Not going to get too excited about this win. The Mavs are an incredibly old and bad basketball team. So bad, I don’t think even getting Nowitzki back will help them get into the playoff picture. If by some miracle the Warriors actually wind up contending for the eighth seed, I think it will be against the Twolves, Blazers and possibly the newly-hardened Rockets.
So let’s talk some more rookies.
The Harrison Barnes Brand: Barnes has certainly impressed on the boards in three of the last four games, although there are significant reasons to discount these performance. Horford was out for Atlanta, and Pachulia got knocked out, the TWolves were missing not just their entire front line, but their 6 best players, and the Mavs start a front-line of three old ghosts. The Mavs were apparently so concerned about getting back on D that they completely abandoned the offensive boards.
And against OKC’s intact and athletic front line, Barnes got outrebounded by Durant 10-1 in 29 minutes, earning a rebuke (and a benching) from Jackson. OKC is a nightmare matchup, though.
And these are quibbles. Regardless of the opponent, these last four games made it clear that Barnes can become a good rebounder if he chooses to. Barnes has an impressive nose for the ball — unlike Brandon Wright, for example, or even Ekpe Udoh, he has a knack for anticipating exactly where the ball is going to come off the rim. And he’s a quick leaper.
With Festus Ezeli and David Lee rooting opposing bigs to the floor — which they are now doing extraordinarily well in tandem — there are going to be a myriad of opportunistic rebounding opportunities for Barnes going forward. If he decides to make rebounding part of his brand — if he chooses to put forth effort on the boards every game, not just when Mark Jackson is holding a blowtorch to his feet — he could become a heck of a player.
Because it’s starting to become clear that a lot of NBA scouts were completely wrong about Barnes. Particularly those who had him pegged as another Glen Rice — a one-dimensional catch and shoot player. Barnes is just a much better athlete than Rice was — I wonder how those scouts could have missed so badly on that. He’s much faster running the court, much faster driving the lane, a far better jumper and a much more athletic finisher than Rice was. And he has the potential to be a much better defender.
Yes, like Rice his handle is suspect, and yes, his playmaking instincts are undeveloped. But on the other hand, now that Jackson has encouraged him to play aggressively, he has shown enough impressive one-on-one moves, and made enough plays for others, to give me hope that he might become a complete player. One play in particular caught my eye in the OKC game, where he executed a spin in the lane and fed David Lee a perfect pass. Hmmm.
Some other things that have impressed me: His finishing ability at the rim, left-handed as well as right. He’s fundamental and smart on defense, with some ability to create steals, and disrupt fast breaks.
And that three-point shot. It looks effortless and repeatable, because like Glen Rice (and Stephen Curry), he shoots it on the way up.
Klay Thompson: Things aren’t going so hot for poor Klay are they? Another horrendous shooting performance (2-14) has dropped him to 33% on the year. And he once again nearly rookied the Warriors out of another game, with that quick three with the game tied and the Warriors able to play for the last shot. Now THAT’S a shot he shouldn’t have taken. This is clearly a kid whose confidence has been shaken. He’s rattled.
But that’s not the worst of it, in my opinion. It’s becoming increasingly obvious, isn’t it, that Klay Thompson can’t guard two-guards? They’re lighting him on fire and roasting marshmallows.
OJ Mayo was simply the latest. Thornton. Iguodala. Korver. KMart. Opposing two-guards’ eyes are simply lighting up at the sight of poor Klay.
I was completely perplexed by Jackson’s decision to stick with Thompson on Mayo in the OT. It nearly cost the Warriors the game, as Carlisle went right at this mismatch every time down the court, to the tune of 9 points. Take another look at these two plays: at 1:40 Mayo drives around Klay for the layup, and then at 0:45 simply puts him in the spin cycle to create an easy jumper in the lane.
This is not a correctable problem. It’s not an effort problem. It’s not an experience problem. It is, as I predicted, a foot speed problem.
What’s that old maxim? In the NBA, you are who you can guard.
That makes Klay Thompson a small forward.
Draymond Green: Wow, did Green ever open some eyes these last two games. He is beyond impressive on the defensive end. If you are who you can guard, then Green can play three as well as four, with a little two thrown in. His defensive instincts are superb, and he moves his feet better than I thought possible.
And he has a little dog in him. That desire to get right into someone’s jersey. To reach into his chest and yank his heart out. Like Stephen Jackson did to Nowitzki. And Paul Pierce did to Kobe.
Could he be a stopper? Lord knows that with Rush gone the Warriors desperately need one.
On the offensive end, Green already looks like a veteran. He’s one of those guys with the ability to slow the game down, and find the right play.
All that and he’s got a three point shot.
Of Small Forwards and Two-Guards: Have I mentioned that the Warriors have four small forwards on their roster, and precisely zero two-guards? That’s what Thompson’s defensive struggles and Green’s defensive emergence have made increasingly obvious.
What is the solution to this problem? To start the season, Jackson’s fourth quarter solution has been to bench Harrison Barnes, move Klay Thompson to small forward, and insert Jarret Jack at the two.
But last night, with Barnes playing so well, Jackson was reluctant to take him off the floor. And he was equally reluctant to bench Klay Thompson, although Thompson clearly deserved it. Why? Does benching Thompson in favor of Barnes and Jack somehow send the wrong message to the slumping sophomore? Risk wrecking his confidence or something? Risk Mark Jackson’s relationship with Joe Lacob?
Deciding between Thompson, Barnes, Green and Jefferson — and Jarrett Jack — in crunch time will be quite a difficult conundrum for Mark Jackson going forward. On all sorts of levels.
The Warriors future success will frequently hinge on this decision. Jackson got extremely lucky against the Mavs. He got it wrong, and got bailed out by an extraordinary performance from Stephen Curry.
Some fascinating sub-plots are brewing.
Festus Ezeli: I realize it was merely the ghosts of Kaman, Brand, Murphy and Marion, but what Ezeli did against the Mavericks was incredible. He is truly a defensive anchor on the court. That defensive intelligence is off the charts.
He can be a truly formidable offensive rebounder — seven in this game — because his speed allows him to get back on defense even after taking chances. He made the Mavs pay for cheating off him.
That finishing ability. What Warriors fan doesn’t get shivers watching Ezeli thunder slam? Not something we’re accustomed to here. Why not run some pick and roll for this kid?
What is Ezeli’s upside?
I’m not ready to say “Bogut who?” but I am ready to say the Warriors actually have a shot to win some games with this kid in the middle. That’s really saying something, about a rookie center.
What a find.