On a rush: On a run; to be dealt a series of strong hands. — The Poker Dictionary
The Golden State Warriors have apparently traded Lou Amundson to the Indiana Pacers for Brandon Rush. I think this was a brilliant move, one that radically transforms the Warriors roster.
Think that’s an overstatement? Read on.
1) Brandon Rush is a quintessential Don Nelson defensive shooting guard.
Rush is 6’6″, with great defensive ability. I’m not a stat guy, but I do understand that Rush has had a noticeable deleterious effect on opposing guards’ shooting percentages. (For a full statistical analyis, I recommend reading this excellent piece from Evanz over at GSoM.)
Need a guy to take some minutes on Kobe? Wade? Need a guy to simply take out the average shooting guards in the league? Remove them from the equation? Rush can be that guy.
But defense is not all that Rush can do. He’s not one of those dreaded one-way players. Rush is absolutely lights out from three point range, at over 40% for his career. He’s a sniper, a specialist.
Which means that Rush fits squarely into the mold of those guys that Don Nelson was masterfully able to create point differential with over the years. Mario Elie, Raja Bell, Kelenna Azubuike, Matt Barnes. And Mike D’Antoni: Raja Bell, Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler. And George Karl: Aaron Afflalo. And Popovich: Bowen, Udoka.
The kind of guys who make it tougher on the opposing team’s best player, while taking little or nothing away from your offense because of their ability to spread the floor.
Remember Stephen Jackson on Nowitzki? If Rush can bring just a little of that to this Warriors team his impact will be enormous.
2) Rush will protect the Curry/Ellis backcourt.
Regular readers will know that this is a theme I have been harping on for quite a while. The Curry/Ellis backcourt has been attacked by the pundits as too small, and too bad on defense to work.
The pundits are about to be proved wrong.
Let’s assume that Curry and Ellis’ minutes are brought down to 38. That creates 20 available minutes in the backcourt for a backup. Which means that for close to half the game, the Warriors will be playing a backcourt that is actually quite respectable defensively. And I would argue that Monta and Rush together would be far better than respectable. They can be downright dangerous.
Don Nelson always chose his shooting guards for defense first. Moncrief, Richmond, Sprewell, Finley, Jackson. But there was one time in his career when Nellie made an exception: When he created the two point-guard lineup of Nick van Exel and Steve Nash in Dallas. That lineup was protected for over 20 minutes a game by the 6’7″ Finley and Raja Bell. But in the fourth quarter, van Exel and Nash took the floor together and simply annihilated the opposition.
That Mavs team, with that “too small” and “too bad defensively” backcourt created the highest point-differential in the NBA in 2003, and one of the highest point-differentials the league has ever seen. And I believe they came within a Dirk Nowitzki knee injury in game 3 of the Western Conference Finals of winning the NBA title.
Actually, Don Nelson made two exceptions to his preferred backcourt model. The second was when he drafted Stephen Curry to play alongside Monta Ellis.
Because of the losses of Stephen Jackson and Kelenna Azubuike, and the puzzling personnel choices of Lacob’s first year, Warriors fans have been robbed of the chance to see just how good the Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis backcourt can be. Until now. I think we’re about to see Curry and Ellis blossom together, and realize their full potential as one of the premier backcourts in the league. With the help of Brandon Rush.
You know, maybe something big IS about to happen.
3) Klay Thompson is not Brandon Rush.
I intend to elaborate on Thompson more in a later piece, but he is quite clearly NOT the guy that Curry and Ellis need backing up the two. The reason is that he can’t defend two-guards.
I know that’s not the opinion being set forth in the media by Mark Jackson and the Warriors front office. But it’s probably their real opinion, as evidenced by the trade for Rush. And it is my firmly held opinion, after watching him play one preseason game. He just can’t move his feet quickly enough to stay in front of NBA two-guards.
Klay Thompson’s best position, and best hope of becoming a starter in this league, is at small forward.
His second best hope is that the Warriors trade him, or break up Curry and Ellis. Thompson doesn’t fit in their backcourt.
4) Brandon Rush creates the glimmer of a possibility of the Warriors playing a small-ball lineup.
With the loss of Vladimir Radmanovic, the Warriors lost their only spread-four, or guy who could drain the three pointer while playing power forward. I’m sure a lot of Don Nelson haters, like Adam Lauridsen, are shouting “Great!”
But they should bear in mind that Lee at center and Vlad Rad at the four was one of the Warriors best lineups last year. And Vlad Rad was one of only two Warriors with a positive +/- for the season, behind only Udoh.
Rush can’t play the four, of course. But Dorell Wright just might, for limited minutes in crunch-time. DWright reminds me quite a bit of the young Robert Horry of the Rockets both in build and ability. In my mind, even as a rookie Horry was the second MVP of that Rockets team, behind Olajuwon. He was a defensive terror at the small forward position. But his best minutes were when he slid to the four, and allowed the Rockets to really spread the floor. That’s when he shone.
Consider this small-ball lineup, just for one second. Curry, Ellis, Rush, DWright, Lee. Think that lineup could play a little basketball? What if you swap Udoh for Lee?
(Also in this series of 2011-12 Golden State Warriors previews: