Coach: Don Nelson
2008-09 Record: 29-53
Pythagorean Record for 08-09: 31-51
Offensive Rating: 109.5 (9th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 113.3(28th)
Possessions per 48: 98.2 (1st)
|Offensive||49.7 (18th)||.129 (13th)||.261 (18th)||.268 (3rd)|
|Defensive||50.8 (20th)||.129 (20th)||.681 (30th)||.251 (22nd)|
Roster (Red indicates new acquisition, Blue indicates rookie) Click to enlarge
Stephen Jackson spent the summer demanding a trade, and if I were Golden State, I’d do that in an instant. Of course, there’s the question of whether any other team in the league wants an aging, overpaid, headcase forward, but every time I think a player is untradeable, somebody (Memphis usually) is willing to take them on. For Golden State, Jackson has value for his versatility, but the problem is that he thinks he’s better than he is, so he shoots the ball WAY too much. If he were content to be a supporting player, he’d actually be useful. He’s a very good distributor for a forward, isn’t a bad spot-up shooter, and is a physical defender when he puts his mind to it. However, he (and Don Nelson, apparently) is convinced that he’s the star of this team, so he plays a ton of minutes and forces a bunch of shots.
It boggles the mind that Brendan Wright doesn’t get more playing time. He’s played barely over 1000 minutes in his career, but every time he gets on the floor, he proves that he belongs. If it weren’t for Don Nelson’s insanity, we might be talking about Wright as one of the game’s most promising young big men. He’s long and has excellent touch around the rim, and unlike most young big men, he rarely turns the ball over. That, and an ability to draw fouls at a pretty high rate, makes him an extremely effective post scorer. Wright’s biggest weakness at this point is that he’s a poor rebounder, largely because he’s too thin, and gets pushed around easily. Still, he should be playing more, if only for his post scoring and shotblocking. Wright suffered a shoulder injury in practice that looks like it’s going to keep him out for a while, so it’s unlikely he’ll get much burn this season either. Because Don Nelson apparently has no idea what he’s got on his hands, some other team is probably going to end up with Wright for cheap, and the Warriors are going to end up looking very stupid.
Despite all their other failings, the Warriors sure know how to find diamonds in the rough (or at least the recently let-go Chris Mullin was really good at it *sigh*). This year, the Warriors are likely to get solid contributions from two undrafted players (Anthony Morrow and Kelenna Azubuike) and a mid second-rounder (Monta Ellis). We’ve known about Azubuike for a few years, and he’s a quality player because of his shooting ability and rebounding (plus, he looks like a defensive ace compared to most of his teammates), but Morrow was a surprise. The undrafted guard out of Georgia Tech first lit up the summer leagues, playing in all three leagues and shooting over 70% from behind the arc (yes, you read that right. 70%). Then, after not playing a minute in the first 6 games of the season, he came in against the Clippers in the 10th game of the year and dropped 37 on them. He proceeded to play over 20 minutes a game for the rest of the year, shooting a blistering 46.7% from deep. Now, Morrow isn’t a great player by any means. He really only does one thing well, and he’s a terrible defender, but man can he shoot the ball. Guys who can stroke the ball like Morrow are always in demand, and to find a pure shooter this good as an undrafted free agent is pretty amazing.
One of the terribly underrated aspects of being an NBA player is knowing your strengths and weaknesses. So many of these guys come into the league having been “the man” for their whole careers, and they don’t know how to play within themselves. Andris Biedrins knows his strengths and weaknesses. He can’t hit a thing if he’s more than 5 feet away from the basket, but he doesn’t try to either. 84% of his shot attempts came close to the rim, the seventh-highest percentage in the league, and he converts them at a high rate (65.8%). He gets most of his offense off of cuts and offensive rebounds (he pretty much has to with as many shoot-first players are on this team), but he does get post-up opportunities every now and then, and he’s fairly effective because of his length and soft touch around the basket. Defensively, he’s like the rest of Golden State’s big men. He doesn’t have the bulk to defend really physical posts, which causes him a lot of foul trouble, but he’s a good shotblocker and is pretty mobile for his size. The one thing that really stands out about Biedrins though is his rebounding. He has great hands, and he really competes on the glass, making him one of the league’s elite rebounders. In fact, it tells you just how badly Golden State’s other players rebounded, that Biedrins is as good as he is and the team was still worst in the league in defensive rebounding.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Monta Ellis this season. First of all, we have yet to see if his ankle injury has any lingering effects. Ellis depends so heavily on his quickness that a weak ankle would really hinder him. Beyond that though, there’s the comments he made this summer about not being able to play beside Stephen Curry in the same lineup. Just a guess, but I don’t think the Warriors drafted Curry with the 7th pick to have him come off the bench. Golden State certainly wasn’t happy with Ellis after the whole moped fiasco last season, and he definitely doesn’t mesh with Curry, so honestly it wouldn’t surprise me to see them shop Ellis around.
X-Factor: Anthony Randolph – Watching Randolph play in the summer league, it was really hard not to get excited about him, as he dominated basically every minute he was on the floor. Of course, Randolph’s rookie season gave us plenty to be excited about on its own. Somewhat surprisingly, given how skinny he was, Randolph posted a very high rebound rate and block rate, and he finished very well on shots around the rim. That all comes from his absurd wingspan and leaping ability, which allows him to cover ground on defense and finish around people on offense like few other players in the league. Of course, we’ve seen athletic big men before. The really exciting thing about Randolph is that he’s shown strong ball-handling skills for his size, which allows him to face up and blow by basically any other forward in the league. The big problems he has right now are strength and decision-making. He takes far too many jumpshots, given what a mediocre shooter he is. With his talent and athleticism, he needs to be making a living at the rim. Some of that reticence to attack the rim comes from his lack of strength. He has difficulty finishing through contact and drawing fouls, and he really struggles when bigger guys take him into the post. The good news is, he looked significantly bigger over the summer, and lack of strength is a pretty easily corrected problem. Right now, he’s kind of a Marcus Camby/Andrei Kirilenko cross, and if nothing else he should develop into a dynamic defensive player. If he can improve his jump shot and become more disciplined, though, he has a chance to be a real star.
The real shame with this Golden State team is that there really is a ton of quality young talent on the roster, but Don Nelson has so obviously mailed it in. Nelson has had his good years, but he’s obviously not the right guy to coach this unit. He prefers to play veterans, even when it’s obvious that his young guys are better players, he wants to play funky lineups, and he jerks minutes around with little rhyme or reason. I mean, despite having not one, but two highly talented young power forwards (Wright and Randolph), 4 of their top 5 most used lineups featured Jackson or Corey Maggette at the PF spot. It’s almost painful to watch them squander away what they have with coaching errors and front office chaos. If they could get their crap together, they have talent up and down the roster. There are four quality young guards in the backcourt, three solid veterans on the wing, 2 excellent young power forwards, and a very solid center with a competent backup. All the talent is there for this team to be not only a playoff team, but an exciting team with a real future. However, Nelson seems hell-bent on not playing his best players, playing ridiculous lineups, and teaching absolutely no defense. It’s a shame, but the disfunction surrounding this team keeps them from being as exciting as other young teams like Oklahoma City or Chicago.