Feltbot's Warriors Blog http://feltbot.com For Golden State Warriors Fans Fri, 24 Oct 2014 05:35:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Feltbot’s 2014-15 Western Conference Forecast http://feltbot.com/2014/10/09/feltbots-2014-15-western-conference-forecast/ http://feltbot.com/2014/10/09/feltbots-2014-15-western-conference-forecast/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 00:05:06 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3205 Continue reading ]]> Once again we have an ultra-competitive Western Conference, where 48 wins might not be enough to to get into the playoffs, and a handful of teams have a legitimate shot at the top spot. Here’s my forecast, along with my picks against the Vegas Win-Totals Lines. Regular readers know I’ve had pretty good success with these historically, and particularly recently, going 10-1-1 the last two seasons. But I found only two lines to bet this season, because I demand a lot of edge, and I just don’t see it this year. Sometimes the bookies are pretty good.

[edit: I'm now betting THREE Western Conference lines, going over on the TWolves.]            

I’ll take a look at the Eastern Conference lines in the next few days, to see if there’s some money laying on the ground. If I make any additional picks, I’ll put them in the comments to this post.

[edit: I've made three Eastern Conference picks, plus a bonus bet. Details are in Comment 9.]

1) THUNDER (57.5 wins — No bet): The Thunder won 59 games last season with Westbrook in and out of the lineup, and never 100%. I expect them to be better this season. So why no bet? Simply not enough edge. There’s nothing about this team the bookies don’t know.

Monster in the middle Steven Adams could take a giant leap forward. There’s still a big question mark at the two guard. Jeremy Lamb disappointed last season. Sefolosha is gone, replaced by old friend Anthony Morrow, which will have a big effect on the defense. But if Westbrook can be persuaded to find Morrow when he’s open, he could have the best season of his career.

Chocolate Rain, Chocolate Rain.

As great as the Spurs were last year, they might not have gotten out of the West if Ibaka hadn’t gotten injured. The Thunder are Spurs kryptonite. I make them favorites to get to the Finals.

2) SPURS (57 wins — No bet): Still the best in the West so long as the wheels don’t fall off. They will fall off sometime, right?

That’s why I think you should lay off the 57 win line, even though the Spurs won 62 last year. Strictly a bet on injuries and age, and Pop can’t be relied upon to give a shit about the regular season seeding.

3) CLIPPERS (55.5 wins — No bet): The Clippers picked up some major help on the frontline in the form of stretch-five Spencer Hawes. They also picked up old friend Ekpe Udoh — it will be interesting to see what Doc Rivers makes of him after 2 seasons of injuries and languishing in Milwaukee. And Glen Davis came into camp much fitter than last season.

Jordan Farmar replaces Darren Collison as the backup pg behind Chris Paul. Farmar was a revelation last year, a much improved player before he got derailed by injury. This could be a slight downgrade, but is outweighed by the improvement in the frontline.

Small forward could be a hole. There’s aging, oft-injured Matt Barnes, and… who? Turkoglu? No, he can’t guard anyone. He’s a stretch-four. Chris Douglas-Roberts? It’s likely that their playoff small forward will be a vet they pick up at the trading deadline.

With the frontline help and a year with Doc Rivers under their belt, it’s possible that the Clips could take a step forward this season. I don’t see enough edge to bet this line, though.

4) Grizzlies (49 wins — OVER): The Griz are as far from a Nellieball team as it is possible to get. So why do I have such a weakness for betting them over? Possibly because I’m not as biased towards Nellieball as people think — I’m biased towards teams being played in the system that best fits their roster. But mostly because Vegas consistently underrates them. Or, more accurately, because their tiny market means they have fewer wildly optimistic fans pushing their Vegas line up than other teams do (see, Lakers).

What are the reasons why the Grizzlies could be undervalued? To start with, they managed to get to 50 wins last season after a horrific start. They had the best record of any team in the NBA after the all-star break. Rookie coach Dave Joerger struggled with the system and his veterans to begin the season last year. He’s a season wiser, and those issues have been worked out. Also Marc Gasol and Mike Conley missed significant time last year with injury, and they’re healthy now.

What else? New addition Vince Carter will add his firepower to Courtney Lee’s behind Tony Allen at shooting guard. Quincy Pondexter appears ready to move Tayshaun Prince to the bench. Stretch-fours Jon Leuer and Earl Clark — not to mention Michael Beasley [edit: Gone to China] — should earn significant minutes behind Zach Randolph, with Ed Davis no longer in the picture. They have solid veterans at backup center — Kosta Koufos — and backup point guard — Nick Calathes and Beno Udrih.

Depth and outside shooting used to be problems for the Griz. No longer. This is the deepest and most balanced Grizzlies team I’ve seen.

5) Rockets (49.5 wins — OVER): The Rockets won 54 games last season. Why are they being disrespected this season? It probably has something to do with them losing Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in the offseason. And also with them getting waxed by the Blazers in the playoffs — fan perceptions help set the line.

I think the Rockets are greatly undervalued, for several reasons. First and foremost, according to reports, Dwight Howard is now completely healthy and looking like his beastly self in the preseason. If true, that could be huge. Howard barely looked 80% to me last season.

Secondly — and I’m alone in the world in this, I know — I think the loss of Chandler Parsons will wind up helping the Rockets. Parsons is a terrific young player with a very high ceiling, but he wasn’t the right fit for the Rockets. The Rockets’ most glaring weakness last season was that they didn’t have a wing stopper. James Harden and Parsons were basically sieves on the wing. The player that the Rockets have replaced Parsons with, Trevor Ariza, is just that stopper. He is one of the toughest wing defenders in the league. And he had a breakthrough season last year shooting the three.

Ariza could have a profound effect on the Rockets’ team identity. I think you need three great defenders on the floor to play great team defense, and when you add Ariza to Howard and Patrick Beverly, that’s exactly what the Rockets now have. I think the pundits will be shocked by the Rockets’ transformation at the defensive end — in one season they will go from being one of the worst defensive teams in the league to one of the best. Ariza is the missing piece and tipping point, just as Andre Iguodala was for the Warriors.

And don’t be surprised if James Harden suddenly becomes a much better defender himself now that he’s surrounded by great defenders, and sees the point. I predicted that would happen with David Lee last season — correctly — and the same thing will happen with Harden.

When you add Terrence Jones, the 22 year old stretch-four who had a breakthrough year starting at power forward last season, I think we’re looking at one of the best two-way starting fives in the NBA.

The biggest concern I see for the Rockets (besides head coach Kevin McHale), is their lack of depth on the bench with the departures of Asik and Lin. The intriguingly talented but erratic Donatas Motiejunas may see some time at stretch-five. If Ish Smith is really their backup point guard, that’s a major problem.

The Rockets will be players at the trade deadline. I’m putting my trust in Darryl Morey, and betting the over.

6) WARRIORS (51.5 wins — No bet): I was wildly optimistic at the start of last season, gleefully betting the Warriors over 49.5 wins, and predicting them to contend for the first seed in the Western Conference. So what’s changed?

First off, the Western Conference changed: The Spurs big three somehow proved healthier last season than the year before, and Russell Westbrook is now fully back for the Thunder. The Clippers, Grizzlies and Rockets look significantly improved, and are difficult obstacles as well. In short, the road to the top of the Western Conference no longer looks as open as it did last season.

Secondly, for the third time in five years, GM Joe blew up his coaching staff, and for the third time in five years, he hired a rookie head coach. New system (as yet undetermined), new evaluations of the roster, new game-coach learning curve, blah, blah, blah. Everything Warriors fans are so familiar with.

Third, and for the fifth year in a row, the Warriors have a brand new bench. Without seeing how the injuries to Ezeli, Rush and Livingston shake out, and seeing the system and rotations Kerr will employ, it is nearly impossible to visualize how the Warriors bench will perform. It could be improved, or it could once again be one of the worst in the league. Which is something of a GM Joe specialty at this point.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, the Warriors have new injury concerns. I’m particularly worried about David Lee and Andre Iguodala, but in fact, these concerns permeate the entire roster. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a roster so reliant on so many chronically injured players.

In short, there’s too much uncertainty surrounding the Warriors for me to be confident of a prediction. They are an extremely talented team, in their starters at least, that has the potential to blow away the Vegas line if everything comes together. But as I see it, there’s also a significant possibility of everything falling apart.

It basically comes down to this in my book:

If the Warriors are mostly healthy, push the tempo and emphasize early offense, and have a pick and roll half-court system: OVER.

If the Warriors’ recent injury trend persists, they play at a middle of the pack pace, and go to a triangle half-court system: UNDER.

I hope to cover these issues in more depth before the season starts. (But unfortunately, there’s some uncertainty about my season as well.)

7) BLAZERS (49 wins — No bet): This is a wildly talented team that won 54 games last season. So why not bet the over? I don’t know, I’m just not feeling it at this price.

The Blazers are heavily reliant on LaMarcus Aldridge, and I have injury concerns about him. I’m also not sure the oft-injured Robin Lopez can duplicate his great run of last season, and I’m not a fan of the Chris Kaman pickup. I positively hate the Steve Blake pickup. He’ll be much more willing to feed LA than Damian Lillard is, but Blake will be chiefly running the second unit — at a slow deliberate pace.

And the West can be a tough place to get a win. I was much more comfortable betting the Blazers at over 38.5 wins last season.

8) MAVS (49.5 wins — No bet): The Mavs underwent a radical makeover this offseason. Gone are 3 starters, Sam Dalembert, Shawn Marion and Jose Calderon, and their sixth man, Vince Carter. Joining the team are Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons, Jameer Nelson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Raymond Felton, Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva.

Wow, looks like an upgrade at every position to me. So why are the Mavs only forecast a half win better than their 49 win performance last season? Questions of fit and chemistry I suppose. Tyson Chandler — if healthy — will be a big help to their defense, but if Chandler Parsons starts at SF, I’m not sure if Bill Russell could help this team. The Nelson/Ellis backcourt will be one of the smallest in the league, and even though I think Monta’s defense is greatly underrated, this backcourt can’t stop anyone. Add Nowitzki and Parsons, and you have to wonder whether the Mavs can hold anyone under 110. Not a stopper to be seen.

The Mavs do have stoppers on the roster though: Aminu and Jae Crowder. If you start one of them and bring Parsons off the bench their team starts to make more sense. But I’m not sure if the Mavs paid Parsons near-max to make him their sixth man.

Hard to overstate the importance of Tyson Chandler to the Mavs’ season. If he stays healthy and has gas in the tank, they could be very good. But if he goes down, watch out. The only other real center on the roster is Bernard James, who barely plays. Brandan Wright appears to be the main backup center. But Charlie Villanueva, who’s a lot like Mo Speights in size, shooting ability, and looniness, might be called upon to play a big role.

Trust in Rick Carlisle? There’s a ton of talent on the Mavs this year. But also a ton of questions, particularly on defense.

9) SUNS (44.5 — No bet): The surprising Suns won 48 games last year, and I’m tempted to bet the over simply because I love what Jeff Hornacek is doing with them, and they’re going to be one of the most entertaining teams in the league to watch. I’ve been in Phoenix the last three weeks, and virtually every day the story in the newspaper has to do with Hornacek being upset that his players aren’t pushing the pace enough. Or Hornacek instructing his team in the fine art of running after made baskets.

The Suns added jitterbug Isaiah Thomas to their team in the offseason, and it’s safe to say their backcourt, with Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and the surprising Gerald Green will give teams fits. Teams like the Warriors, especially, that lack small and quick guards.

The concern is the frontcourt, and the particular concern is the loss of Channing Frye. I’m dubious that Markieff Morris and new addition Anthony Tolliver can completely fill Frye’s shoes, because what made Frye so special was not merely his ability to play stretch-four, where he started, but his ability to play stretch-FIVE in crunch-time. He’s two inches taller than Morris, and a shotblocker.

10) PELICANS (43 wins — no bet): The Pelicans starting five will look pretty good to some on paper. Omer Asik, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday. AD is a monster, and my previous injury concerns for him are alleviated by the acquisition of Asik at center. This is perhaps the scariest defensive front line in basketball. Ryan Anderson’s stretch capabilities, if he’s healthy, will complement Asik and AD beautifully.

Holiday is working his way back from a significant injury, but my chief concerns lie with Gordon and Evans. I’m skeptical that Gordon will ever be the player he once was, and as everyone knows, I despise Tyreke Evans’ game. Selfish, no court vision, bad outside shot, no defensive desire.

Another big concern is the bench: I don’t see anyone there.

The Pelicans are improved, but don’t yet have enough to contend for the playoffs in the West.

11) DENVER NUGGETS (41.5 wins — No bet) The addition of Aaron Afflalo might help this team, if he returns to playing the defense he used to play before he got paid. But I’m skeptical of the Nuggets. I’m skeptical of the return to health of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and JaVale McGee. Heck, I’m skeptical of a 100% healthy JaVale McGee.

I’m skeptical of the roster construction. How can Faried and Gallinari play at the same time? A reconstructed Gallinari at three? Oh, the humanity.

And I’m skeptical of Brian Shaw. I think he’s a mismatch to this roster.

I’m tempted to bet under, but this was once a 57 win team, give or take an Iguodala for Afflalo swap. I’ll stay away, and regret it later.

AND THE REST:

TWolves (26.5 wins — Hmmmmm): There are a lot of decent vets on this TWolves team, and I could see them crushing this line if Flip Saunders plays to win. Rubio, Pekovic, Thad Young, Kmart, Barea, Budinger, Brewer, Mo Williams.

But the TWolves are loaded with promising youngsters who demand playing time: Andrew Wiggins, obviously, but also Anthony Bennett, Gorgui Dieng and (possibly) young Zach LaVine.

I see Flip as a likely seller at the trade deadline, and that and the fact that I’m not interested in researching this situation keeps me from betting. Others may like this bet though.

[Edit: I AM going to bet the over on the Wolves after all. CosmicBalloon's comment @7 helped convince me. That and putting myself in Flip's shoes: I believe he will want to hold this situation together for Ricky Rubio. This team has the talent to win games, and this 26.5 line seems awful low.]

KINGS (29.5 wins — No bet): I will never take the over on any team that has either DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay. A team that has both….? And on the other side, I’m not real interested in fading a mere 29.5 wins.

I’m curious about Stauskas, but the rest of the team is wretched. I’m a seller of McLemore.

JAZZ (24.5 wins — No bet): Quin Snyder? That will be fun. Trey Burke versus Dante Exum? Or will they play together? Either way, that will be fun too.

I like Gordon Hayward, but Gordon Hayward trying to live up to a max contract? That won’t be fun.

With Marvin Williams gone, are they planning on playing Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors together on the frontline again? That won’t be fun, either. They’re both centers.

Looking at the rest of the roster, I have no clue what the Jazz are doing, and don’t care.

LAKERS (32 wins — No bet): What the heck are the Lakers doing? This is one of the worst rosters I have seen in my life. They appear to have cornered the market on mediocre PFs. Is Boozer starting? I think rookie Julius Randle will get eaten up, like Thomas Robinson did.

The Lakers don’t have anyone other than Robert Sacre listed at center. I guess PF Jordan Hill will be playing center. And PF Jeremy Tyler. I forsee spacing difficulties.

The ghost of Steve Nash is playing pg. His backup is Jeremy Lin. Both pick and roll point guards. Do they have a center to play pick and roll with? A spaced floor?

The ghost of Kobe will be ball-hogging his way into the record books, forcing Nash/Lin off the ball. Any chemistry problems forseeable? Also, minor point, Lin sucks off the ball.

And what position will Kobe be playing? He can’t guard twos anymore, even if he were still interested in playing defense, which he’s not.

And when Nick Young returns, will he be playing alongside Kobe and Nash? This could be not only the worst defensive team in the Western Conference, but the worst defensive team in Western Conference history.

I would dearly love to bet against the Lakers this year. Particularly if you assume that the bookies think the real number is 28, and stupid Lakers money (the stupidest money in existence) is pushing the line up, which I do.

But 32 wins doesn’t leave a lot of cushion.

And watching the Lakers lose is its own reward.

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Out of Town Blues http://feltbot.com/2014/10/07/town-blues/ http://feltbot.com/2014/10/07/town-blues/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 05:21:39 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3203 Continue reading ]]> Opening a new thread as the old one appears to have expired. Unfortunately I’m still out of town, but hope to return in the next few days.

Regarding the caching problem, it could be on my end as I have a caching plugin.  Something to add to my to do list.

Apologies again for the absence and thanks for your patience.

 

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Dog Days v.2014 http://feltbot.com/2014/09/07/dog-days-v-2014/ http://feltbot.com/2014/09/07/dog-days-v-2014/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 03:37:13 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3197 Continue reading ]]> This is that time of year when nothing NBA happens, and I take a break from blogging. It also so happens that this year I’ve found the Warriors’ offseason moves to be thoroughly dispiriting, leaving me more lethargic than usual. I’m in the jaws of the Black Dog.

But don’t let that stop you.

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Love’s Labour’s Lost http://feltbot.com/2014/08/07/loves-labours-lost/ http://feltbot.com/2014/08/07/loves-labours-lost/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 14:59:00 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3192 Continue reading ]]>

“The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo. You that way: we this way.”     — Armado

Kevin Love to the Cavs for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick. That’s the melancholy news greeting Warriors fans this morning.    

In truth, I don’t think the Warriors had a chance the moment that Andrew Wiggins was offered. Even if Flip truly preferred Klay Thompson — and there are sound basketball reasons to think he might have — his owner Glen Taylor would never have let him take Klay over Wiggins. Too many season ticket sales, too many marketing dollars at stake. Wiggins is the player to excite the fanbase, to fill the near-empty Target Center; not Klay.

We already learned this lesson in Warriors land, with the competition between Klay and The Brand, Harrison Barnes. Was it only a year ago that 99% of Warriors fans and media regarded Barnes as The Anointed One, and Klay as the red-headed stepchild? Not to mention the Warriors PR department.

The Wolves haul is good but not great. I think Bennett will be flipped to the perpetually tanking 76ers for Thaddeus Young. The Wolves will continue to try to win, if only to pacify Ricky Rubio, whom they hope (forlornly) to re-sign. They are trapped in basketball purgatory: neither good enough to win, nor bad enough to tank. While Wiggins projects to be something Harrison Barnes will never be, a good wing defender, I don’t see him having an impact rookie year. Nor may he ever — he’s got a long way to go.

There is one major difference between this Kevin Love trade situation and the trade of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks that I failed to consider in my previous analysis. Waiting to the trade deadline to make the deal paid major dividends for the Nuggets. And they didn’t give a damn whether or not it pissed Melo off. I expected the Wolves to follow the Nuggets’ script.

But while the Nuggets’ patience was rewarded by a gigantic haul of good veteran players, they didn’t get a marquee name. Danilo Gallinari was the star of the group.

The Wolves, by contrast, are getting a number one draft pick, and “potential superstar,” in Andrew Wiggins. Even if they might have gotten a sweetened deal by waiting, they had a huge incentive to land Wiggins not just before the season, but well before the season.

Season ticket sales.

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Of Yoenis Cespedis and Harrison Barnes, Billy Beane and Joe Lacob http://feltbot.com/2014/08/01/yoenis-cespedis-harrison-barnes-billy-beane-joe-lacob/ http://feltbot.com/2014/08/01/yoenis-cespedis-harrison-barnes-billy-beane-joe-lacob/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 22:05:00 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3189 Continue reading ]]> Billy Beane is quite clearly the class of baseball. The best talent evaluator as well as the best GM at timing and executing really complex moves whether tactical (for the season) or strategic (for the future).

I think dumping Cespedes for a stretch run and playoff run with Lester is a sign of his genius, that in all probability no other GM in baseball would have had the guts to pull off. Because Cespedes was in many ways the most exciting player on the As, probably the most identifiable player on the team, a big fan draw. One of the faces of the franchise.

He was also their 12th best hitter, in terms of On Base Percentage. And all of us who’ve seen or read Moneyball know just how much Beane values OBP. (For good reason. His understanding of the true value of OBP revolutionized baseball, just as efficiency stats have revolutionized the NBA.)

Cespedes prefers swinging for the hills rather than situational hitting. Loves the show of the big knock more than he wants to do the right thing for his team. But Cespedes is no Vladimir Guerrerro. He doesn’t hit for a high average to compensate for his lack of plate discipline.

Beane and Melvin approached Cespedes in spring training to try to get him to change his approach: shorten his swing, use the whole field, be more selective. Cespedes “gave it a try”, but then gave up on it as soon as the season began.

Beane also asked Cespedes not to participate in the Home Run Derby at the AllStar game — because Beane knows that the HRD has frequently harmed hitters in the second half of the season, either by exhausting or injuring them, or by throwing their head and swing and approach out of whack. Cespedes again ignored him. His brand was more important.

I think there are a lot of analogies between Cespedes and the player on the Warriors I’ve labeled “The Brand”, Harrison Barnes. Both are physical specimens, both are great athletes, both are thought to possess all of the “tools”. Both are a focus of their fans’ excitement, and also of their team’s — and their league’s — marketing campaigns. But in reality, both are hugely flawed players, and both are obsessed by their brand, to the detriment of learning fundamentals and team play.

It came out in the paper today that Beane was planning to move Cespedes this winter if he hadn’t found a trade this season. I’m pretty sure that Beane doesn’t like Cespedes’ approach, and understands that it likely means that it will cap his development. He will underachieve in his career. Given that the bad GMs in the league will bid his price up way above his true worth when he reaches free agency, then it follows that he HAD to be traded.

And the opportunity to land one of the best big game pitchers in baseball for a playoff run meant that he had to be traded now. I expect the A’s offensive attack not to skip a beat. Gomes is just as good against lefties this season as Cespedes. Their myriad of platoon players against righties (this year, Beane is instructing the league in the use of platooning), Fuld, Reddick, Vogt, etc., can be plugged in and be even better.

Brilliant move. And one that should be instructive to Warriors fans. Joe Lacob quite clearly made a huge error in overruling his basketball people to draft Harrison Barnes. He made another huge error forcing the rookie Barnes into the starting lineup over Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson (choosing hype and ticket sales and jersey sales and ego gratification over proper development and learning how to earn minutes). And he made a final huge error in not realizing that Barnes’ value got inflated beyond all measure in his rookie playoff run, when Barnes got to play POWER FORWARD, and was being guarded by POINT GUARDS. The time to sell Barnes was right then, right after his rookie season. Instead, Lacob and his minions seemed to actually believe the humongous dung-heap of Barnes-hype that they themselves created to dump on the heads of season ticket buyers.

The Warriors finally woke up and got around to trying to move Barnes this summer, but it was too late. They fell flat on their faces. Rumors abounded that Barnes was being shopped for a first round pick, any first round pick. And not one single GM took the bait. Particularly not Minnesota, from whom the Warriors were trying to entice the 13th pick.

The difference between the sagas of Cespedes on the As and Barnes on the Warriors illustrates the fundamental difference between the two franchises.

Lew Wolff hired the best baseball man in the business to GM his team, and gave him total authority.

Joe Lacob?

He hired himself.

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Why the Warriors Can’t Emulate the Spurs Offense http://feltbot.com/2014/07/27/warriors-cant-emulate-spurs-offense/ http://feltbot.com/2014/07/27/warriors-cant-emulate-spurs-offense/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 23:30:48 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3186 Continue reading ]]> 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.

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Can’t Buy Me Love http://feltbot.com/2014/07/19/cant-buy-love/ http://feltbot.com/2014/07/19/cant-buy-love/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 21:40:06 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3184 Continue reading ]]> I’ll give you all I’ve got to give
If you say you love me too
I may not have a lot to give
But what I’ve got I’ll give to you
I don’t care too much for money
For money can’t buy me love

                     — Lennon and McCartney

Everyone is on pins and needles waiting for the Kevin Love trade to come down. I don’t get it. I simply don’t buy the prevailing media narrative that the Wolves have to make this deal before the season starts. That the offers the Wolves are seeing right now are the best they will get, and that they will lose leverage the longer they wait.   

I don’t believe the Wolves will have any trouble fielding mega-offers for Love, no matter how long they wait. In fact, I think the longer they wait, the better the offers will get. This is simply not the moment for the best offers to show up. Teams don’t put all their cards on the table until they’re up against a hard deadline. That’s when the real auctions occur.

It also helps to wait until the trade deadline, because that’s the moment when incompetent GMs can no longer escape the outright putridity of their creations, and realize with horror that only a breathtaking move can save their jobs. (Feel free to interpret Bob Myers’ strong advocacy for the Love trade in light of this universal truth.)

There is simply no downside for the Timberwolves in waiting until the trade deadline to deal Love. The Warriors and Cavs will still be bidders, regardless. But on the other hand, there is a HUGE amount of potential upside in waiting.

As I currently handicap it, it is highly likely that the Warriors will have taken a step back in the West by that time. Virtually all of their middle-of-the-pack competitors have taken strong steps forward with their rosters, while the Warriors have added… Shaun Livingston and the avatar of Brandon Rush. Virtually all of their competitors have good to great veteran coaches, running real NBA systems, while the utterly dysfunctional Warriors management have hired their third rookie coach in five years, a 48-year-old virgin who wants to impose the triangle — half-court post-up basketball — on what should be one of the best open-court and pick and roll teams in the league.

I find it exceedingly likely that Joe Lacob will be foaming at the mouth for a change by midseason, and no longer paying any attention at all to the blinking light on his Jerry West Bat-phone. And equally likely that a desperate-eyed Bob Myers will be nodding his head with even more vigor than usual.

I envision a similar scenario in Cleveland, if the Timberwolves are smart enough to wait. The 19-year-old Andrew Wiggins isn’t yet able to dominate on the college or summer league levels, and yet he’s ready to star for 82 games and the playoffs as an NBA rookie? Please. After struggling for a couple of months trying to whip the soft, self-entitled, knuckle-headed Kiddie-Cavs into an unselfish and hard-nosed contending team, there will be thunderbolts coming out of Lebron’s eyes, and steam coming out of his ears.

That’s the moment that Dan Gilbert and David Griffin will spread the entire Cavs team and all of their draft-picks before Flip Saunders like an all-you-can-eat buffet, and say “Dig in.”

It is astonishing to me that every single NBA writer seems to have already forgotten the Carmelo Anthony trade deadline lollapalooza. Wasn’t it made perfectly obvious at the time of that fiasco that Masai Ujiri had hit upon the perfect model — for all time — for handling a superstar extorting his way out of town? Or in other words, the perfect model for handling the desperate GMs and wanna-be-GM NBA owners who covet said superstar?

We’re dealing with universal truths here. Of human weakness. And human greed.

If Flip Saunders is smart, he’ll draw the process out to the very end, and let the volcano of folly build.

Can’t buy me Love.

Until the time is ripe, and the price is right.

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Bye Bye, Klay Thompson http://feltbot.com/2014/07/12/bye-bye-klay-thompson/ http://feltbot.com/2014/07/12/bye-bye-klay-thompson/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 03:57:33 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3182 Continue reading ]]> That’s my prediction, and I’m putting it on record.

Amid the hoopla of virtually every one of the Warriors’ Western Conference competitors making important signings to improve their rosters, the Warriors’ signing of non-shooting back-up point guard Shaun Livingston to an exorbitant 3 year, $16 million contract has fallen with a thud. No one is talking Warriors in the Western Conference anymore. No one.  

And my money is betting that Joe Lacob’s ego won’t be able to take it. Despite what the few actual basketball people in the Warriors organization are telling him.

And not just Lacob’s ego, but his complete and utter attachment to the bottom line.

Headlines.

Ticket sales.

Jersey sales.

That’s the intoxicating brew that a Kevin Love acquisition offers Joe Lacob, which I believe he will ultimately prove unable to resist.

The TWolves are in the drivers’ seat here. The NBA landscape has changed radically in the last few days, as you know. Lebron is headed back to the Cavs, which has put a Wiggins for Love deal on the table. Despite the Cavs’ current denials.

Other teams, unforeseen at this time, will also almost certainly emerge before it’s over. Like the Rockets, if they decline the option to pay the max to the currently all-but-superfluous Chandler Parsons, in the wake of the Trevor Ariza signing. And even if the Rockets do match the Mavs’ offer, might not Parsons be more attractive to the TWolves than David Lee?

Bottom line, David Lee and Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green will never get this deal done. (Despite the Warriors’ current plans to pump up Harrison Barnes’ trade value by re-inserting him into the starting lineup. Another thing I’m tempted to bet on.) The TWolves have considerable leverage now, and if history is a guide, will have even more by the trading deadline. If the current offers don’t improve significantly by the start of the season, I think the TWolves are virtually certain to hold onto Love until the last minute.

By the time the TWolves are ready to pull the trigger, I’m not even sure that Klay Thompson and David Lee and agreeing to swallow the poison pill of Kevin Martin’s contract will still be enough to land Kevin Love. But what I am sure of is that before it’s over, Joe Lacob will have thrown Klay Thompson into the pot.

Bye bye, Klay Thompson.

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The Lowe of the Herd: My Answer to Zach Lowe on the Kevin Love to the Warriors Trade http://feltbot.com/2014/06/25/lowe-herd-answer-zach-lowe-kevin-love-warriors-trade/ http://feltbot.com/2014/06/25/lowe-herd-answer-zach-lowe-kevin-love-warriors-trade/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 09:40:34 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3180 Continue reading ]]> Zach Lowe of Grantland has just written a characteristically thorough and instructive look at the conundrum the Warriors are facing in trying to trade for Kevin Love. He concludes that the Warriors should make the deal happen, regardless of the pain of swallowing Kevin Martin’s contract.

He might prove right about that in the end, but for what it’s worth I believe he’s made several crucial errors in his analysis.       

The difference between the Wolves’ top 5 offense and the Warriors’ offense last season was not the difference between Love and Lee. It was the difference between Pekovich and Bogut. (And Adelman and Jackson.)

Pek is a dominant inside scorer and free throw shooter, who WANTS THE BALL, and DEMANDS A DOUBLE TEAM.

Bogut is the exact opposite. A player who is afraid to catch in traffic, and petrified to attack the rim in pick and roll. So petrified he usually doesn’t even look at Curry in the pick and roll, let alone actually roll. A player who is on the verge of out-Biedrinsing Biedrins in his determined avoidance of the free throw line, and agonized paralysis once he gets there.

Bogut averaged 1 free throw attempt a game last year. ONE. And shot 34%.

Big Pek averaged 4.6 FTA, and shot 75%.

And averaged over 17 points a game.

Do you think Big Pek attracted the defense’s attention away from Kevin Love at all? With Bogut, it was the exact opposite. His defenders barely looked at him. And when Curry and Lee ran pick and roll, Bogut’s defender was front and center under the rim. Eyes forward. Waiting.

Lowe seems to think Curry/Bogut pick and roll with Love spreading the floor will become a thing if the Warriors do this trade. It makes you wonder if he’s ever even watched the Warriors play. If he had, he would know that there is no such thing as Curry/Bogut pick and roll. There is Bogut high pick, followed by Bogut standing at the top of the key while Curry receives a vicious blitz. Followed by one of three actions: 1) Curry swings the ball to a third player on the wing; 2) Curry waits out the double, then returns to Bogut for another pick that will hopefully free him for a quick jumper; or 3) Curry passes to the wide open Bogut at the top of the key, who stands there with the ball, or takes one or two hesitant dribbles, until he can find a teammate to dump it off to.

I won’t even mention the fact that Kerr has stated his intention to use Bogut posted up in the triangle. Because hopefully the real NBA coaches on the Warriors staff (Alvin Gentry) will disabuse him of that notion fast.

The fact of the matter, lost to Lowe, is that acquiring Kevin Love will do nothing to open up the Warriors pick and roll. When Love is Curry’s pick and roll partner, he will encounter the same monstrous obstacle parked and waiting at the rim that David Lee did: Bogut’s man. (And if you think Love will be better at finishing over that obstacle than Lee, you will be sorely disappointed.)

As for Andrew Bogut pick and roll, THERE IS NO SUCH THING. No matter how well Love spreads the floor.

What the acquisition of Kevin Love will open up for Curry and the Warriors, is PICK AND POP. And that, admittedly, will be the most lethal pick and pop in the league, and an incredible boon to Stephen Curry’s game.

But will that addition to the offense be enough to overcome the utter hamstringing of the Warriors’ finances created by Kevin Martin’s horrid and useless contract? Lowe himself points to the many new holes in the Warriors roster that will be created by the deal. No one to shield Curry from guarding point guards. No money for a veteran back-up point guard. No money for a sixth man. (Oh, is KMart going to be the sixth man? Well then, as noted in my last post, the Warriors will be starting 3 non-scorers alongside Curry and Love, and I will bet any amount of money that the Warriors will not be a top 10 offense, let alone a top 5 offense, playing that way. So what was the point again?)

One final point. Lowe utterly fails to consider the biggest of all holes in the Warriors roster that this trade will both create, and prevent the Warriors from being able to fix:

Andrew Bogut and Kevin Martin.

Who will stand in for them, come playoff time?

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Love Hurts: Thoughts on the Kevin Love Trade http://feltbot.com/2014/06/22/love-hurts-thoughts-kevin-love-trade/ http://feltbot.com/2014/06/22/love-hurts-thoughts-kevin-love-trade/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 18:14:25 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3177 Continue reading ]]> I’m surprised that so many think Kevin Love and Kevin Martin for David Lee and Klay Thompson is a no-brainer for the Warriors. 

Bogut-Love-Iggy-Martin-Curry strike you as a good lineup? Who guards the point guards? Iggy? Well, then who guards the other team’s best scorer? Who guards the SF?

This is an untenable lineup on the defensive end.

What about Bogut-Love-Green-Iggy-Curry, which is the one I’m guessing most of you prefer? Can’t you envision the offensive problems that unit will encounter?

You’ve got two sublime offensive players, surrounded by three non-scoring facilitators. As we’ve seen over and over in the NBA, these kinds of lineups are simply way too easy to defend. As an example, it allows opponents to put their best defender on Curry all game long, with virtual impunity. He’ll be looking at Kawhi Leonard and Matt Barnes and Paul George all season long.

Yes, the pick and pop with Love will be nice. But very little else will be open, much less efficient. You will have solved the problem of opening the floor with a stretch-four, at the price of creating several more problems.

[UPDATE: I see I forgot to consider a starting lineup with Harrison Barnes instead of Green at the SF. Probably because I simply can't conceive of Barnes as an NBA regular on a winning team. However, this is probably exactly what GM Joe Lacob and his chief lackey/spokesmodel Bob Myers have in mind. For one thing, it gives them one more crack at proving that their over-hyped draft pick wasn't disastrous. And for another, they probably don't understand just how bad Barnes is at the defensive end. Will he or Iggy be used to guard the point guard? If it's Iggy, that will expose Barnes badly againt potent two-guards. He can't stay in front of them.

Add to that all of the well-chronicled offensive deficiencies in Barnes' game, and you still have a trade that defies easy analysis.]

Something else no one seems to be considering: Kevin Martin sucks. He has been injured for much of the last three seasons. He’s almost never completely healthy. Even when healthy, he plays only one side of the court. And he has a horrible contract that the Warriors will never be able to get rid of.

I think most of you think Kevin Martin is a useful player. He’s not. At this stage of his career, he’s an albatross. A terrible, losing player. Which is why Sacto, then Houston and now the TWolves have been so anxious to move him.

Love for Lee might be a no-brainer. Love for Lee and a potential Hall of Fame small forward, plus choking on a horrible contract?

Brainer.

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