, was somewhat valuable in a point guard. So why is he on this team?

Check the jersey sales.

Jeff Adrien:  Inc.

Loved what I saw from him early in the season.  Loved his free throw stroke in last night’s game. Like butter.

Love to see him on the Warriors bench next season.  Unlike Lou Amundson, this kid has a chance to be a two-way player.

Charlie Bell: Who?

Keith Smart: D

As chronicled throughout the season, I believe Keith Smart failed to coach to the strengths of this Warriors roster.  Either because of rigid adherence to a set of principles about “the right way to play,” ie., incompetence, or because he was afraid to stand up to Joe Lacob.

Either way, it cost him not only this job — which was practically a forgone conclusion anyway — but the next one as well.

Larry Riley: D

Excelled in the Little Donnie Nelson role.  For which he was rewarded with today’s announcement that he will be retained as “GM”.

I believe Riley is an excellent basketball man. But this season he took his marching orders from Joe Lacob.

And that was the equivalent of failing his team.

Joe Lacob: F

I am standing by my grade for this season.  As previously chronicled, I believe that Joe Lacob betrayed this year’s Warriors team, and intentionally tanked this season.  To the best of my knowledge, that has never before occurred in the NBA. And I consider it a disgrace.

There were extenuating circumstances.  The looming lockout.  The desire to leave flexibility for a game-changing big man.  But in my mind, those concerns took a back seat to ego.

That’s this season. Future seasons will be graded independently, and I hope, objectively. If we can take Lacob at his frequently broadcast word, we should expect big things from him next season.  Starting with an NBA-caliber center. And ending with a head coach who knows there is no such thing as a cross between the Boston Celtics and the fabulously talented roster that Don Nelson assembled, and who has the balls to tell Joe Lacob that to his face.





25 Responses to 2010-11 Golden State Warriors Final Grades

  1. By giving the starters all A’s, you are pretty much saying the starting five is comparable to any other starting five in the league, which is wrong, to say the least.

  2. Reading the grades for the first five players, I’m already celebrating our 2012 championship.

  3. I lament the loss of Don Nelson’s final hurrah. Can’t help but think a few wins were left on the table by him not being here. Enough to make the playoffs? Eleven more wins? Not with this roster. So instead of picking at #11 we’d be picking 13 or so. But what a hell of an exciting final ride it would have been!

    Oh, well….water under the bridge. As far as your player rankings, I cut Biedrens a little more slack. Having a career threatening abdominal injury might make one look ‘cowardly,’ but I’m willing to withhold that judgment until after a proper off-season of rest.

    Thanks for all your excellent work this year, feltbot!

  4. Mike and “fan”, Wright, Lee, Ellis and Curry all deserved “A” grades for their tireless efforts at trying to make this year’s team good enough for the postseason. And if Morrow, Watson and Tolliver had been part of the bench as they were last season the 2010-2011 Warriors would have been going to this season’s playoff party.

    The Warriors had easily the worst bench in the NBA to go along with an overmatched head coach and they still finished within reasonable shouting distance of .500. To give those starting 4 players anything other than an “A” would’ve been the equivalent of giving me straight “A’s” in high school spanish.

    A new coach, a new bench, and a new CBA are all hopefully right around the corner. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to watching all the intriguing matchups starting this weekend. NBA Finals predictions anyone? I’m going with Miami/Dallas. How ’bout dem apples? Buenos nachos.

  5. Giving 5 A’s, and constantly excusing any players shortcomings on Keith Smart’s coaching makes you look like a homer. I don’t necessarily believe that you are, but that’s what this looks like.

    On an unrelated note, you said: “I believe that Joe Lacob betrayed this year’s Warriors team, and intentionally tanked this season. To the best of my knowledge, that has never before occurred in the NBA. And I consider it a disgrace.”
    I’m not sure if I agree with you that Lacob purposefully tanked this season, but I bring it up because I can think of one other time when a team did purposefully tank a season. The 2002-03 Cavs were a team built to fail and were tanking from the beginning of the season in the hopes of drafting some high schooler from Akron. The coach of that team at the end of the season? Keith Smart. So maybe there is something to that after all.

  6. No argument here. It’s great to see someone who ignores the record and instead looks at the players and appreciates them for who they are and what they have done–and what they can do.

    It’s also nice to see someone still gives A’s.

    And thanks, FB, for your patience and endurance this year, most for your enthusiasm. These guys deserve it and we need it.

  7. On shooting and our guards–

    I just ran across this. Here is a shot that is not broken. (Go in about 20 seconds, past the Mikan drill):

  8. felt-meister, good to see those high marks ; if you like the players there’s hope you’ll continue hosting this chat room. with respect to re-making lin’s shooting technique, mark price is a part time ass’t. coach for the woeyrs but a full time shot doctor, with his own private academy. even if there’s a lock out, lin can check himself in for shooting rehab.

  9. Great read. Thank you thank you thank you for recognizing all the amazing things I saw this year from monta steph dlee and udoh. I’m so glad that there are other people out there that aren’t so negative and see the amazing things our players have done this year. Anyone who says monta doesn’t deserve an A this year didn’t see the same player I saw all year long. Thank you.

  10. How does a team that finished with 36 wins get such high grades all around?

  11. Thanks for another good season Felt. Your insights are a fresh read compared to what we have to slog through from several of the local news outlets. By the way, where did the name Feltbot come from?

  12. Great posts this year.

    Just can’t agree that Ellis with an adj. FG% of 49%, and his shooting more then Curry who is a much better shooter, and his occassional dogging it on defense, allows for a grade of A plus.

    Nor would I give D.Lee an A given his problems defending, nor D.Wright given his poor 2 point shooting and defense. Nor would I give my man Ekbe Udoh an A until he becomes more proficient on the offensive end of the court.

  13. Feltie, I’ve said it before but this is the last time, I promise. You’re right, Lacob made terrible GM decisions. And as a newbie he should have been expected to.

    From outside the car, where we bystanders are, all we can really see is the poor driving. We know how poorly Lacob & co. did, but not the reasons why – not their basic ability, motivation or state of mind. Tanking a season? As much as I’ve enjoyed your blog and appreciated your insights this year, you couldn’t possibly know any of that behind-the-scenes “why” stuff unless Lacob honestly confided in you. I don’t think so.

    How bad was it anyway? I’m disappointed in this season too, but was Lacob’s first year as acting GM really any worse than Mullin’s first 3 years? Wanna talk about lame players, or running a short bench? How about loading down the dubs with crippling contracts for journeymen? How about J Rich for B Wright for… almost nothing in the end? The failures of the dubs’ front office during Mullin’s tenure weren’t all the fault of Cohan’s “budget entertainment” business plan. This year’s FO performance was no worse than early Mullin.

    That’s some bad GM work but dude, Lacob’s mismanagement caused the team to LOSE FANS this year! At season’s end they were giving away tickets! You’re saying that after he started with an insane, record-setting purchase price, Lacob intentionally reduced his investment fund’s value for some strange strained attempt at personal ego gratification. Do you even have a clue how off-base that sounds? If it were true, it could be the first time in the history of venture capital. It would cause no end of problems in his relationships with his partners. If Lacob does have an outsized ego as you say, he wouldn’t be the first CEO with one – it may even be a job requirement. But given his track record it would be completely out of character to intentionally damage an investment. It Does. Not. Make. Sense.

    I’m not defending Lacob. He did a pisspoor job running the team this year, and if he didn’t intentionally crap on the team then he did it accidentally – and incompetence is not a defense for someone in a position to hire expertise. Maybe Lacob underestimated the difficulty/overestimated his ability. Maybe he needed time to gauge not just his coach and players, but Riley as well. Whatever. We can’t know. The two-headed GM beast of Lacob/Riley added up to one lousy GM. It’s that simple, and we don’t even need to speculate as to why.

    Feltbot, I’ve enjoyed your basic clear-eyed common sense and keen bball insights all year. Don’t ruin it for me with nasty speculation about the “evil” Joe Lacob. Instead, think of it this way: in competitive sports, “the banality of evil” and “the evil of banality” yield exactly the same results. But the latter is curable.

    See you next year.

  14. warriorsscore110

    Wow way to be objective. You were obvioulsy grading on the ‘Suck’ curve, also. Wright and Ellis are th only players who deserve B+, we have no A’s on this team.

  15. I can’t figure out if these are a joke or not.

  16. White Hat, nice post. Love the “evil of banality” line. The good news for you is that this will most likely be my final post on the subject. You (and Buckaroo, and others) are persuasive, but what I cannot get my head around is that I KNOW that Larry Riley, if left to his own devices, would have helped this Warriors team by addressing the bench situation. I KNOW that Larry Riley would have reached into the D-Leagues for help. And I KNOW that Larry Riley wouldn’t have stripped this team of its only legitimate center behind Biedrins, in return for a second round pick. (Because Larry Riley has publicly stated he favors the D-leagues over low picks.) In fact, I don’t believe there is a GM in the NBA who would have failed to support a team that was fighting as hard as these Warriors were to make the playoffs. Knowing this has led me to my conclusion, a conclusion that I think fits perfectly with everything that Lacob has said and done since taking over. That’s my read, and as I would at the poker table, I’m sticking to it.

    I’m surprised at the degree of animosity my positive grades for the Warriors’ starters have generated, here and on twitter. Most of these commenters seem to feel it is logically impossible for the Warriors starters to deserve A’s while on a team that won only 36 games. I disagree. First, many seemed not to have noticed that I gave Biedrins an F. Was he not a starter for most of the season? (And does a “homer” give F’s?) Second, when your coach and your bench are this bad, even the best starters will struggle to win games. Ask yourself, how many wins would the Lakers have gotten with Keith Smart as coach, Biedrins at center, and the Warriors bench? I wrote a couple of posts back, that the Warriors starters had PROVEN they were better than the starters of 4 of the teams currently in the Western Conference playoffs. I stand by that contention.

    Pete, feltbot was my first handle on the virtual felt of online poker.

  17. Marcus Thompson’s Final Grades, and some very astute takes:


  18. geraldmcgrew

    Hungry for your takes on these playoff series. Sure I’m not the only one. Still like Denver?

    Happy playoffs!

  19. on the way…

  20. FB:

    If you’re in the mood, I’d be curious to hear a brief assessment of what the playoff teams will be like next year, what the Warriors will face.

    Assuming, of course, there is a next year.

  21. geraldmcgrew

    From “Coach Fain” of Dallasbasketball.com re: Mavs-Blazers: “The biggest matchup concern for the Mavs is Portland’s ‘small’ lineup. When Camby comes out of the game he is usually replaced by Batum, Brandon Roy, or Rudy Fernandez. Aldridge then slides over to the center spot and Wallace occupies the vacated power forward position. Portland can effectively do this without losing very much in terms of rebounding because Wallace, at only 6’8, pulls down a remarkable 7.6 rebounds a game. Coach Nate McMillan will also allow him to cover Nowitzki on the defensive end. The question the Mavericks and Coach Carlisle must ask themselves is: ‘can we afford to have Dirk guarding Wallace on the other end?’ If the answer to that question is no expect to see a lot of zone defense from the Mavs when Wallace is playing the power forward spot.”

  22. Feltmeister, I thought your grades were fair. The Warriors you gave As to stood up pretty well against everyone in the league. You can find better or more complete players at every position, but not many and not by much. When you factor in effort and playing time, I think our guys exceeded any reasonable expectations. Monta came back from summer break once again with new weapons (can’t wait to see what he shows up with next year!). Curry played tired and broken all season, had the additional burden of educating his coach, and still delivered. And who would have expected anything like what Dorell Wright brought all season long?

    Most of the people who criticized your grades just seemed disappointed in the end results. Damn. I can sure understand that.

    Re Lacob’s approach to staffing, what we saw all year was the kind of indecisiveness you get from a committee. That probably is his situation. Lacob is a fund manager, not an “owner” per se. He may be “first among equals,” but all the other major investors would want to have some say as well, especially in the first season. Hopefully they’ll settle down next year. Maybe even Guber.

    Another point in Lacob’s defense is that the dubs were maxed out with guaranteed contracts early in the season. If Lacob had been able to do something about that quickly and decisively, the season would unquestionably have been VERY different. But that would have been completely amazing, not something we could have realistically expected. Especially from a committee.

    Personally, one of my biggest disappointments of the season was that Smart didn’t use Adrien more after they recalled him. I LOVED seeing a Warrior bossing the paint. Can’t recall that happening much in the last 30 years or so.

  23. Thanks Felty,
    I think that Reggie William’s play was severely impacted by Keith Smart’s odd rotations, offense, etc. I thought we’d be regretting the loss of Anthony Morrow’s shooting – but all we did was reload with Reggie and Dorrell and Monta (developing 3) and Steph’s (continued once a generation marksmanship).

    Is Reggie really a back-up point guard? Really? To me – he’s a pure scorer off the bench at the 2 or small 3. Over 40% from 3 and decent passer. He’s a great role player – a piece… I hope he’s re-signed.

    Andris Biedrins – didn’t he get 21 boards in Memphis? Look at the stats in the beginning of the season – it’s in his head and coaching. It’s probably easier to turn him around than it is to dump his contract and find a replacement. He’ll be our Gadzuric for the next few seasons…

  24. Late to the party, but I really wanted to let this one simmer for awhile because it’s been a full, if disappointing, Warriors season. I like your high grades for our top four players, though I’d probably nit-pick by knocking each of them down a notch. For example, I can’t give Monta an A+ or Steph an A- when I see some of their head-scratching turnovers. I can’t give Dorell an A when I see the half a dozen games that were puzzling stinkers. I’d give DLee an A for the second half of the season, but not the first, though the elbow injury made his early performance hard to assess. I agree completely, though, that the four top guys played very well overall. They were a joy to watch when everything was clicking.

    Regarding Joe Lacob, I’d be hard-pressed to improve on White Hat’s astute posting. But for some reason, Felty, you’re insisting that you know what’s in Lacob’s mind because you’ve observed him. I agree that he deserves a C- or worse for his stewardship, though I’d cut him some slack because he didn’t gain full control of the team until November. As White Hat noted, he’s really a committee chairman and probably has to balance out a lot of opinions.

    Where I part company is with the assertion that Lacob’s incompetence was intentional. Intention is very hard to prove and I see no reason to even go there. He did a poor job, and let’s not smear his character by taking it further. I believe he means well, which means I respect his intentions, and I’m hoping he’s a fast learner. His retention of Riley is a good sign, and the new assistant GM seems like a good choice from a resume standpoint.

    The next decision point will be about head coach. If Lacob says thank you and goodbye to Smart, that will be a good move, and then we’ll have to judge whom he hires as the next coach. The jury has a lot of facts still to consider about Lacob’s competence, but I just can’t abide the notion that he’s doing bad stuff on purpose, which would amount to sabotaging himself as well as others. You had a poster last month who said something to this effect: Never ascribe to evil what can be explained by incompetence. That’s my conclusion in a nutshell.

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