It’s become a meme among Warriors fans that the Warriors are attempting to replace the loss of Carl Landry with Marreese Speights, and that somehow that’s a downgrade. I’m totally not buying that. I’m not even getting the idea of “Speights for Landry.” That is NOT what has occurred.
What’s really happened by letting Landry go is that more PF minutes were opened up for Harrison Barnes. Remember how thrilled we were with his eye-opening performances at the stretch-four in the playoffs? So much so, that many moronic NBA pundits began writing that all-star power forward David Lee is “in Harrison Barnes way!”
Sorry, that’s idiotic. Barnes is simply not big enough to be a starting power forward. He’d get annihilated over time by the Griffins, Loves, Randolphs and Aldridges of the league.
On the other hand, it absolutely is true that there was a Warriors player standing in Barnes way: Carl Landry. The Warriors discovered in the playoffs — belatedly, in my opinion — that Harrison Barnes was a natural stretch-four, and a far more effective player than Landry. Barnes is a HUGE upgrade over Landry, simply for his floor spreading abilities, but also because he makes the Warriors much better matching up against the other stretch-fours that are increasingly populating second units around the league. If you remember, Landry was completely ineffective matching up against stretch-fours. Not quick enough to defend them, nor to recover back to the paint to rebound. In fact, in Lee-Landry lineups, it was frequently David Lee who was asked to guard the stretch-four.
Barnes at the stretch-four will also make David Lee a much better player when they team up on the front line. First of all, by allowing him to guard centers, which he’s far better at than guarding stretch-fours, and by keeping his all-league rebounding ability close to the basket where it belongs. But also because stationing Barnes in the corner on offense will clear the floor for the pick and roll at which Lee excels. If you remember, many of Landry’s inside buckets last year came against mediocre second units. He struggled to finish against frontline big men in crunch time, while at the same time clogging the paint for the Curry – Lee pick and roll. With Barnes at the four instead, the Warriors will be able to beat even the NBA’s best defensive big men with regularity. By pulling the power forwards out of the lane to guard Barnes in the corner. By going AROUND the centers in the pick and roll. And by pulling the centers outside the paint to guard the high post, and passing BEHIND them to the Warriors’ slashers. None of which was easy when Landry clogged the paint last year.
In fact, I will wager that by replacing Landry with Barnes and Draymond Green, the Warriors will be far more successful at simply forcing many front-line defensive big men off the court altogether in crunch time.
As far as comparing Speights and Landry directly, to me that’s a bit of apples and oranges. No, you can’t throw the ball in to Speights on the low block and get an inside bucket. But YES, you can use Speights to spread the floor, and get an easy inside bucket another way: either pick and roll, or more open driving lanes for Iggy, Barnes and Thompson. Which could very well produce more efficient offense than Landry’s post-ups.
It is appropriate to compare their outside shooting ability, though. And it’s no contest. Speights was one of the five best midrange jump shooters in the entire NBA last season. And has the ability to stretch it out to three point land, if asked. Landry was less than 40% on mid-range jumpers over the last three years.
Finally, Speights is a much more valuable player than Landry because unlike Landry, he’s big and versatile: he’s a center as well as a power forward. It’s not that hard to envision a stretch of games where neither Bogut nor JON is available, is it? I’d lay even money right now that Speights starts some games at center for the Warriors this season.
And Speights is actually a much better center than he is a power forward — his defensive issues are better hidden, and he becomes a valuable pick and pop player. I think some eyes will be opened when he sees the floor alongside Barnes or Green.
Assuming Barnes returns to health, the Warriors second-unit scoring issues are way overblown. If they struggle for scoring, it will be “on the coaches.”