Why the Warriors Can’t Emulate the Spurs Offense

There’s been quite a bit of talk this off-season, largely initiated by new head coach Steve Kerr, that the Warriors are going to try to emulate the Spurs motion offense in the coming season. Sounds perfect for the Warriors, doesn’t it? Like the Spurs, the Warriors roster is loaded with high-IQ, high-character, and unselfish players with great passing ability. Spurs offense, here we come! Right?

Sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. 

The Warriors might try to run to run some of the same plays, but they won’t get anything like the same results. Why? Because the head coach and roster that GM Joe Lacob has assembled simply won’t allow it.

A major key to emulating the Spurs’ success is pushing the ball upcourt, and playing at an extremely fast pace. In countless sideline interviews last year, Pop was heard to complain that the Spurs weren’t playing with enough pace. And he was continuously pushing his players in the huddle, faster, Faster, FASTER!

Pop’s goal was to get his team wide open shots before the defense got a chance to get set. And to continue to keep the defense scrambling with constant motion and quick and decisive passing.

There are several reasons why I believe the Warriors have very little chance of emulating this offense:

1) Bogut.

Obviously, the Spurs bigs get upcourt far quicker than Bogut, and draw attention away from the ballhandler. How to match the Spurs pace with Bogut in the lineup is a continual problem.

Equally obviously, the Spurs bigs are adept at running pick and roll with Parker, and attacking the rim, while Bogut cringes at the very thought. (For those who have expressed disagreement with this frequently expressed opinion of mine, I simply refer you to Jeff van Gundy’s comment during the Spurs-Warriors playoff series: “The difference between the two teams is that the Spurs have centers who can convert the pick and roll, and the Warriors don’t.”)

Festus Ezeli is a much more willing pick and roll player than Bogut, as he’s far quicker, and has no fear of taking the ball to contact and getting to the line. But Ezeli unfortunately struggles with bad hands, and an erratic finish.

2) Joe Lacob and Smallball.

The Spurs have far more smallball players than the Warriors, and under Popovich are far more willing to play it than have been Joe Lacob’s rookie coaches. In fact, it has been obvious from the beginning of Lacob’s reign, from both his public pronouncements of his basketball philosophy, and his roster moves, that Lacob has actively discouraged the playing of smallball. (And it’s one of the chief ironies of his reign that his team has nevertheless been forced to rely extensively on it, both in the 2012-13 regular season, and in the the last two playoffs, as a result of the Bogut signing, and the consequent injuries through overwork to Lee and Ezeli.) To Joe Lacob, smallball represents “the sins of the past.”

This season, the Warriors once again appear committed to playing big on the second unit with a non-shooting center, Festus Ezeli.  The Spurs, by contrast, prefer to run with stretch-fives like Diaw and Bonner.

3) Spacing.

The Spurs are far better able to stretch the floor with their starting lineup (unless Lee returns to form from midrange), and as noted have far more effective stretch lineups on their smallball reserve units. More on this below.

3) The Triangle.

While they incorporate some triangle concepts, the Spurs play very little post-up basketball. For two very important reasons: a) It slows the pace and allows the defense time to get set (it takes time to set up a post entry); and b) It’s the least efficient form of offense there is.

But Steve Kerr has expressed strong interest in using both Bogut and David Lee in the pinch post of the triangle. If he follows through on that threat, the Warriors pace will slow to a crawl relative to the Spurs.

4) Shaun Livingston.

Livingston creates a particular spacing problem that will be practically unique to the Warriors in the league.

Note that every single one of Popovich’s reserve guards is deadly from three. That is not an accident. It is crucial to running the Spurs system. First of all, the ability to shoot an early offense three is very helpful to running an efficient fast break. But more importantly, in a motion offense the point guard is not ball-dominant. He plays a major role off the ball, as a spot-up three point shooter and floor-spacer. You need shooters to play that role.

Shaun Livingston is not a shooter. With an effective range of about 12 feet, he’s next to useless off the ball. He cannot spot up at the three point line and represent a legitimate threat. He cannot draw an important defender (he will in fact draw the weakest defender). And whomever he draws will not even have to guard him, except in the low post. His presence on the court will completely collapse the defense.

Shaun Livingston is a ridiculously bad fit for a Spurs-style motion offense. He’s really only playable in a completely ball-dominant role. Either in pick and roll, or in the low post (there’s that post-up basketball again).

When you add to this the fact that Livingston will frequently be playing at the same time as Ezeli and Green, perhaps you will begin to understand my extreme bafflement and dismay at his signing.

5) Steve Kerr’s commitment to pushing the pace, and more Shaun Livingston.

Although Steve Kerr has hinted in the press that he wants the Warriors to continue to push the pace, will a guy who is steeped in Phil Jackson’s notions of floor balance, and the post-up offense of the Spurs in Tim Duncan’s prime, really prove willing to throw his previous experience out the window? What about the guy who as GM of the Suns traded Shawn Marion for Fat Shaq, traded Boris Diaw away as well, and pushed Amare Stoudemire to the four, completely destroying the Suns spacing? The guy who forced Steve Nash to walk the ball up the court and feed the post (Steve Nash!), and caused coach Mike D’Antoni to quit in disgust?

Will that same guy really be willing to put his past behind him, and push the tempo?

And even if he is willing, will he actually be able to push the tempo with this Warriors’ roster? I have severe doubts about that, for all the reasons listed above, but also this:

If Warriors management really wanted to push the pace, would Shaun Livingston be the guy they signed to play back-up point guard? A post-up player, incapable of shooting early offense threes? A guy who played at one of the slowest paces in the entire league last season? (25th out of 30.)

A guy who is currently hobbling around in a walking cast with a case of turf toe? An injury that frequently proves chronic (see Butler, Jimmy)?

Or would they have signed Isaiah Thomas, Darren Collison, DJ Augustin, Jordan Farmar or any number of other jitterbug three point bombers?

I’m curious to see what exactly the Warriors’ offensive philosophy evolves into this season.

But one thing I’m already certain of.

It ain’t gonna look like the Spurs.

100 Responses to Why the Warriors Can’t Emulate the Spurs Offense

  1. I wish I could disagree.

  2. Actually, the biggest obstacle to running a Spurs type offense you raise is the organization’s unwillingness to run it. The Warriors can run—we’ve seen it—they can shoot 3s, and Lee and Curry are effective at the pick and roll, though Duncan is much more effective at center and Bogut forever remains a problem.

    But just as obvious, the triangle isn’t a good solution either, as you have been saying.

    Which leaves us wondering what they will do and what offense is best for them. I predict more ambiguous experimentation and groping, which won’t tell us much.

    I liked watching Farmar under D’Antoni, and I think he has a good head and good court sense. I don’t know about the others. While Douglas and Crawford could shoot, though not consistently, they looked lost on the court—and Bazemore looked dismal at the point himself. You have to take the best compromise.

    And I’m inclined to think favorably of Livingston because he is an upgrade and because we now have him. I only know him through a few YouTubes, but here I see a lot of early offense, and while you only see him score, he should be drawing defenders and opening up lanes or spots elsewhere:

    • JJack, btw, could shoot the three, but he wasn’t good at pushing the pace.

    • (Answering my own question) Then again, Livingston has a pretty good lineup on the floor in the YouTube and likely won’t with the Warriors when he subs.

    • A crafty, unselfish PG with slick handles who deftly penetrates into the lane, lives off of feathery 5-10 foot teardrops and 10-15 foot jumpers, and rarely shoots the three?

      Good thing the Spurs’ offense doesn’t feature anyone like that…

    • While we’re at it, what happens if they could run Livingston, Curry, and Klay 1, 2, and 3 (and Lee and Green). They couldn’t move the ball and get some open shots?

      It all depends on what Kerr plans to do with them.

      • Yes, with that line-up, the Warriors could emulate the Spurs offense.

        But do you really want to take the ball out of Currys hands? And can you count on Iggy, Barnes, Rush, and Mokur to reliably shoot 3’s off the bench?

        Would be better to let Gentry and Adams devise an offense suitable to the rooster, and it won’t be the Spurs offense or the Triangle. It might be a DAntoni offense, using Curry like Nash.

        • They’ll need to take the ball out of Curry’s hands stretches of the game to give him a break from running the team and opening him up on offense, as happened with Jack.

          • Agree, that line-up used part time would provide an excellent opportunity, IMO.

          • Will Curry be opened up in the half-court offense if the other team’s best defender is guarding him, while the worst defender is guarding SL with close to impunity?

            Will Curry be opened up in transition if SL is walking the ball up court?

          • Jack drew the best defender?

            Curry will always draw the best defenders. Whomever they got for backup point will always draw the worst, unless they really got lucky and struck gold.

            And Livingston looks to be much quicker than Jack in finding openings for a short shot or a drive—or a kick out. Defenses will have to take him seriously. And if the perimeter smothers Klay and Curry, that should leave openings for SL and Lee and Green.

            SL can’t pass the ball up on a fast break or trail for a layup? What kind of offense did Kidd run?

            I see possibilities here, though maybe not ideal.

          • warriorsablaze

            Will Curry be open when SL drives into the paint and collapses the defense? You know, the same way that Parker is effective even though he very rarely shoots 3’s?

            Does “system matters” only apply to your favored players (e.g. Monta), or to all players? Is SL walking it up his nature, or was it part of Kidd’s system? I honestly haven’t watched him enough to know, but I think it’s a bit silly to think a back up PG is going to dictate the pace of the game differently than the coach’s system prescribes.

            If –as you seem to believe– everything Kerr has said about the offense is a lie and we’re going to walk it up and run a pure triangle offense, then yeah, SL will be slow. If Kerr has us pushing the pace, I see no reason SL will be slowing us down.

          • Jack punished teams severely when he got the worst defender on him. Take a look at his stats from the Warriors playoff run. He was the best Warriors player on offense, and it wasn’t close.

            Can Livingston punish teams similarly? Did Iggy last season? I can understand the desire to be optimistic, but… I fear Iggy’s inability to help the Warriors with either pass or shot in crunchtime against the Clippers is a preview of what’s to come.

            By the way, do you want to see Livingston and Iggy on the court together? How about Livingston, Iggy and Green?

            Someone’s going to be sitting in crunchtime.

          • The other hope, of course, is that Igoudala regains his offense.

            Do you think Jack would have played over Iguodala with either coach crunch time?

            Do you think any PG from your list would have started over Jack or closed a game out?

            But the comment started with the speculation of Livingston/Curry/Thompson, whenever they could work it. I’m sure Livingston will largely play with subs, hopefully more a mix this time, and have limited play with the starters.

          • Pretty sure Jack’s performance in the previous year’s playoffs would have been more valuable to the Warriors than Iggy’s performance last year.

            Iggy didn’t even have a good defensive series. And failed miserably to take the pressure off Curry on the offensive end. By the time crunchtime in game 7 rolled around, Curry was baked.

          • Clippers are a bad matchup for Iggy. He’s a very good isolation defender, but the Clippers didn’t have that threat at SF, and he can’t run around and chase Redick.

          • cosmicballoon

            Don’t forget that GS had Mark Jackson on the bench. The guy who never seemed to get a match up to right and the guy who couldn’t develop his bench.

    • Unless — thinking wishfully — the rumored packages from Cleveland (Wiggins, et al.) and Chicago (Mirotic/McDermott et al.) are both Flip Saunders fabrications, and Minnesota is left deciding between (1) forcing a disgruntled Love to play out his contract, thereby wrecking the team’s reputation in the eyes of players; (2) sheepishly accepting a lesser package built around a lesser prize like Anthony Bennett or Kenneth Faried; or (3) sheepishly accepting the Warriors’ offer of Lee + Iowa’s own Harrison Barnes.

      Yes, wishful thinking, but I do often wonder if Saunders has a weaker hand than we think; and am mostly happy the Ws seem to be calling his bluff. Dr. Feltbot, as a poker savant, you may be best qualified to weigh in here. Do you get the sense that Wiggins is definitely on the table?

      • I don’t think I’m more qualified to opine on this than any other hoopologist, but yes, of course I believe that Wiggins is on the table, and also Klay Thompson. But while there is still this much time on the clock, no team will step up with their final offer. When this deal finally does get done, I suspect it will be for a package that exceeds Melo’s.

        I don’t understand how anyone can believe that Flip Saunders has a weak hand. It has been estimated that Lebron has just raised the value of the Cavs franchise by $500 million, through projected increases in tickets, merchandising and TV appearances. (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2127492-lebron-james-increases-cavaliers-valuation-to-over-1-billion) Kevin Love, in the right situation, could very well prove a gold mine himself. Do you seriously believe Joe Lacob and Dan Gilbert and Jerry Reinsdorf are not bidding on that?

        • btw, if I were Jerry Reinsdorf, I would offer Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson for Love and Barea.

          Not kidding.

          • And Flip Saunders would be krazy to even consider that deal (at this time).

            Gibson is an offensive liability and Rose quite possibly has lost a step. Rubio would have to be moved (cheaply) as well.

  3. I think this speaks to an even bigger ongoing theme with the Lacob-era, which is the organization being run by a “Voltron of Minds”.™ The idea that a team can sample from basketball principles like a buffet doesn’t seem like a good long-term strategy for building a great team. It’s pretty clear that the only thing the Lacobites knew going into this is that they wanted to “get bigger”. But what that actually meant on the court was not clear and is still not clear, and as I’m sure Felty will point out, is largely irrelevant.

    I think without any clear vision driving the team forward, this is pretty close to the ceiling for this franchise. And even if there was a man with a vision running the team (let’s say they handed the keys to SVG or D’Antoni), it still wouldn’t guarantee a superior outcome.

    But when I look at the history of the league, at least, in recent memory it seems to me the teams that have won championships had both a) superior talent and b) superior vision not primarily to win previous battles (as the Lacobites are doing now) but to forge new ground and voyage into Undiscovered Country and set the battleground for the future.

    In short, there is no vision, and no sense of innovation from the front office, and certainly not Kerr, who seems content to eat from the Old Country Buffet on a Sunday at noon.

    • +1

      It’s been a constant theme and constant battle here for years, trying to make sense of the disconnected messages we get from the disconnected organization.

      Meyers, btw, in an early press conference, repeated the team’s belief you need three stars to win (see Howard, Dwight and Love, Kevin), which Lacob probably picked up at Boston and whose influence has lingered.

      The good news is that the team has played well in spite of the disconnect and mistakes. The bad news is that the FO hasn’t learned from that success—how the team can be successful, with which players, in what kind of system—and built from there.

      The other bad news is that it has taken four years for the team to finally take coaching seriously and think about any kind of sophisticated offensive scheme and put a full staff in place with some experience.

      The next step will be for the staff to gain authority—and Lacob to listen (finally).

      Kerr will not be able to convert the team into a triangle offense even if he tried. He will need time and experience for this. But it won’t work anyway, and he’ll have to learn that as well.

      My hope is that Kerr will get good advice from Gentry and Adams, that the guys will talk, and come up with something effective. He seems to be a listener, and he will have to listen.

      Fantasy: Bump Meyers, make Kerr GM (because they won’t let him go, because he provides a liaison with Lacob), and make Gentry head coach.

      • “Bump Meyers, make Kerr GM (because they won’t let him go, because he provides a liaison with Lacob), and make Gentry head coach.”

        This is something that I view as inevitable, and have been sitting on. Congrats on beating me to the punch.

        • Haha, the irony here would be, of course, that they didn’t want to hire SVG because it would “bump” Myers.

        • There’s not a chance in hell that will happen, for reasons related to the ones Lacob had to hire Kerr in the first place and give him that long, expensive contract.

          What were they, anyway?

          Again, though, I do wonder how secure Myers is, from Lacob’s POV.

        • warriorsablaze

          I was always under the impression that Kirk was being groomed for the GM position.

          Kerr’s already been a GM and actively expressed his desire to coach, not find another GM position. I suppose he could come to discover he doesn’t enjoy it, or decide to take a less travel-heavy position to stay with his family. Maybe a combo role like SVG (without the same level of power, of course)?

          BTW… where the hell is Larry Riley? Last I knew he was still scouting for us, but has anyone heard a word from him since he was demoted? Talk about being put out to pasture.

    • cosmicballoon

      Nice kid. Likes his millions. Doesn’t really matter when he’s on the court. As far as the Warriors are concerned, I would consider Anthony Randolph, POB and Diogu worse lottery players than Barnes, but another poor year and he’s in their category.

    • Barnes was projected to go higher in the draft but his value was falling, largely because of his unimpressive performance at UNC, especially in the tourney.

      I’m curious how much further he would have dropped had Lacob not picked him up, though it was a weak draft.

      I’m also curious what would have happened to Barnes and his reputation had another team picked him up. If a good team, he would have been moved to the bench—and out. If a weak team, he may not have had the support he has at GSW and been exposed much more.

    • “The possibility that Barnes is a bust now being discussed out loud”

      Haven’t we been discussing this for a long time now?

      • I should say when TK or MTIII start discussing it then it’s really “out loud” in the Bay Area.

  4. California Dreamin

    I see no mention in the Barnes article that leads the writer to conclude that he is likely to be a “bust.” In fact, just the opposite emerges, that the writer thinks Barnes has a decent chance to perform in some All-Star games.

    Honestly, as much as I respect feltbot’s knowledge and writing skills…and I followed him when he used to post on Adam L’s site until getting his own blog…this continual bashing of everything Lacob touches gets not only tiresome, but old. And wrong, I believe.

    Look, this comes from a guy who started rooting for the Warriors when Franklin Mieuli was the owner and the team called the Cow Palace home, so if nothing else I have been through my share of lousy ownership. And believe me, the Lacob group does not fit into that category. I for one am happy we finally have an owner committed to winning and not just accepting a run at the playoffs, but a deep run.

    And for this talk about how Lacob is running his franchise so poorly, does anyone believe, I mean anyone, that Jerry West would hang around to sit and talk to fools all day? Does anyone think this, because I know better. He cannot stand foolishness and left both the beloved Lakers and the Grizzlies when he saw them being taken over by fools.

    By all accounts it was West who strongly fought against moving Thompson in a deal for Love, and count me as one who disagrees with feltbot on the Warrior offer of KT. I do not believe it for a moment, because if the Dubs had done this, the deal would already be completed. Flips love for KT is well documented.

    Look, I don’t believe in just blindly following a team and I understand completely that Lacob suffers from beginners inexperience at times. Venture Capitalists often want quick results. But in signing Kerr to a 5 year deal, in refusing to put KT in any deal that involves Love coming for only 1 guaranteed year [ a fact that many Warrior fans have collectively ignored] before possibly leaving for LA, and in allowing several voices to be heard instead of just trying to do things himself, Lacob seems to be learning.

    I sometimes think that Warrior fans now view anything but a championship as failure. I have known Warrior failure many times. And this group does not even qualify to be mentioned in that list.

    I also am sure that feltbot won’t care what I think, we have tended to agree quite often in the past while both posing on Adam L’s site, but this continual bashing of everything Warriors seems just a bit cumbersome to me. Do they need some help? Sure. Are they likely to revert back to a 40-42 team win team anytime soon?


    • Welcome, CD. I well remember your eloquent voice of reason on Adam’s blog.

      I disagree with some of the above, but that’s fine. One thing I would like to correct: I’ve never been a championship or bust guy. Quite the opposite, Nellie’s playoff victories over the heavily favored Spurs and Mavs are among my most treasured sports memories. And how could I believe that Nellie is both the best GM and best coach in NBA history, if I were a championship or bust guy?

      What I am judging with Lacob is chiefly philosophy and process, both of which I believe he’s gotten badly wrong, and shows little signs of improving. And he deserves to be judged on this, because he has installed himself as the de facto GM of the Warriors. He has put himself in the arena in a way no other owners have outside of Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones.

  5. Steve Kerr as GM at Phoenix, a review season by season, not without merit:


    Actually, there is some debate about who was responsible for the disastrous Shaq deal. Some sources place the responsibility heavily on owner Sarver and—surprise—D’Antoni:


    Where Sarver does not come out well at all:

    “He wanted more money for the coaching staff, video crew, front-office secretaries — all the people who helped produce this unexpected trip to the conference finals that yielded more than $10 million in extra revenue from eight home playoff games. Except when Kerr went to bat with Sarver, ‘The guy just bludgeoned Steve,’ the second source said.”

    No wonder Kerr wants security and a boss he can get along with.

    • omg, he was twice as bad as even I realized.

      • If Kerr doesn’t deserve the blame for Shaq, completely possible, he didn’t finish badly at all. Making the conference finals after a couple of years is impressive. Most relevant to us is what he and Gentry were able to figure out together that year. Anything we can learn from that?

        But then there’s this:

        Louis Amundson was signed out of the Summer League in which he played for the Warriors in 2008. Credit Kerr, Griffin, and Terry Porter (credit to Porter is optional of course) for spotting Lou and recognizing that Amundson was exactly what the Suns needed. Said Steve Kerr:

        “We just felt like there was too big of a drop-off over the last couple of years when Steve (Nash) went out of the game and that we couldn’t always survive on just making jump shots,…You have to be able mix it up, get offensive rebounds and make ‘dirt-worker plays,’ as Cotton Fitzsimmons used to say. You have to be able to draw charges and create extra possessions.”


        Next thing you know, Lacob picks up Amundson. Do you think they talked about him over golf?

        • Of course Kerr deserves the blame for Fat Shaq. Would the coach who believed in 7 seconds or less, and that post-up basketball is the least efficient offense there is have been in favor of making Steve Nash wait for Fat Shaq to haul his ass over half court, and set up in the post? Would one of the great pick and roll coaches in history, possessed of the best pick and roll point guard in history, want to move one of the best pick and roll centers in history to the four and watch him jack up jumpers because Fat Shaq was polluting the lane?

          Or would it have been the GM who had won five titles playing on 2 of the most dominant defensive teams in history, who had never played without a 7 foot center on the court, and who had absolutely zero understanding of how D’Antoni came within two ill-timed injuries/suspensions of winning two titles?

          A little common sense is in order here.

          As for Kerr and Gentry “figuring something out together”…. what Kerr figured out was that he better fire Porter and get D’Antoni’s system back up pronto, or his ass was grass. Gentry was D’Antoni’s proxy, and the Suns resumed winning despite everything Kerr had done to destroy the team.

          • D’Antoni has made mistakes, and this could have been one of them:

            But that was the case before the Suns traded for center Shaquille O’Neal, and that’s what makes coach Mike D’Antoni sure that he has a better team because of the trade.

            “I don’t think there’s any doubt,” D’Antoni said. “Not play-wise, but on paper and what we see. We can be a better team than we could ever be with the little guys running all over the place. We may not be as pretty, but we’re going to be much more efficient.”


          • More on the Sarver/D’Antoni influence in the Shaq trade, with direct quotes from both:


            Kerr, it has to be admitted, is acting kind of mousy.

          • Hmmm. Pretty sure this is a case of a coach saying what he has to say, in order to stay on the job.

            Might be worth googling what Nellie said when Mark Cuban let Nash walk.

          • The second link looks pretty damn conclusive, with real inside dope:

            The day the Suns played Atlanta, Jan. 29, Kerr went into D’Antoni’s office and said, “Let me throw you a curve ball.”

            “I like playing fantasy basketball,” D’Antoni told him.

            “What do you think about Shaq?” Kerr asked.

            D’Antoni’s eyes lit up.

            “If he’s got something in him, if he’s not done, yeah,” D’Antoni said.

          • Again, Kerr may not have been responsible for Shaq at all. (I don’t blame Myers for Bogut.)

            But what a passive role Kerr takes in this process, as reported. Did he have no strong opinion himself? And I think that’s my first concern about Kerr, or impression, that he’s more a consensus guy than a leader.

            Which of course is why Lacob hired him.

          • I agree it does look from this like MDA got fully on board, but his own folly doesn’t excuse Kerr’s. It was a disastrous trade, and as GM Kerr was fully culpable. His entire record in Phoenix is one of extreme incompetence.

  6. California Dreamin

    Thank you feltbot for your kind words…and for even recalling my posts on Adam’s site. I certainly did try and be a voice of reason on that site when we were going through a period where many fans [not you by the way!] thought that a forward combination of Brandon Wright and Anthony Randolph was as dangerous a duo as Bird/McHale. Well, I jest a tad, but you get the point.

    While we disagree on whether or not KT has been offered, I do enjoy this site and look forward to offering my two sense as the occasion warrants.

    Once again, my friend, thanks for your welcome.

    • +1 And once again, very glad to hear from you my friend, and hope you continue to contribute your thoughts and prose…

      I suggest you google the Warriors offer of Lee and Klay that sought the TWolves’ 13th pick in the draft in return. I believe the several reports that the Warriors made that offer, and were rejected. And I also believe the later reports that KMart’s contract was a sticking point for the Warriors in the TWolves’ proposed deal.

      Never accepting a proposed deal involving Klay is a very different thing from never putting Klay on the table. It suits the Warriors’ purposes that they maintain the illusion that Klay is not on the table, in the likely event they don’t close the deal.

      He’s on the table. For the right price.

  7. I don’t think we linked this before. More on the Barnes brand bust from Grantland—two years ago and pre-draft, while at UNC:

    . . . I do think it’s worth wondering exactly how a smart, talented basketball player became so wrapped up in his own legacy.

    It’s easy to blame all this weird, precocious ugliness as well as Barnes’s basketball troubles on the “fast-paced media,” high school recruiting, and big-time college athletics, but the somewhat liberating truth is that Harrison Barnes just wasn’t a great basketball player. He was good, sure, and shot the ball with a confidence that went far beyond his youth, but he never really developed any other part of his game. He’d go crashing into the boards and pull down a jaw-dropping rebound, but then he’d follow that with 10 minutes of standing around on defense. He never figured out how to get to the basket. He never found a way to reliably distribute the ball in transition.

    [And in the NCAA tourney, where he was dismal]

    . . . it’s particularly damning that a lottery-bound perimeter scorer couldn’t create his own shot against the mighty Ohio Bobcats. On Sunday, in the biggest game of his career, Barnes missed his last six shots and looked lost when the game was on the line.


    Who from GSW scouted Barnes, btw?

    • Joe Lacob. In the interview room.

    • This is as good a scouting report on Barnes as I’ve ever seen. JCK didn’t miss a thing. Thanks for finding this, rgg.

      And all those who think that Barnes is still developing, and has a chance to be an NBA player, should read this piece. It might seem counterintuitive to forecast a future by looking back several years, but in my opinion, it’s all there.

      As I’ve been saying since Barnes made his first appearance in the Summer league before his rookie season — when I first laid eyes on him, with a completely open mind.

    • Similar stuff was being said by those who actually watched him, especially UNC analysts—and again, this was pre-draft. The information was out there, if anyone bothered to look.

      In the last two games of the NCAA tourney, Barnes was 8-30 (2-14 on 3s). I know because I watched them. And it was at this time I lost interest in college basketball.

      If Barnes is serious about his NBA career, he is spending heavy minutes with a skills coach offseason, as Lee is doing. I can’t find evidence, though that may not be reported. If he isn’t, he’s delusional. And that might be the problem.

      • Well, according to Leung, HB has been going to Chris Paul’s summer camp, most to work on ball handling. It hasn’t done much good. He may just not have the motor skills.


        Watch his handling with UNC, especially the last 30 seconds (and compare with his GSW performance):

        • warriorsablaze

          Does Barnes have abnormally small hands or something? It’s bizarre to me that someone who has played basketball their whole life would have such a major deficiency in a basic fundamental.

          Someone commented on GSOM that he was a high IQ player intellectually, but seems to lack the instincts. Seems to be missing that feel for the game… too much conscious thought and indecision. Seemed like a pretty good description of how he approaches the game.

          Dude never lets go during interviews, and seemingly never lets go on the court. He’d be a terrible Jazz musician.

          • Great observation.

            Coupled with his lack of competitive fire on the defensive end, and I don’t see it happening for him in this league.

          • And his fundamentally flawed shooting stroke. And his inability to see the floor.

            Really just a terribly flawed player in all aspects. There is not one single thing that he excels at.

            But of all his flaws, I think it’s his lack of competitive fire on defense that will prove most fatal to his career.

          • Per nba.com: http://stats.nba.com/draftCombineAnthro.html?pageNo=1&rowsPerPage=100&SeasonYear=2012-13

            Barnes’ hand size was 9″ long by 8.5″ wide

            Length is about average for the 61 combine athletes that year. Width was tied for third smallest. Curiously, same dimensions as Anthony Davis.

          • Of course, Ezeli is 9″ long by 10.75″ wide, tied for second widest. So hand size isn’t a guarantee of good ball handling.

          • “So hand size isn’t a guarantee of good ball handling.”

            No, but it might put an upper limit on expectations, especially for someone of his height. I think point guards have other advantages (being lower to the ground) that help them compensate. Remember Davis was a point guard all his life until a very late growth spurt. Barnes likely never developed the hand-eye coordination necessary to handle the ball well as a child, and his small hands don’t help matters.

          • Personally think hand size is only relevant to one handed dunking ability. And one handed rebounding.

            Not dribbling or passing.

          • warriorsablaze

            Hmmm… seems I subconsciously stole Evanz ideas. As a musician, I’ve had to dump many songs in production once realizing it was a little too close to some melody buried in my memories. :)

            The ball handling thing is just bizarre to me. Even if small hands are a factor, it’s still possible to get to average…. you’d think playing ball heavily for more than a decade would just make it happen naturally. It’s not like Barnes was a kid who got into ball late in life due to a freak growth spurt. Also, he started playing ball at the height of And1-style playground ball’s influence on the NBA.

            Why can’t dude dribble?!?!?!

        • Regarding hand size, I think it effects his ability to finish at the rim, not just dunks, but layups.

  8. Felty, it’s not whether Livingston can replace Jack’s scoring coming off the bench., but rather whether Rush can replace Jack’s scoring.

    Think the triple offense will die quickly when it’s shown it’s not successful.

    The Warriors can’t emulate the Spurs offense has five players who can finish at the rim, while the Warriors has fewer players who can do so. Moreover by dominos they get to the foul-line much more.,

  9. “He’s able to adjust to his players”


    Blatt sounds like my kind of coach. Given what we wound up with, I regret he wasn’t hired. He could wind up the next great coach in the NBA.

    That’s something that’s not in the cards for 48 year old coaching virgins who’d prefer to be GMs, and were hired for their willingness to take orders from amateurs.

    • Blatt looks to be the complete package. He’s sharp, he’s aggressive, and he’s proved himself in the heat of battle. But he may only be judged on one thing, how soon he gets Cleveland to a championship.

      What to expect of Kerr?

      It may be tough to define expectations. You have to grant him a learning curve (this situation was Lacob’s decision, not Kerr’s fault), but also consider what he has to work with. The bench is not especially deep or strong or versatile, and one injury could hobble the team, two send them in a tailspin. And it’s not a healthy squad. Then we have to wonder what directives have been passed on from above, whether he’ll be pushed to give heavy minutes to Bogut and Barnes, as we suspected was the case with Jackson.

      But my first impression is that he doesn’t have Blatt’s sharpness or his drive.

      • cosmicballoon

        I disagree about the bench. As GS is now:

        Starters: Curry, Klay, Iggy, Lee, Bogut.

        Bench: Livingston, Barnes, Green, Speights, Ezeli, Jordan Crawford (I think he’s still here), Rush.

        Worthless: Kuz and Ned

        Backup shooting guard is my biggest concern.

        • The bench is extremely weak. I trust Livingston and Draymond to be useful players off the bench. I honestly don’t trust any other player. It’s not a good situation.

          They’re not bringing back Crawford.

          • The bench….Kerr better be good at staggering minutes or something, because a lineup of SL at point, two of BRush/HB/Dray on the wing, and two of Dray/Speights/Festus as the bigs seems borderline unplayable on offense. Where does the spacing/scoring come from? Kinda doubt it would be any upgrade over last season’s 5 man subs, which happened way too often.

          • “Kerr better be good at staggering minutes or something,”

            I can’t imagine him being worse than Jackson in this regard. This team goes 7 deep and needs to find nos 8-9.

          • warriorsablaze

            So is it you don’t think Rush is a good player or that he won’t be healthy?

            Last time he was healthy he was a borderline starter and would have started over Barnes if it were by merit instead of hype/Lacob/strategy/whatever it was…

            I think it’s also possible that Barnes will be useful. He may not have any elite skills, but if he ‘s played at the 4, drops the iso’s, shoots 3’s, and commits to rebounding (as he usually did when at the 4) he’ll be as good as any other 8th/9th man in the league.

            To me, Barnes will be the biggest litmus test of Kerr as a coach… he seems to be the player with the narrowest window of possible success.

            I’m curious if how Speights, for example, compares with other 8th/9th men around the league. I really don’t think he’ll be far off… with the usual “if not misused MJax style” caveat.

          • cosmicballoon

            Bingo, WAB. My assessment of the bench leans on the idea that Green has not peaked yet, Speights is going to come into this season motivated and that Barnes will show marginal improvement in several areas. Those three along with Livingston and Ezeli are decent backups at every position but SG. Not having a backup shooting guard is a problem though, because what it really means is that both Curry and Klay will both be overtaxed. This is the perfect opportunity to bring in a 3 and D player who can guard PG’s and SG’s.

            As for Kerr, I would be shocked if he’s worse than Jackson at creating a sensible rotation. For all the talk of Jackson as a players coach, we never heard a peep from any of the bench players. I doubt they enjoyed how choppy their roles were. Barnes is an ideal example.

          • True, it will be really tough to be as bad as Jackson was in that regard.

            No, I don’t think Rush will be quite as good. I like him, but I am still worried about the injury a little bit. He strikes me as a player who can fill his role very well, but will falter quickly if he is stretched much farther beyond that. I’d be ecstatic to be proven wrong.

            Barnes may be useful, but he can’t play the 4 if Draymond is on the court, since opposing teams will likley stick their 4 on Dray. Same may be true if Rush doesn’t get his stroke back. THough I do agree that he could thrive alongside Livingston, Klay, and Iguodala (or whatever lineup). Good point on the litmus test for Kerr.

            I guess my main issue is just that I don’t trust any of the 6-10 to create a shot, though hopefully that won’t be an issue if Kerr does what is smart: staggers rotations and doesn’t call ISOs every other time.

          • warriorsablaze

            Even if Rush doesn’t have the same athleticism as before, it’s not unrealistic to believe he’ll still have his shot.

            I’m not concerned about “shot-creators” as long as there is a good offense in place. Rush, Dray, Speights, and Barnes can all make shots when open. A good offense should be able to get them open. And while SL isn’t a shot creator from outside, he can penetrate and is very good at posting up… much higher % shots than the normal “shot-creator” deep 2 off the dribble garbage.

            There are a ton of ??? with the roster, for sure, but I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom.

          • “So is it you don’t think Rush is a good player or that he won’t be healthy?”

            What would you bet on him returning to the form he had before the injury? I can’t honestly say I would bet good money on it, which is my point.

            “I think it’s also possible that Barnes will be useful.”

            In the sense that anything is possible, I suppose.

          • cosmicballoon

            Let’s call Barnes’ year 2 a sophomore slump. In theory we should see improvement this season because he realizes who he is as an NBA player, as often happens with 3rd year players. It’s plainly obvious he’s not a star. Now we find out if he can embrace being a role player. If it doesn’t work, he’s a bust.

          • warriorsablaze

            “In the sense that anything is possible, I suppose.”

            In the sense that he has shown himself to be a useful player in certain situations, and a not-so-useful one in others. It will depend on whether or not Kerr uses him in a way that maximizes his strengths instead doubling down on his glaring weaknesses like MJ.

            I’m not even arguing that he isn’t a bust relative to his lottery status, only that he’s shown he can play in the NBA. The question really is whether he can get up to 6-7th man level instead of 10-11th man level. I think we’ll know this year. I imagine if he doesn’t make any significant 3rd year leap, we’re gonna cut bait and deal him for the peanuts he’ll be worth.

  10. moto—

    I have a book recommendation for you, a novel by Teju Cole, Open City, one of the most striking I’ve read in some time. Finished it last night. I’ll let you search at Amazon or elsewhere for more info.

    Born in Nigeria, he is, in fact, a Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College.

  11. And book recommendations for Feltbot—

    Am reading DeLillo’s early novels—I’m a big fan.

    Running Dog: strong, strong recommendation. This is an exhilarating trip.

    End Zone: don’t recommend.

    And if by any chance you haven’t read DeLillo, read Running Dog then go straight to Libra.

  12. A couple of thoughts running through my head about this….

    1) Totally agree with the criticism of Barnes. I hated the pick when it was made, and am pretty sure someone in the Voltron/Captain Planet of minds went on a power trip. I know Drummond was preferred by at least one important person in the organization. Just a shame, since getting Drummond would have affected a lot of other things (hopefully positive). I also agree on Blatt. The man will be a good NBA coach.

    2) Anyone bringing up Parker as what Livingston could be in a “Spurs-type” offense should really look up the shooting splits. Livingston might literally be allergic to anything outside of 14 ft or so, while Parker can hit corner 3s (and made some big 3s in the playoffs). SL hasn’t taken more than 19% of his shots beyond 16 ft since 09-10, though he has made long 2s at a decent clip. Parker, on the other hand, is much more comparable to Jack by taking (~27%) and making (~42%) more long 2s. And they are obviously more capable of shooting 3s.

    3) I’m not following the Bogut/pace storyline. I didn’t have the opportunity to watch as many Warriors games as I would have liked to the last two seasons (maybe 50 games total), so there’s that. And I might also be screwing up what I’m looking at. But, according to nbawowy’s possession data with Bogut on/off, the Warriors played at a pace of 95.94 with him on and 96.13 off. Those are both above average, and higher than the Spurs.

    Maybe it’s more related to Curry/Thompson’s ability to get early 3s, but I don’t recall too many instances of a late Bogut HURTING the offense. He may have helped the offense more by getting down the court quicker, but I’m not seeing it in the numbers (and don’t have a lot of eye test for it). Unless you have some KenPom-esque offensive and defensive possession length data, which would be awesome.

    • Nice post.

      Pace is a puzzling, corrupted, sausage stat that incorporates TOs and ORs. I have to think that the Warriors extreme turnover rate contributed to their “pace.” I try not to use the stat at all, as I don’t think it always accurately portrays what it purports to.

      I confess to being just as confused as you when I checked those stats — Warriors also had more fastbreak points per game than the Spurs, my preferred proxy metric — a couple of days ago.

      By my eye test, the Spurs get the ball over halfcourt far faster than the Warriors. They are also far more successful at running a passing offense, which they run at a tremendous pace. But the simple fact that they run that offense, often making several passes, might result in them taking a shot with less time left than the Warriors on average. (And I don’t believe the Warriors will be able to emulate their offense, if they have to wait longer for Bogut to cross halfcourt than the Spurs have to wait for Splitter/Duncan.)

      The early offense threes of Curry and Thompson — as you astutely point out — are also very likely to help account for this.

      • Yeah, I guess the TOs and ORs can really muck up what ‘pace’ really is. Honestly, it isn’t about going ‘fast’ or anything like that. It’s about getting the ‘best’ shot while simultaneously making the defense work, which is what the Spurs are so good at via the pass. If that is by expending your own energy through fastbreaks, then okay.

        The Spurs probably do get the ball over halfcourt faster than most teams because Pop understands that the only way you can get into your own actions and engage the defense (forcing them to work), is to get the ball to a spot where it threatens the defense. That didn’t happen as much with the Warriors last year, and I think I’m preaching to the choir here, but the ISO/post up fanaticism was never very threatening.

        I hope those early offense 3s never leave…kinda hope Kerr keeps some form of the secondary break drag screens, if only for the aesthetic pleasure of Stephen finagling his way around them for a shot.

  13. Great piece on Jim Barnett:


    I personally think Tom Tolbert covets this job (there I go again, Hat), but that he read the signs, and didn’t want to be the one pushing Barnett out the door.

    Brent Barry is a terrific color man (in contrast to his brother Jon, whom I rank second worst after Mark Jackson). Wouldn’t mind seeing Brent take over when Jim calls it quits.

    Unfortunately, the Warriors broadcast will always be a net torturous experience for me so long as Fitz remains employed.

  14. Kendall Marshall is the Tarheel I hope breaks into the NBA, who played alongside HB. He may well start for the Bucks, and he may prove to be a promising—and for now cheap—prospect. Outstanding assist man, though his shooting is suspect. It went up under D’Antoni, however.

    He would have been a perfect 3rd. guard if they weren’t stuck with Nedovic. I’m not sure they didn’t have a chance at him last year before NN was drafted.

    Watch the assist in the YouTube. What happens isn’t clear there, however. If you go here, you see what happens—he passes between Asik’s legs.


    • NN is another case of the lacobites falling for their own marketing hype. fine if they choose to spend a bottom first round pick on a developmental overseas player, but there is no reason to immediately give him a guaranteed n.b.a contract and develop him in the d-league, unless you’re sure he’ll improve so rapidly overseas that his contract price goes way up with euro teams bidding for him.

  15. warriorsablaze

    Kind of an interesting find. Someone on RealGM noticed a bizarre move in Lillard’s shot. Strange, indeed.


    • Think Lillard wants to join Lacob once he hits free agency?

      • warriorsablaze

        I’m sure Lillard would love to come home… doesn’t make sense for him (or us) while Steph is still here, though.

        I doubt Lillard has any feelings about Lacob specifically.

  16. Can the brand’s problem be narrowed down to:
    1. small hands
    2. stiff hip/waist
    3. entitlement mentality

  17. The roster next season—

    I’m assuming they won’t pick up O’Neal (Mo backs up this gamble) and they didn’t extend an offer to Crawford—though I suppose they could pick him up as a free agent but likely can’t justify his $3.1 salary, tight as the cap is.

    So that leaves two spots, and I guess they’ll fill in those during training camp or perhaps could make a minor deal (trade Barnes!). They won’t be able to get much unless someone does some sharp scouting (Myers?).

    Of the 13:

    6 players with health issues and questions, 3 starters, Lee, Iguodala, and Bogut, and 3 essential backups, Ezeli at center, Livingston at PG, and Rush at 2 or 3. Rose’s example does not prove promising for Rush.

    3 of those 5 players with health questions are essential, Iguodala, Lee, and Livingston, and should play limited minutes to preserve them for the season, even take a game off, but because of limited backups can’t. Certainly no backups who could fill in well should they go down for a week or so. If Bogut ever gets some kind of offense going, doubtful, he should be added to this list.

    0 third point guards to spell Curry if Livingston goes down, though I suppose Iguodala and Thompson could bring the ball up, yet they have limited abilities here and it will only expand their minutes, as was the case last year.

    It’s worth dwelling on this point. Likely Curry and Thompson will have to play heavy minutes, and this takes its toll during a game—they fight fatigue closeout time and play at reduced efficiency—and throughout the course of a season.

    Without Curry and Iguoldala, they suffered. They were 1-3 without Curry, and you really shouldn’t count the win the last game of the season against Denver when Curry rested. They were 5-7 those weeks Iguodala went down. He started the season playing heavy minutes, playing well. He didn’t really return to similar form after that.

    4 two-way players in Lee, Curry, Thompson, and I’m hoping Iguodala though last year’s evidence wasn’t good. I also hope Green proves me wrong. There’s no way I add Barnes. I suppose Livingston should be added though he can’t shoot the 3.


    2 good three point shooters in Curry and Thompson. 4 so-so but inconsistent shooters in Green, Barnes (look at his game log last season), Rush, and I feel like adding Mo. Again, I hope Green and Rush prove better.

    3 veteran two-way players who make a difference regardless of situation or roster, Lee, Thompson, and Curry, players who can create shots for themselves, even in a busted play, a tight game, or tight defense, or find outlets or keep the offense alive in other ways, and compensate on defense. Again, I want to add Iguodala. Add Green for his smarts and grit, hope Rush returns to form. (And many will debate the defense of those first 3: they need players to complement them.)

    0 young prospects at any position. I’m counting Ezeli as a regular now.

    2 draft busts who won’t be able to fill in during the season except in routs in Nedovic and Kuzmic.

    1 Harrison Barnes.

    It’s worth detailing what a bust he is as a lottery pick. Everyone keeps saying he can provide value as a stretch 4, but he is inconsistent there. More importantly, he can only produce when surrounded by good players—thus pushing them into heavy minutes. He doesn’t add any value to the team itself, but rather drains it. He cannot create for himself or facilitate offense. The shots HB is allotted, 8 per game his first two seasons, takes shots from other more useful and capable players. And playing HB at 4 takes away Green’s minutes there. If Rush does return to form, they could dispense with Barnes altogether, splitting up his minutes between Rush and Green.

    We saw this most when Iguodala went down last season. Some complete player needs to step in here or other situations and Barnes couldn’t. I don’t care what offense MJax ran—the isolations should have given HB good match-ups where he should have scored. And if he could have handled those, he’d be a much more versatile and valuable player. He should have anchored the subs in other ways and provided more help with the starters. He didn’t. He can’t.

    Now use those players and conditions to fill out 48 minutes x 82 games with 5 men on the floor.

    There’s not much flexibility in the roster at all, given the limitations of most players.

    The team has little leverage to change this roster, and likely won’t the next seasons because of contracts. Health issues may get worst.

    There’s no leeway, no risk insurance, no growth potential in this roster.

    But if everyone stays healthy and key players can play at a high level, they should do well, even with a new coach.




    Otherwise. . . .

    • both last off-season and this, the lacobites took the calculated risk of minimally investing in the bench. they did marginally better this summer in addressing the need for the back up guard, but staring at the obvious differences between o’neal and the (maybe recovered, maybe not) ezeli, they chose to again leave bench scoring up to ‘internal improvement’, barnes the repeat candidate joined by speights.

      they no doubt know that getting further than two playoff rounds will need exceptional luck with injuries and matchups in the post season seeding. their goal remains the same — pump up the revenues with marketing and try to gain the maximum number of home playoff dates. they’ve already raised season ticket prices (s.o.p. for teams that sell out most or all games, which is why many new venues will have fewer seats than the ones they replace) after charging the highest prices in the association for first round playoff seats.

    • Note the team was 15-8 last season when Bogut didn’t play at all and 6-1 when he played 20 or fewer minutes. I’m not saying he doesn’t have limited value.

  18. felt boss, appreciate your endorsement of beane, melvin, and oaktown beisbol. inconsistent hitters like cespedes see tougher pitching in the post season, while the best pitchers decide the outcomes. the lacobites seem to look at los gigantes as a role model, hoping to become a neighbor on the waterfront, and getting by with hype and marketing.