Warriors need to back up talk on defense
By Geoff Lepper
The annual talk in Warriors camp of improvement on defense begins to sound a bit like the NBA’s version of Chicken Little after a few years.
But the patter grew in importance this time around because of the absence of injured guard Monta Ellis. Not that Ellis was a particularly sticky defender; he was far too easily rubbed off on screens last season, and despite his quickness, rarely put intensive pressure on a ballhandler before the mid-court line.
But without Ellis’ innate scoring talents, the Warriors figure they’ll need to lock things down tight defensively to compensate.
“Most Don Nelson teams aren’t teams that have had to hang their hat on defense,” Warriors forward Al Harrington said earlier this month, before his rift with the coach was brought to light. “But we’re going to have to, in order to hold the fort down until Monta gets back.”
The results were mixed in the Warriors’ 108-103 loss to open the season on Wednesday. With Stephen Jackson playing all 48 minutes, primarily at the point guard position, Golden State was able to switch with impunity, as Nelson wanted. But the Hornets still shot 50 percent from the floor, and the Warriors only generated 14 turnovers, down from their average of 16.9 last season.
Golden State had come in with reasonably optimistic expectations after a solid set of exhibition games.
“I think we had one game that I wasn’t pleased, but with our defensive grade system, if you get in the 60s, from 60 to 65, you’re probably going to win,” Nelson said. “And our total grade point was 59 for the preseason. It was pretty strong.”
That’s a change. There’s no point comparing raw scoring totals, since the Golden State’s pace of play skews that data so heavily, but a look at other benchmarks, such as opponent field-goal percentage, shows that Warriors of recent vintage have not fared well. Only once in the last nine seasons have they finished higher than 20th on that list.
“We have guys that can play defense here,” newcomer Ronny Turiaf said. “Maybe the writers are not talking about it, or didn’t talk about it in the past, but I think that’s going to be a surprise to everybody, to see that somebody else can really play lockdown defense.”
During the preseason, the Warriors were better at providing help defense than they had been last season, but began to suffer breakdowns when the player who needed to cover for the helper didn’t rotate over. It’s a step in the right direction, but that doesn’t matter if it means one extra pass before the opposition gets a layup.
“I feel like everyone can play defense, especially the help-side,” guard Kelenna Azubuike said. “Help is definitely mental. When you get away from the ball, you’ve got to think about helping your man out.”
With Turiaf, second-year forward Brandan Wright and (perhaps eventually) rookie forward Anthony Randolph joining Andris Biedrins as regular contributors, the Warriors are suddenly flush with shot-blockers. Wright and Randolph both showed the ability to close on would-be scorers from behind and use their long arms to get a clean swat from behind.
“They’ve got to understand to bring their defensive smarts with their athleticism,” Jackson said. “Sometimes they rest and think that just because they’re so athletic, they can make up for rotating late or not paying attention to coverages. Once they understand if they pay attention to coverages, and use their athleticism, and rotate early, we’ll be a better defensive team. They’ve just got to put all that together.”
DeMarcus Nelson turned himself from an undrafted rookie into a starting point guard on the basis of his defensive prowess and his athletic ability. In praising him after an exhibition win, Jackson took a presumably unintended swipe at the work of his predecessor, Baron Davis, which ebbed and flowed according to his desire and fatigue.
“(Don Nelson) wants a point guard that can defend and rebound well, because I think last year we gave up a lot of penetration from that position,” Jackson said.
NOTES: The Warriors must pick up the third-year options on Marco Belinelli and Brandan Wright and the fourth-year option on Marcus Williams by Friday. Executive vice president Chris Mullin said a couple weeks ago that no member of the trio was in danger of becoming the next Patrick O’Bryant — i.e. allowed to walk as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season — but the fact that the team has put it off until the last minute may indicate a willingness to discuss including those players in trade talks involving the unhappy Harrington.
20 Responses to “Warriors need to back up talk on defense”
The last bit makes no sense- why would any team want Wright/Belinelli/Randolph if they didn’t have their options picked up? The attractiveness of young players is potential at low cost and team control. Without their options, they become RFA’s and the team has limited matching rights- WORSE for potential trading partners than if they’d had options picked up. There’s no reason not to pick up Wright/Belinelli/Randolph unless they had their legs amputated.
I shouldn’t have included Randolph above- he’s a rookie and there’s no option issues.
As for the defense…
The switching scheme is really a stopgap measure. The concept is pretty simple- don’t let Paul beat you, force nonscorers to be big scorers. For a while, it did confuse the Hornets to see Hilton Armstrong or Chandler try to post up … but ultimately, we sagged in and dared them to beat us outside, and they hit a lot of open shots that we conceded. We also doubled a few times when we didn’t have to and were slow to rotate.
Really, though, the mad switching should only be used in spurts. Eventually, if you can’t play defense straight up for a least part of the time…you’re gonna lose.
vonteego cummings October 31st, 2008 at 12:03 pm
What do you think of this:
Andrei Kirilenko (from Utah)
Sergio Rodriguez (Portland)
picks and cash to sweeten the pot…Utah gets their perfect 6th man, an extra big body in Diogu, Portland clears their logjam at PG and gets 2 intriguing prospects in Wright/Bellinelli and we get our perfect Nelson PF and a PG who is better than anyone we have in our roster. Would utah/portland do this?
I vote no trade ideas in the comments section.
If the Warriors were not willing to extend Baron Davis at $39 million for 3 years, I can’t imagine the Warriors would want AK-47’s max contract which pays him $49.35 million for the next 3 seasons. AK-47’s career averages of 12.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game are fine if he cost his NBA team somewhere in the mid-level exception area. But when a player is making max money, NBA teams should expect to get all-star caliber production and AK-47 clearly hasn’t even come close. In addition to taking on AK-47’s cap killing contract you want the Warriors to give up Harrington, Wright and Belinelli too? I can’t see the Warriors accepting your proposed trade.
The only way I would be willing to take AK-47’s contract if I were the Warriors brass was if the Jazz were willing to include Deron Williams as a “sweetener” which Jazz owner Larry Miller is already on record as being totally unwilling to do. That’s why AK-47 is still on the Jazz roster.
Geoff Lepper October 31st, 2008 at 1:04 pm
Jon: Regarding the options, which in the interim have been picked up on BW and Beli but not on Marcus Williams. … Say the W’s were putting a trade together with Team X and they needed Belinelli’s number as salary ballast, but Team X wanted no part of his game and wanted to cut him loose at season’s end. If you pick up Belinelli’s contract before today, you kill the possibility of that deal. Was there a good chance of that happening? No. But why close off those possibilities before it’s absolutely necessary — that was the point.
As for the switching, all I can tell you is that that’s what Nellie has wanted to do pretty much from Day 1 in this second stint in Oakland. Would he do it differently if he had Ron Artest and a motivated Baron Davis to sic on people? Probably not. But he doesn’t, so there you go.
Vonteego: No. And probably no.
From Utah’s perspective, they already have second-unit scorers in Korver and (whenever he’s healthy) Harpring. Kirilenko gives them ballhandling and weak-side defense that Al can’t possibly match. And don’t forget the Jazz are under a win-now deadline because Boozer can opt out over the summer. I think they’re more likely to keep AK and go for it.
You’re closer with Portland. I’m no big fan of Steve Blake, but Nate McMillan appears to be, and they have Jerryd Bayless waiting in the wings. I certainly think Brandan Wright has more potential than Rodriguez, though.
vonteego cummings October 31st, 2008 at 1:07 pm
what cap? what is our plan? go after Lebron in 2010? The Warriors M.O. for the past 15 years is to be somewhat relevant/competitive go for the 8th spot and us having A.K. would ultimately do that. Didnt we sign Maggette for what 55? 12.6 and 5.9 rebounds will automatically double playing for nelson. Remember, Harrington wants out of oakland, that alone does not give us any kind of leverage on the trading front. Go get Eddy Curry then.
6th man: Maggette
That’s an 8th place team in the west
JustPuked October 31st, 2008 at 1:12 pm
Vonteego…”intriguing prospects” ????
To whom? Definitely not to Don Nelson.
vonteego cummings October 31st, 2008 at 1:13 pm
So my proposed deal would benefit us? UGH! that was not what I was going for! Isnt Kirilenko pouting in Salt lake? Without Kirilenko Utah would be able to give Millsap more minutes. Wright might have more potential than Sergio but who knows were talking about potential afterall….bottomline: we need a PG and we need to get Harrington out of here.
vonteego cummings October 31st, 2008 at 1:15 pm
Diogu was intriguing enough for Indiana to take the Sisters from us…..
M.Squared October 31st, 2008 at 1:48 pm
Portland loves Rodriguez and isnt trading him anytime soon and we dont need another 2 or 3.
Portland couldnt develop Wright with Alderidge and Frye there anyway. If they pull of any deals this year it is going to be a 2 for1 to grab an established star at the 3 or 1 spot to help level out their young stars .
Again- Rowell is an idiot. From what is being reported it was his decision not to pick up William’s option- which means that basically we just pissed away a 1st round pick on a guy who will be gone in a year. And- we still dont know what kind of effect he could have in the game. There is no way this guy couldnt be the best passer on the team. This was a huge waste by passing on his contract now. Another stupid move by a jock sniffing accountant that wants to be a basketball guy.
JustPuked October 31st, 2008 at 2:08 pm
A. You can fool all the GM’s some of the time
B. You can fool some of the GM’s all the time
C. But you cannot fool all the GM’s all the time
There aren’t too many “B” GM’s left. Who knew how much we’d miss Isaiah Thomas.
Thanks for the tidbit about Nellie wanting his team to have to ability to switch on pick ‘n rolls with impunity. That goes a long way toward explaining his lack of respect for Williams and Belinelli. They’d get killed on a switch like that. But it doesn’t quite explain the issue with Wright and Randolph. I’m sure they’re more likely to be the culprit in a missed defensive rotation but I can’t see how it would hurt the team to have them “stuck” guarding a wing/point on a defensive switch from a pick ‘n roll. Then again if you’ve already got a David West posting up either of the lefty twigs, why would the team pick ‘n roll in the first place? Since Wright seems the most likely of the benchwarmers to get off the pine, what would you say is the one “failing” of his that Nellie seems to be the most bothered by?
JustPuked October 31st, 2008 at 3:08 pm
Secondary Question for Geoff-
Are you going to be traveling to cover road games this year?
Geoff Lepper October 31st, 2008 at 3:53 pm
VC: They definitely need a PG. I don’t see Jackson as the answer. By the way, does your e-mail address have anything to do with this? (audio nsfw)
JP: Don’t underestimate the extent to which he doesn’t like the tendency of rookies and/or youngsters to just flat-out make mistakes.
Not at the moment, no. Got any frequent-flier miles you want to spare?
JustPuked October 31st, 2008 at 4:22 pm
Sure I’ve got plenty of them but they’re as valuable as pesos. You’d have better luck getting burn in the Warriors rotation as a newbie than getting the Airlines to honor your frequent flyer miles with anything remotely valuable. Wow, coupons! Thanks United!!! I just have to keep clicking the send button and giving every telemarketer my home number and eventually I’ll get that upgrade from business class to first class! Still clicking…gosh there sure are a lot of great deals for people willing to just attend a mandatory six hour sales presentation. Oh Boy a Timeshare in Boca! I can’t believe Nellie is still punishing Belinelli for signing them both up for that one.
Vonteego Cummings claims AK-47’s stats would double if he were playing for Don Nelson. But the fact is AK-47 has never averaged over 16.5 points during any single season during his entire NBA career and Cory Maggette may not be overpaid when compared to AK-47. Take a look at last year’s stats and this year’s salary for the 2 Warriors players you mentioned along with AK-47 and help me understand why you think the Warriors will get so much more bang for their buck trading for Kirilenko.
Andrei Kirilenko 11.0 points 4.7 rebounds $15,080,312
Al Harrington 13.6 points 5.4 rebounds $9,226,250
Cory Maggette 22.1 points 5.6 rebounds $8,275,862
FYI, just because Harrington asks for a trade does not mean the Warriors are forced to accept someone like Eddie Curry just to make Al happy. If the Warriors can’t find a trade to their liking by the end of this season, then Al Harrington is free to opt out after this season ends.
If Belinelli and Wright have lost so much luster that a opposing teams rather treat them as tiny expiring deals rather than prospects worth another year of guaranteed salary, then the Warriors have done some seriously stupid drafting. Which might be the case, but still..
I could see Belinelli being disregarded enough that a team woudln’t even want to spend $2M to see if he’s worth it; but I can’t possibly imagine any other team thinking Wright is just a $2.4M contract and not even worth another year’s worth of look. Wright was a top 10 pick - if his stock has fallen that far, then someone in the front office needs to be shot.
Of course, I wanted Noah over Wright at the time…
vonteego cummings October 31st, 2008 at 7:55 pm
Sloan curtailed Kirilenko’s ability to score. Remember when he used to take 3s? He is now primarily a dirty work hustle player. AK47 would have a hard-on playing in a Nelson offense. Furthermore, Kirilenko would not only score better than Harrington but will provide outstanding defense, something that Harrington couldnot and would not do.
I ddnt mind the Warriors paying Maggette 55 million, all i’m saying is its more Baron’s age/injury than the actual contract.
Umm I never said I wanted Eddy Curry. Im trying to look at the deal that would SCREW us less. Would you rather have Eddy Curry than Kirilenko??
since youre not trading al, let Harrington regale you with his pussy finishes every night then
I don’t believe Jerry Sloan deliberately went out of his way to curtail AK-47’s ability to score? The reason I think AK-47’s scoring average has been steadily declining from a high of 15-16 to 11 points per game last season was because Utah signed Okur and Boozer to free agent contracts and drafted Deron Williams. The addition of these three player relegated AK-47 to being the 4th best Jazz player. But Utah’s problem is Kirilenko is their highest paid player with 3 years left on his max contract. Just because Al Harrington is unhappy with Don Nelson and wants to be traded is not reason enough to justify bailing Jazz owner Larry Miller out of his financial problems caused by grossly overpaying AK-47. The same goes for all of the other overpaid and unwanted players other NBA teams want to dump on the Warriors under the guise of a trade such as Eddie Curry and Stephen Marbury just because Al wants to be traded. Making the kinds of deals you are talking about “to SCREW us less” will insure the Warriors will always be a bad team.
M.Squared November 1st, 2008 at 2:29 pm
AK doesn’t have anything we need. He isnt a true 4 and The one thing he really brings is shot blocking- and while this is something that our past teams needed- Turiaf is filling this void -blocking shots at a clip of 4-5 per game.
If we trade Al for another forward-
A guy I wouldn’t mind getting is Drew Gooden. Short contract- gets O and D boards and doesnt need any plays run for him. Gooden is playing out of position right now for Chicago and Noah is likely their future center. The prob is that I dont know if Al is a good fit in Chicago with Thomas,Deng and Noccioni filling up the 3 and 4 spots. Likely that any deal Chicago does is going to have to include either Hinrich or Larry Hughes to free up their backcourt jam.
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