Since the The Kwame Brown Era was put on hold, the Warriors have been playing some small ball in their second unit. Lee or Udoh at five, DWright or Dom McGuire at four. With Nate Robinson running the point, this second unit has been really pushing the tempo and getting out and running. Playing with high defensive intensity, generating steals and early offense. And just generally playing much better than the first unit.
Because the Warriors first unit is still being held captive by Mark Jackson’s vision for this team. They are walking the ball up the court against bigger, slower teams, and it is just killing them. Take a Popcorn Machine look at how the Warriors first unit performed, particularly in the third quarter, against Cleveland and New Jersey. I simply don’t understand how Joe Lacob and Mark Jackson can believe that this Warriors team can win games playing halfcourt basketball.
The Denver Nuggets vs. The Warriors
The Denver Nuggets are a really good team, and the Golden State Warriors are a really bad team. This is universally recognized. But have you ever compared the two teams’ rosters, and wondered why the Nuggets are better than the Warriors?
The Nuggets backcourt is Ty Lawson and Aaron Afflalo. Are they better than Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry?
Is Nene a better center/PF than David Lee? Doesn’t score more, doesn’t rebound more. Is Gallinari better than DWright? Can’t defend small forwards, doesn’t shoot threes as well. Is Mozgov better than Biedrins? Not on defense.
Are any of the Nuggets starting five better passers than their counterparts on the Warriors?
If you handicap the Nuggets’ starting five ahead of the Warriors’ then you know something about basketball that I don’t.
So why are the Nuggets so much better than the Warriors? Here are my top 5 reasons:
5) Veteran leadership off the bench: The Nuggets picked up Andre Miller — who George Karl has called the smartest player he’s ever coached — and Rudy Fernandez, to back up Ty Lawson at the point.
No offense to Nate Robinson, who has been a lifesaver for the Warriors empty bench, but both Andre Miller and Fernandez can run a team. And Nate would not even be on the Warriors bench if Curry hadn’t gotten injured.
4) The Spread Four: Danilo Gallinari becomes a really good player when he slides over to the four. Add Al Harrington to the mix, and the Nuggets are playing three quarters of every game with four shooters on the floor. This makes them extraordinarily versatile, and virtually impossible to defend.
As chronicled ad nauseam here, the Warriors have had no spread four since the releases of Tolliver and Vlad Rad. Dorell Wright has taken quite a few minutes there since Kwame’s injury, and rebounded quite well, but he’s really too slight to play a whole season there. He’s already got a sore knee.
3) Pace: During the Kwame Brown Era, the Warriors were 14th of 30 in the league in pace. They’ve since moved up to 12, out of necessity.
The Nuggets are #1.
2) Ownership and Management: Unlike Joe Lacob, the Nuggets ownership is clearly invested in the core of their team, and committed to winning now. As evidenced by the multi-year contracts they handed out this offseason.
And unlike Joe Lacob, Masai Ujiri knows the importance of a spread four. Knows the importance of a veteran backup point guard.
And knows the importance of a veteran coach.
1) George Karl: It really comes down to this, in the end, doesn’t it? Take a look at that pace. 1st in the league. With a team that I would wager is not as fast nor as athletic as this Warriors team.
George Karl, while stressing defense every bit as much as Mark Jackson, understands the kind of roster he has, and how to help them win.
Run. Spread the floor. Pick and Roll.
Jenkins: I really like this kid. Smart, under control, good shooter, crafty penetrator, solid defender. So why did he slip to the second round?
I think I know. He’s not fast. Doesn’t have the kind of jets that are so common among the leagues’ best point guards these days.
Which makes him perfect for Joe Lacob and Mark Jackson’s walk it up offense.
Klay Thompson: A special shooter. But like Anthony Morrow, has trouble helping his team because he simply can’t guard. Not guards, anyway.
It is somewhat mysterious that the Warriors are playing him almost exclusively at guard, where he is getting torched. It may have something to do with Brandon Rush and DWright being much better rebounders than he is. Thompson had 0 rebounds in 22 minutes against the Nets. Zero.
If he can’t defend guards and is not willing to rebound, what is his position?
Ekpe Udoh: In my last post, I explained why I think Udoh is a more useful player than Greg Monroe. It has mainly to do with the fact that Monroe sucks, in the same way that Vince Carter sucked.
Because Udoh, quite frankly, has been quite a disappointment to me this year. If he got any stronger, it is not obvious. He is curiously weak in his core, and is getting pushed all over the floor by larger players.
And he has terrible rebounding instincts. I was holding out hope that this was a result of his extraordinary help defense, but no. He is focusing intently on rebounds this year, and it hasn’t helped. The problem, besides bodily weakness, is that he seems quite poor at guessing how the ball is going to come off the rim. He’s out of position and mistimes his jumps.
His offense has also disappointed. Udoh is undersized, so to really be effective he needs to be able to hit a jumper, and use his mobility to get around bigger players. Part of the problem might be how he’s being used — I think he needs to be in the high post, not the low. But he has not looked good.
Kris Humphries: Did you ever wonder why the Warriors didn’t go after Kris Humphries this offseason, when their paltry offers to Chandler and Jordan were rebuked? I certainly did.
Unable to get a multi-year deal from the Nets (like Joe Lacob, they’re tanking to try to land a game-changing center next season), Humphries signed a one-year deal for a little less than $8 million. Barely more than the Warriors shelled out for The Kwame Brown Era.
Don’t you think Kris Humphries would look good standing next to David Lee? Running the court, snarfing rebounds?
I know, Lee’s not a center.