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.