Return of the Fast Break: 2011-12 Golden State Warriors Preview (Pt. 1)

Most NBA pundits are predicting that Mark Jackson is about to radically transform the Warriors style, forcing them away from their run and gun roots under Nellie, and towards a slowed-down style that emphasizes defense first.

I am predicting the exact opposite.

Here are my reasons:

1) This Warriors roster was visualized by Don Nelson, and built by Don Nelson, to execute Don Nelson’s system.

In other words, to run.  This is a running roster.  Featuring, in order: One of the greatest open court passers in the game, Stephen Curry, at the helm; One of the fastest players in the NBA, and one of its greatest open court finishers, Monta Ellis; A long-legged gazelle on the wing, Dorell Wright, whose flights to the rim can bring James Worthy to mind; and two of the best running centers in the league, as well as outlet passers, in Andris Biedrins and David Lee.  (Did I call Lee a center? Yes, I did. More on that later.)

This team is potentially the fastest team end-to-end in the entire NBA.

But it’s not simply about the fast-break layup.  It’s about up-tempo offense in general. Early offense. The walk-up three that is so devastating to teams that want to slow the pace and strangle you with their half-court defense. Remember the walk-up three?

Stephen Curry 43%.  Dorell Wright 38%.  Monta Ellis 36%.


2) This Warriors roster can not win in the half court.  Can not.

You can shout in the media about changing the culture, and shout in the huddles about rebounding and defensive accountability, until you’re blue in the face — as was Keith Smart’s wont — but this team is simply not designed to win in the half court.

The Curry/Ellis backcourt is still — inexplicably — left completely unprotected by Joe Lacob.  The Warriors still have no Tony Allen, DeShawn Stevenson, Matt Barnes, Kelenna Azubuike, Shane Battier, Thabo Sefalosha, Keith Bogans, Landry Fields, Aaron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler… you name him.

Andris Biedrins is no longer a shot-blocker, and Kwame Brown never was.

Dorell Wright is soft as a marshmallow when matched against superstar threes.

David Lee is out of position against the better NBA fours. (Yes, I said that. More on this later.)

3) Unlike Keith Smart, Mark Jackson knows what he has.

“That’s not set offense, that’s getting a rebound and pushing the ball down the throat of the defense.” – Mark Jackson on the Heat offense against the Lakers, midseason.

“Don’t try to walk it up, that’s when they were a bad team. Put pressure on the defense by pushing it down their throat. You have the best players in the world, force the issue offensively.” — More Mark Jackson from the same game.

“Absolutely not. We will push the basketball. We will look to make plays in transition.” — Jackson when asked whether he will move the Warriors away from their up-and-down style (interview at NBA Finals).

“We’re going to have fun, but we’re going to earn it…. We’re going to play an exciting brand of basketball.” — Jackson on the Warriors, on PTI.

“You are doing the defense a favor when you post up Lee or Biedrins.” — Mark Jackson doing the Warriors v. Lakers preseason game.

“The Warriors are doing the defense a favor whenever they post up Biedrins or Lee.” — Jackson doing a Warriors v. Heat regular season game. Yes, he repeated himself.

“I don’t want Steph Curry or Monta Ellis to be Mark Jackson…. These two guys’ greatest strength is scoring the basketball.”  — Mark Jackson on PTI.

I apologize to regular readers for repeating myself here, but I need Mark Jackson’s own voice to make this point. Mark Jackson is not Keith Smart. Jackson’s own words indicate that he sees the Warriors players as they are, understands their strengths and weaknesses, and intends to play to their strengths.

Keith Smart forbade the outlet pass for much of last season.  He had his guards walk back to take hand-offs from his rebounders.  He had his guards walk the ball up the court. And he absolutely forbade Stephen Curry to take the walk-up three.

I think that nonsense is about to end.

This is not to say that Jackson’s frequent exhortations in the press about “Defense First” are complete BS.  I believe that he and Mike Malone will place a very strong emphasis on defense and getting stops.

As a way to trigger the fast break.

Just as Don Nelson did when he and the Warriors held the Dallas Mavericks ten full points below their season scoring average, back when We Believed.

4) Even Joe Lacob appears to know what he has.

Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire, Ish Smith.

What is the theme of Joe Lacob’s offseason free-agent acquisitions?  I mean apart from the obvious, which is that they were cheap.  And can’t shoot their way out of paper sacks.  And were intended, in Brown and McGuire’s case at any rate, as defensive and rebounding reinforcements.

I mean apart from all that.  What is the other theme of these players?

They can all run.

Ish Smith is widely considered to be the fastest player in the league. Consider for a moment what Greg Popovich did at the point this season. He dumped George Hill, and signed…  TJ Ford.  We saw last season that Pop was intent on transforming the Spurs into a running team, and until the wheels fell off Ginobili and Parker, they were one of the best in the league. Swapping George Hill for lightning-bug TJ Ford signals that Pop is going to push the envelope even further.  Duncan has weakened, which means the Spurs are going to get faster.

Does Ish Smith signify something similar about the intent of Mark Jackson and Joe Lacob? I don’t believe he was signed solely to challenge Curry in practice.

Now consider Dominic McGuire.  An incredible athlete and dunker, built for filling the lanes on the break.

And Kwame Brown.  Just as offensively challenged as the other two.  But can he run?  Can he beat opposing centers down court?

What about the rookies and the training camp invites, Jenkins, Thompson, Tyler, Ubiles et al.  Any slow-legged veterans in the bunch?  Any half-court types? Ball-pounding sluggards?

Ladies and Gents, after a long hiatus the 2011 NBA season has arrived. Which means that feltbot is going to start disagreeing strongly with all the NBA pundits — and in particular the Bay Area mainstream media — about just about everything.  Starting now.

The fast break is back. This Warriors team is going to run.



20 Responses to Return of the Fast Break: 2011-12 Golden State Warriors Preview (Pt. 1)

  1. feltmaestro, good stuff as usual, molto grazie.

  2. Felt, happy to see that you have some hope to start the season. There have been several reports that Jackson has been coaching defense before offense in Warriors camp. Why? Because I believe you are right, Jackson is going to allow Ellis and Curry to run the floor and create offense, rather than try to manufacture a set offense. He was coaching defense because the Warriors need it. However, the offense should take care of itself. This could be very exciting.

  3. Thanks, Feltbot! I am (provisionally) excited.

  4. I agree with the likely return of a transition to be reckoned with. I also predict that Mark Jackson will use a half-court option that Keith Smart never seemed to get, the pick and roll. Curry or Ellis with Lee, with Wright and Ellis or Curry awaiting the kick-out. I think there is a lot of potential there. I will take exception to one of your comments: Dorrell Wright finishing like James Worthy? I think you watched some video with a tall glass of fine, aged, brown drink to say that with a straight face. Always enjoy reading your stuff.

  5. I’m definitely on board 100% with your thinking, Felty. Further, I see opportunity versus other teams in the Western Conference. The Lakers are a slow-moving train wreck (signed Troy Murphy?!); the Mavs have lost key players; the Blazers are wounded; the Spurs are aging; who knows about Sacramento; and the Clips have promise but IMO will need many months to figure out the right chemistry. Looking forward to the rest of your multi-part analysis.

  6. Of course they’re going to run, especially off of defensive-caused turnovers. Smart was an idiot. Nellie was smart but never stressed the defensive end the way he should have this last stint with the Warriors. A significant part of the problem likely was handing the defensive keys to Smart. In any event, I loved the defensive help and intensity the Warriors played with tonight.

    Also, how about Klay Thompson going to the basket either right or left and getting to the rim? And much quicker than many have said. This guy is going to be really good. Jenkins also looked very good, and Tyler is extremely athletic and long, and looks to have a lot of promise. Still early, but this looks like an excellent draft for us.

  7. Warriors about to acquire Brandon Rush

  8. OK, this is the player move I’ve been waiting for. A brilliant trade. Brandon Rush is a 6’6″ SG who can really defend, AND spread the floor. Over 40% from three.

    Here’s a thread that gives an inkling about his defensive prowess:

    The Curry/Ellis backcourt FINALLY has some protection. I’m ecstatic over this trade. This was the missing piece.

  9. Feltbot,

    Great work. This is why we are your faithful readers.

    I loved the pace of last night’s game, the coaching, and a look at all the new players. My guy Udoh was looking good, as expected, and with the Amundson trade (love it!), he will be seeing lots of minutes.

    I know it’s only one game, and a preseason one at that, but I’m stoked about what I saw and what lies ahead for this team.

  10. I heard Bob Myers for the first time last night, sitting in 3rd. Q with the announcers, and wasn’t impressed when he talked basketball. (And I must confess, I enjoy listening to Larry Riley.)

    I’m kind of not disappointed about this season. I don’t know what Chandler or Nene buys would have done to the rest of the roster or what they’d be able to offer 3-4 years down the road. At least the team has a lot of options now at center for the full 48 minutes and they’ll be energetic. Biedrins made some nice assists last night. (But they didn’t have to deal with Cousins last night.) More options on the bench as well.

    Amundson for Rush straight up? Are the trade winds shifting in our favor?

    • from what we’ve seen and heard thus far, Myers might be somewhat specialized in agent/player negotiations and contract value assessment, rather than talent evaluation per se. Lacob acts and talks like he’s the principal talent judge, and he has his son doing an apprenticeship. adding West as a minority owner and advisor is probably Lacob’s means of correcting his own lack of experience, and of course he can always triangulate away from West’s opinion when he wants.

      • Meyers, everyone says, is being groomed for GM. If what you say is true, that West/Lacob rate talent, Riley is expendable. I still like him and wonder if he doesn’t know the game, that his voice and ideas are needed. It has been hard to know when Riley is expressing his own views and when he is passing on what he’s been told. He has to front the FO, of course.

  11. Some random neuron sparks from last night’s game:

    Between last night’s two lottery rookies, Klay looks to be more well-rounded and a pro-quality player right now. But Jimmer! Wow! No first-game nerves for that guy!

    Tyler showed why the Ws paid real money for his draft rights. A raw newb, but fast, athletic and fearless. If he responds to his first-ever pro-level coaching, he’ll get regular minutes sooner rather than later.

    Unlike the last 2 seasons, Biedrins played to the limit of his potential last night. But he’s maxed out, he’s not going to grow better. As long as he fills the lane and scoops rebounds, he’ll stay in the rotation. But his position is still the obvious place for the team to look for future improvement.

    Lee worked his ass off last night and made bigtime contributions before he got gassed. At times the whole game seemed to revolve around him. He’s practically worth his salary! Let’s hope he finds the training room sometime.

    Udoh occasionally looked like he owned the place. He seemed to pull a Monta: he returned from summer break with some good new stuff. It would still be nice to get more rebounds from him, but he’s a real mensch right now.

    The dubs’ starting guards were THE class players on the floor last night. Unstoppable, baby! All that talk about the Warriors’ front court being inadequate will fade away this year, especially now that they can count on some quality relief.

    Mr. Jenkins is solid. He didn’t play like a rookie, and he brought some nice pluses. Does he have the wingspan of a 9-footer? He sure surprised Fredette! Jenkins didn’t just block his drive, he calmly removed the ball from Jimmer’s hands and pushed it up the floor. Even more satisfying somehow was when he overpowered someone else in a tug-of-war. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that from a Warriors guard before. Jenkins’ game is so different from the starting guards that I wonder if he’s a change-up instead of a stand-in. It’ll be interesting to see how Jackson uses him.

    Even if Dominic McGuire can’t shoot (?), he is a serious gamer. Defense? Check. Rebounds? Check. Toughness? CheckCheckCheckCheck. His contribution is nearly the complete opposite of Dorell’s, but no lesser. Like Jenkins, a fine change-up.

    Game 2 can disprove all the above, of course, and Brown, Rush, Smith and Ubiles especially could add more big changes. But after just one week of practice this Warriors team already looks far better than the shorthanded, crippled squad we’ve seen for the last few years. Go Dubs!

  12. Pingback: Golden State Warriors trade for Brandon Rush.

  13. Excellent recap, WH. It may get buried as I’ve just posted a new thread on Brandon Rush, so please go ahead and repost it there if you so desire.