Two left feet, oh, so neat,
Has sweet Georgia Brown! — Louis Armstrong
If anyone had told me in 2009 that in a few short years I would be watching the Warriors’ second rookie coach in as many seasons lean on Kwame Brown in crunch time, I would never have started this blog. That’s a fact.
And yet here we are.
Look, I get what Kwame Brown brings to the Warriors. Useful early and mid-game minutes against the big bruisers of the league. I’m sure David Lee and Ekpe Udoh are grateful for that relief. Not to mention Andris Biedrins, who apparently prefers to collect his paycheck on the bench at this point in his career.
I get that Kwame is a guy who can match up defensively against big front lines. Who can hold his position against behemoths, make a good rotation if he doesn’t have far to go, and is a strong defensive rebounder. I get that.
I even saw that first-half play last night, where Kwame simply overpowered Tim Duncan in the lane, and dunked with authority. That sure impressed the uninitiated rookies on the Warriors bench. Unfortunately, that play was simply the fantasy of Kwame Brown, that has bewitched so many NBA executives before Joe Lacob.
The reality of Kwame Brown is everything that came later. The panicked inability to finish point blank looks against the 6-7″ DeJuan Blair. The clutching at his face after one blown layup, as if Blair had hurt him. Yes, he’s still doing it, 10 seasons after Doug Collins and Michael Jordan hoped he would grow out of it.
The panicked trips to the free throw line. The Hack-a-Kwame, which Mark Jackson should feel disgraced he even allowed.
The hopeless clogging of the Warriors lane, and the complete marginalization of David Lee in the fourth quarter. Mark Jackson featured Kwame, of all people, in the pick and roll with Monta last night. Kwame Brown over David Lee in the pick and roll. Did you see Lee’s spacing whenever Kwame grabbed the pass at the free throw line? He had to dive for cover. Mark Jackson has them in the same area of the floor. Absolutely hopeless.
Monta eventually realized he had to stop passing if he hoped to win, but by then Kwame’s picks couldn’t even get him open for a shot. Because Kwame’s defender was comfortable leaving Kwame completely alone, and double teaming Monta. Pathetic. Wretched to watch.
And Kwame’s crunch time defense? Mark Jackson seems completely unable to comprehend that Kwame Brown is a terrible defender against small lineups. He cannot guard the pick and roll at all. (Didn’t we know that already after the New Orleans fiasco?)
And his switches against shooting lineups, even when he’s playing zone, pull him too far out of the lane to protect the basket or even rebound effectively. And yet Mark Jackson has repeatedly made the same horrible mistake of playing Kwame against small ball lineups. Last night, the Spurs ended the game with a lineup of Duncan, Jefferson, Green, Parker and Ford. Richard Jefferson at the four.
What possible prayer does Mark Jackson think he has playing big against that lineup with Kwame? With Lee completely wasted on offense, and useless on defense? Greg Popovich did to the Warriors exactly what Don Nelson used to do against all the big stiffs in the league, and the coaches who played them.
Mark Jackson bemoaned the Warriors giving up 31 in the fourth quarter last night. He needs to recognize his own role in that result. And he also should start thinking about his role in the 18 points the Warriors put up on offense. And the 12 point quarter they put up against the Sixers. This Warriors team will not win many games if Mark Jackson holds them to 90 points or less.
Here’s my memo to Mark Jackson: Kwame Brown should never be played in the fourth quarter. NEVER.
Kwame Brown should simply be used as a bridge to the Warriors’ fourth quarter lineup. The way the TWolves use Milicic to get to Love at center and Tolliver at PF. The way the Celtics use O’Neal/Stiemsma to get to Garnett and Bass. The way the Spurs use DeJuan Blair to get to Duncan and… Richard Jefferson.
It’s not rocket science. The Warriors have one of the very best players in the league at the center position, David Lee. In Lee and Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry they have one of the deadliest pick and roll tandems in the entire league, and potentially in league history. They need to play this lineup in the fourth quarter if they want to win. Remember the Bulls and Knicks games? That’s how it’s done.
So who should the Warriors be playing alongside David Lee, if not Kwame Brown? Who is the player that fits, who facilitates the fabulous pick and roll potential of the Warriors offense, and yet for short stretches at least, doesn’t give up anything on defense or rebounding against the bigger players in the league? Who should be the closing power forward for the Warriors?
That’s the dilemma that Mark Jackson finds himself in.
Because that player is simply not on Joe Lacob’s roster.
Joe Lacob and the Warriors’ Missing Piece
What is the biggest difference between the Warriors, and teams like the Spurs, Mavs, Trailblazers, Nuggets, Thunder, Grizzlies, Clippers and Lakers? Or teams like the Celtics, Bulls, Pacers, Heat, Magic, Hawks?
If you answered: “Those are all playoff teams, the best teams in the league, and the Warriors are not,” you get partial credit.
So what is it? Here’s a hint: Nowitzki, Cardinal, Bonner, Gerald Wallace, Harrington, Gallinari, Durant, Brian Cook, Gomes, Gay, Troy Murphy, Barnes, Bass, Jeff Green, Deng, Granger, Lebron James, Ryan Anderson, Turkoglu, Josh Smith, Vlad Rad.
Do you get what I’m driving at? All of those teams have shooters that they can slot into the power forward (or center) position at key times of the game. Power forwards that can open up the floor with their shooting ability. True small-ball fours. Or what I like to call spread fours.
Why is this important? Well, because when you can completely spread the floor on offense, you become impossible to guard, no matter how good the defense is. Last season’s champion Dallas Mavericks were the ultimate example of that, vanquishing one of the league’s best defenses with devastating pick and roll offense spearheaded by JJ Barea, that was opened up by their ability to take 21 threes in each of the last two games of the Finals. And hit them.
Power forwards that can shoot are prized possessions among the elite teams in the league. They are essential to the facilitation of good offense, and when they have some effectiveness on the defensive end, are among the ultimate creators of point-differential.
So why don’t the Warriors have a true spread four? Someone that could take the court alongside David Lee, and spread the floor for three of the most talented players in the NBA? Someone that could turn the Warriors into one of the NBA’s most efficient fourth-quarter teams?
It’s because there is an immense hole in Joe Lacob’s understanding of NBA basketball. Joe Lacob does not even believe in the concept of the spread four. He does not want to allow his coaches even the possibility of playing one.
As has been evidenced by his every personnel move since he took over the team.
Anthony Tolliver and Vladimir Radmanovic v. Lou Amundson
There is no better evidence of Joe Lacob’s mistaken prejudice against spread fours than the Warriors’ treatment of Anthony Tolliver and Vladimir Radmanovic.
What was the first thing that Joe Lacob did when he took over the Warriors? I mean even before he released a veteran point guard to sign Jeremy Lin? The first thing he did was refuse to let Don Nelson sign Anthony Tolliver, who was not only a hustle and dirty-work player, but a multi-faceted spread four. He then picked up in Tolliver’s place Lou Amundson, a guy who is lucky if he can hit the backboard from the free throw line. For virtually the same money. How many games did just this simple $2.5M move cost the Warriors last season?
Anthony Tolliver is now closing out games for Hall of Famer Rick Adelman in Minnesota. Spreading the floor for Ricky Rubio.
Lou Amundson has migrated to the perfect team for him, demographically speaking: the Indiana Pacers. Where he’s picking up some garbage time. Until Jeff Foster returns.
Vladimir Radmanovic was an integral part of the Warriors best lineup last season. One of only two Warriors to finish with a positive +/- for the year. The guy whose ability to spread the floor allowed Monta Ellis and David Lee to shine in the fourth quarter. And yet, his minutes were seriously restricted and extremely unpredictable. Dependent on whether Lou Amundson was available.
There was never any question that Vlad was the last guy that Joe Lacob wanted to see on the court, was there? Just as there was never any question that he would not be back in a Warriors uniform.
Vlad Rad was signed by the 4-2 Atlanta Hawks this season, where he backs up Josh Smith at power forward. Shooting 40% from three. Spreading the floor.
Why didn’t Joe Lacob want these two valuable spread-fours anywhere near the Warriors?
It’s because he didn’t believe in them. He believed in Lou Amundson.
And now Dominic McGuire.
Klay Thompson v. Markieff Morris
I have already explained in a previous post why Don Nelson would have been extremely unlikely to have drafted Klay Thompson.
And I doubt that he would have any interest in Kemba Walker or Jimmer Fredette with a Curry, Ellis backcourt. Utah’s pick at 12, Alec Burks — if he actually pans out to be a defender with an outside shot — is a guy Nellie never had a problem finding at the bottom of the draft. Or in the D-leagues.
But what about Markieff Morris? A 6-10″ 245 lb. spread four who can bury the NBA three, shoot his free throws at 80%, run the high pick and roll to perfection as a rookie, makes passes, AND get you 8-10 rebounds a game? Would Don Nelson have had any interest in that sort of player?
No need to answer that question. I can see Morris as a player that Don Nelson would have traded down to get, as he did when he picked up Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash in a three-way deal with Milwaukee and Phoenix with the #6 pick in 1998.
Klay Thompson looks like he’s going to be a decent NBA player. But he is highly unlikely to become as good an NBA player as Markieff Morris. Why? Because in the NBA, there are lots of good-shooting 6-7″ wing men who are mediocre defenders. They are literally a dime a dozen.
But big, rugged, and athletic spread fours like Markieff Morris? They are an extremely rare and precious commodity.
The guy Joe Lacob fired to install himself as GM knew this better than anyone. But as we know, Joe Lacob doesn’t believe in spread-fours.
He believes in Kwame Brown.
Joe Lacob v. Robert Sarver
I had this thought while watching the Phiasco in Phoenix. What is the biggest difference between Joe Lacob and Robert Sarver? Well, one of them talks about how much money he wants to spend, while the other talks about how little money he wants to spend. (Though neither of them spend it.)
But that’s not it. The biggest difference is that one is content to simply be a penny-pinching owner, while the other has installed himself as GM.