OK, I watched most of the last two summer league games. And that will suffice for me. I have a limited appetite for wretched basketball, which is why I don’t watch college freshmen contend for NCAA titles. And my curiosity concerning the Warriors draftees has been sated.
Here are my notes on the players likely to make the Warriors roster:
The Harrison Barnes Brand: From what I could discern from these two games against wretched competition, Barnes is pretty much exactly as advertised.
1) That NBA-ready body. He fills out a jersey real nice.
2) That athleticism. The 40″ vertical was very much in evidence on breakaway slams (if very much missing on rebounds and shot-blocks).
3) The catch and shoot. Barnes looks like money on open threes. 6-6 I believe in the first two games.
4) Finishing ability. Barnes has the strength to take a hit in the lane and still finish — something greatly missing from Dorell Wright’s game.
5) Defense. Barnes seems to move his feet well, and his reported high basketball IQ will allow him to grasp the Warriors defensive concepts in a hurry.
He also seems to have a nose for loose balls, as he generated quite a few steals.
But on the other hand….
1) Not a stopper. I saw no real hunger, nor real ability, in Barnes to simply shut down his man. I’m pretty sure a Denver bench-warmer by the name of Jordan Hamilton would confirm that for you if you asked him.
If Barnes proves not to be a stopper, then the Warriors defense at 1 through 3 will be among the worst in the league. Against the teams that spread the floor and pull David Lee out of the lane (most of the best teams in the league, starting with Miami, OKC, Denver, San Antonio, Dallas) the Warriors defense will consist of “Save us Bogut!”
I’m pretty sure the Warriors best starting lineup would be Brandon Rush at the two, and Klay Thompson at the three. Rush is an actual stopper, and in my mind desperately needed on the floor with Curry and Thompson.
Odds of that happening? Roughly 0%. There’s a rookie of the year contest.
2) Passing ability. Barnes has no natural ability to pass the ball. He needs to stop, put two hands on the ball, and look first. Bob Fitzgerald will be delighted.
He also has no natural inclination to pass the ball, which works very well with his ability.
Steve Kerr noted, when sizing up the Warriors team, that they will have exceptional passing ability at four positions. That’s another way to put it.
3) Handle. As noted by several pundits, Barnes’ handle is terrible. He cannot dribble in traffic, and kicked away several drives. In fact, I’m not even sure that his hands are very good. I saw quite a bit of fumbleitis on pass-catches.
When combined with his poor passing ability, this creates a glaring weakness in Barnes’ game. As Kerr noted, when Barnes was forced to put the ball on the floor and create for himself and others while at UNC, he really struggled. Couldn’t get the job done. Right now, he’s a catch and shoot player.
Jerry West chimed in on this as well during his stint behind the mike, stating that Barnes needed to become better at driving the basketball. He won’t be able to use that finishing ability if he can’t drive.
4) Rebounding. I didn’t see much of an appetite for defensive rebounding from Barnes, although his second effort (5) was far better than his first (0). Maybe the coaches got in his ear. At 6-8″ 220+ this should be a strength of his.
This was another rap laid on him by observers of his college career. Will he prove them wrong, or will he decide that an excess of physical contact would endanger his brand?
Draymond Green: Everyone at the summer league, including Jerry West and the Warriors coaches, appears very high on Green, to the point of intimating that he will be immediately thrust into the rotation. It’s not hard to see why, when you watch him bang with the Manimal, Kenneth Faried. Green is a tough, hard-nosed basketball player, who will fill a real need on the Warriors’ second unit. And unlike Dominic McGuire, he’s a smart two-way basketball player as well, who can run the high post, dribble, pass, and shoot the three.
There will be quite a bit of discussion about what position Green should play. I’ve heard that he is 6-5″ in socks, and it was hard to really tell from TV, but my estimate was that he’s a full inch shorter than Faried. In other words, the same size Charles Barkley was.
So small forward? Hell no. Like Barkley, Green will never be able to guard the NBA’s threes. Just not quick enough. He can guard bigger post players, though. I saw him force several terrible shots simply by bodying up his man and holding his position. And he’s a terrific rebounder. Green belongs in the paint on defense.
On offense Green belongs in the high post, or out at the three point line.
In other words, he’s a spread four, and Hallelujah for that. Although it’s somewhat amusing that Joe Lacob finally addressed this need after trading the Warriors’ best penetrator.
Festus Ezeli: I’ll be honest, my eyes bugged out watching Ezeli play. I’m shocked that the Warriors found a big man like him at #30.
Ezeli is one of the most athletic big men I have ever seen at 6-11, 255. On defense, he reminds me quite a bit of the young Nene. In fact, if you put a Nene dreadlock wig on Ezeli, I’ll bet you could fool a lot of people. The similarity is uncanny, right down to how he carries his arms. But more importantly, how quickly he traverses the floor, and how well he defends the rim. He moves just like Nene. Like a big cat.
Do you remember how I used to praise Biedrins’ ability to show on the pick and roll, and then get all the way back in time to defend the rim? Ezeli has got that same ability, and apparently the same defensive recognition and desire.
But he’s built like a Brahma bull. Wowza.
On offense he’s extraordinarily raw. But I noted two things I really liked. First, he’s got great hands — he catches that pass. Second, he’s a passable free throw shooter. It’s jerky, but unlike the wretches we’re used to — Biedrins, the Kwame Brown Era, and Lou Amundson — his free throws have a real chance to go in.
It is hard to overstate how important this is in a player who can’t otherwise score except by dunking. Ezeli won’t let the ball go sailing out of bounds, as Kwame did with a Michael Jordan pass, because he was afraid to catch it and get fouled. He won’t throw the ball right back out, like Biedrins does, because he’s afraid to get fouled. He won’t throw up a hurried spastic prayer, like Lou Amundson, because he’s afraid to get fouled. If you throw Ezeli the ball at point blank range he will catch it and get you points, with a foul on top.
I’ll admit it, I’m in shock. I think Ezeli can play this season. I think he can be effective on the second unit, and I traditionally don’t like centers on second units. Ezeli won’t slow the second unit down. He can run the floor like Nene, and he can play basketball.
Jeremy Tyler: Here’s where the raves stop. Tyler didn’t get a lot of minutes in these first two games, and in those minutes he did get, he looked absolutely terrible. The game does not come easily to him. He looks lost doing everything. On offense, he has no clear idea of what he wants to do when he gets the ball. His moves result in a turnover or forced shot more often than not. On defense, I don’t see him do much more than wave his arms. And he is almost always out of position for rebounds. Despite what looks like a powerful body, Tyler seems to be easily pushed off balance both on offense and on the boards. I can’t help but think that this is the result of the game moving faster than his mind.
The Warriors have stated that they are going to try Tyler at back-up power forward. I think that’s absolutely ludicrous. Tyler has none of the skills that you need to play power forward in today’s NBA. And he’s not quick enough to guard NBA power forwards. Take today’s game against the Nuggets. The Warriors had Ezeli guarding Faried, and Tyler guarding the big stiff. Yes, Ezeli is quicker than Tyler, and it’s not close.
There’s very little doubt in my mind that Green and Ezeli will immediately move ahead of Tyler in the Warriors rotation. In fact, this showing has me wondering whether Tyler should even make the squad. I wrote last season that for Tyler, it’s center or bust. It’s beginning to look a lot like bust. This was summer league competition, folks, and Tyler was the worst player on the court.
Charles Jenkins: Solid, which is his hallmark. I saw no evidence of him extending his range out to the three point line. I think he’ll need to do that to crack an NBA rotation.
Klay Thompson: Clearly the class of the competition. He doesn’t belong in the summer league, as I think Jerry West and Mark Jackson noted.
His offensive skills are off the chart. Not just the shooting, but the ball-handling and playmaking. The Warriors had him playing quite a bit of point-guard, bringing up the ball against quicker players and initiating the offense. Flawless.
On defense, I saw him compensate for his lack of quickness by chasing the play and going for the shot block, which he did pretty effectively.
I would compensate for his lack of quickness by moving him to small forward.