I thought before last season started that the Warriors were already a better team than the Clippers. All of the reasons I gave then still apply, but particularly the fact that the Clippers are terribly weak defensively on the wings. JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford — among the league’s worst. Matt Barnes appears to have fallen off the face of the earth. If the Clips don’t fix this situation, they’re in for a disappointing season.
It’s early, but it’s also clear that the Warriors will be much better coached this season than last. The end of isolation basketball in itself is enough to guarantee that. The presence of Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams on the bench is a further guarantee.
And it’s obvious that the Warriors are a better and deeper team this season than last. Or is it? This game illustrated the conundrum I faced pre-season when trying to forecast the Warriors. Fabulous team on paper. But a quorum of their best players might prove made of paper before the season is over.
As I feared pre-season, David Lee was the first casualty. And make no mistake, his hamstring injury is directly correlated to the core injuries that have resulted in 3 straight offseason surgeries for him. I expect him to be out at least two weeks with this latest aggravation, and it’s a situation that could easily linger all season long, as it did for Iggy last year.
Speaking of Iggy, is it just me, or does it appear that another foot has disappeared from his jump? Perhaps there’s more than one reason why the Warriors have moved him onto the second unit? Giving him more rest during the regular season couldn’t hurt.
Bogut, Ezeli, Livingston, Rush, Barbosa — the list of fragile Warriors comprises half the team. The odds seem long — longer than for any other contender, even the Spurs — that this team can make it to the post-season with its core intact.
But for the moment at least, the Warriors are clearly among the elite of the league. Jeff van Gundy: “The Warriors could well win the championship.”
Steve Kerr: Don’t know if you noticed, but the Warriors played high pick and roll throughout this game, and the triangle was evident for only a few possessions. Very encouraging.
As a side note, I couldn’t be more delighted that the Warriors now have a coach who is willing to take technicals. I just hope God doesn’t smite him.
Draymond Green: Followed up right where he left off in Game 7 of the playoffs, with another of the best games of his career. If he can consistently hit his three point shot, as it appears he can, he will be a monster in this league. I got a good look at his form in this game, and I am willing to bet a serious amount of money that he shoots a better percentage from three than Harrison Barnes this season. Hit me up if you’re interested.
Speaking of money, Jeff van Gundy thinks Green will be worth $10-12 million on the open market next season. So I guess the Rockets got a steal with Trevor Ariza at $8 million per.
It appears that the whispers about Green taking the starting power forward job from David Lee just might be correct — Steve Kerr intimated as much with his “we’re winning with Draymond starting” comment in the post-game. I have a few points to make about this:
First, there are sound basketball reasons for this move. Given Bogut’s inability to shoot, playing a stretch-four alongside him improves the Warriors’ spacing enormously. Also, the persistent lack of offense from the Warriors’ second unit could well benefit from Lee’s presence. And regrettably, Lee might benefit as much as Iggy from the reduced minutes and wear and tear.
Second, I nevertheless stand behind my belief that Green is too small to go 82 games against NBA power forwards without wearing down or getting injured. Even full-sized PFs wear down and get injured, as we know all too well. We know that Green can play phenomenally well against bigger men for short stretches of games, or in short minutes of every game. But starting and playing full-time against frontline PFs for 82 games… I’m not a believer.
Third, before you start shouting to the rafters about Green’s defense on Blake Griffin, recognize this: the Warriors double-teamed Griffin on nearly every possession.
Mark Jackson, as you may remember, had a POLICY of never double-teaming the post. Never, ever. Not Blake Griffin, not Dwight Howard, not Zach Randolph. David Lee played every monster in the league straight up. Even in the playoffs, Jackson hung the injured Lee out to dry against Griffin with no help whatsoever.
But when Green took over on Griffin, Jackson felt compelled to break his policy and helped Green out with double-teams.
Two things to note about this: First, two successive Warriors coaches don’t believe Green has the size to handle Griffin on his own. Second, double-teaming creates weaknesses and openings elsewhere in the defense. Weaknesses that the Clippers were unable to exploit in this game, and may never be able to exploit due to the size, versatility and toughness of the Warriors’ wing defenders. But the point remains.
And here is the point: if you’re going to compare Green’s defense of power forwards to Lee’s, make sure you’re not comparing apples to oranges.
By the way, am I against double-teaming the post? Hell no. It’s an absolute prerequisite of going small against monsters. Direct your question to Tim Kawakami and Adam Lauridsen. Back when Nellie did it, they called it “gimmick defense.”
Jeff van Gundy on Stephen Curry: “Has a Steve Nash-like ability playing the pick and roll game.”
You want to stuff that into the triangle? Make it play off the ball?
You might notice that Curry guarded Chris Paul in this game, and has guarded every point guard so far this season. He’s doing it with the aid of a major change in the defensive scheme. It’s called ICE, and it requires the defender of the point guard to jump the pick, preventing the point guard from using it, and thus keeping him away from the center of the floor. This defense leaves the drive wide open, which then becomes the center’s responsibility to contain.
Klay Thompson, if you remember, followed the point guards around the picks.
Klay Thompson: I’ve pointed out in the past that Klay’s defense against small, quick, three-point shooting twos is not all that it’s cracked up to be. And JJ Redick is an example of a guy he’s always had trouble guarding, and always will. Gave him early foul trouble in this game.
[edit: Please ignore the following, it slipped my mind that The Showcase started the game, not Iggy, so my analysis doesn’t apply. See comment 2 for some comments on Barnes, and I hope you’ll forgive me for not remembering he played.]
So why not start Iggy on Redick, and put Klay on Matt Barnes? Isn’t Iggy the guy you’re paying $12 million a year to play defense? Isn’t JJ Redick more dangerous than Matt Barnes? Isn’t Iggy smaller and quicker defensively than Klay? Wouldn’t saving Klay’s legs from having to chase Redick around staggered screens all game pay dividends on the offensive end?
It’s a mystery. Unless maybe you think Iggy’s legs aren’t up to the task.
Klay didn’t play particularly well in this game. Forced the action several times, as if he were making up for lost time. Or trying to live up to a new standard.
Bogut: Had a great game defensively and on the boards. But I simply can’t get over the lengths to which he is going to avoid taking the ball to the basket. I’m sorry, but it drives me nuts. I think it has something to do with the fact that the Warriors have the second coming of Steve Nash at the point, and he’s never had the good fortune to play with a center who is willing to catch and attack the basket.
Bogut’s contact avoidance rivals Biedrins’. He has 2 free throw attempts in four games this season. That’s an average of .5 a game, half of last season’s disgraceful pace.
Shaun Livingston: Looked much better in this game. What was the difference? Very simple: the ball was put in his hands, in high pick and roll. Probably the best role for him on this team.
Note however that by putting the ball in his hands, it was taken out of Iggy’s. Iggy had 6 assists last game, Livingston 6 this game. A net positive?
I don’t know. I’m looking at Livingston’s -2 in a 17 point victory.