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.