No Stephen Jackson, no Brandan Wright: What do the Warriors do now at power forward?
By Geoff Lepper
With Brandan Wright set to miss a minimum of three weeks because of a posterior dislocation of his left shoulder, the Warriors might want to think about adopting the Clash’s “Clampdown” as their new theme song.
After all, Joe Strummer hits it on the head with his opening line:
What are we gonna do now?
There aren’t a bevy of options for Warriors coach Don Nelson to select from, and the ones he does have hold little appeal, as a group. Since I had all the lineup data already in the computer, I thought I’d sort through and do a +/- breakdown for the Warriors based solely on who’s filling the 4 spot defensively:
Obviously, any regular reader already knows that I think playing Corey Maggette at power forward is as sure a way to lose as there is in the NBA, but I didn’t expect to find the small ball lineup was nearly 17 points per 48 minutes better with Stephen Jackson there instead of the former Clipper.
That’s why the double-whammy of not having Wright and Jackson (who’s expected to miss at least at least the next five games with his strained right hamstring) at the same time hurts the Warriors in exponential fashion.
Discounting Marco Belinelli, whose time at the 4 came almost entirely at the end of various fourth quarters when the team was putting out its best foul shooters, the next-best option, statistically speaking, is Ronny Turiaf.
But Nelson doesn’t want to burn Turiaf’s minutes at the 4 when he has no other backup for Andris Biedrins, who is always just a couple cheap calls away from foul-induced time on the bench.
Nelson also said Friday that he has more basic concerns with Turiaf as a power forward:
“I’m not saying I won’t (play Turiaf at power forward). That’s been successful at times, on a limited basis, and unsuccessful at times because (Turiaf) just is not a scorer. I think when we overdo that and think that he can be the power forward alongside (Biedrins) for long periods of times, it kind of backfires. Short periods of time, it’s been very successful.”
Now, I don’t want to cause Nelson to make another post-game “just let me coach my team” proclamation, but this assessment is frankly myopic.
Sure, there have been some individual instances where the Turiaf-Biedrins tandem has struggled. But in the games where they’ve played the longest amount together, they’ve thrived:
The biggest reason for this pattern is fairly obvious: The longer any pair plays well together, the longer they stay on the court. Since Nelson is already predisposed against playing Turiaf at the 4, if Turiaf and Biedrins play poorly together, at least one will get yanked in a hurry.
The second-best alternative would be Anthony Randolph, but he has problems of his own; as a result of the shutdown due to the coaching staff’s perspective that he doesn’t work hard enough in practice, Randolph has fallen behind the conditioning he needs to play significant minutes without tiring.
“Oh yeah, I’m not in any type of game shape right now,” Randolph said. “I’ve been working out and stuff, but working out and running doesn’t really quite prepare you for a game.”
Given the success Maggette had at throwing LaMarcus Aldridge off his game in the Warriors’ 111-106 win over Portland on Nov. 18, I believe Nelson will go small this evening, assuming Maggette makes it back in time.
As for the several games after that, we’ll just have to see. For his part, Turiaf is trying to play up the positives of guys getting experience that otherwise might not have played.
“I think in the long run, it’s going to be one of the seasons where you look back and say, ‘Hey, man, that really helped us in the long haul,’” Turiaf said. “Unfortunately, it’s tough to go through it. I’m not going to lie to you: It’s all positive to say, ‘In the long run it’s going to help,’ but it’s tough on a daily basis.
“You want to fast forward, but unfortunately, you can’t. So you have to go and deal with the growing pains.”
There was an amusing aside during the power forward discussion Friday. A reporter asked Nelson if it had been “prophetic” to sign second-year forward Jermareo Davidson just in advance of Wright’s injury.
Replied Nelson: “Did you say, ‘pathetic?’”
The Lineup Project
There’s every chance that the game would have gone the Lakers’ way in any case, given the talent disparity between the two teams. But Golden State’s fate was sealed by a 19-4 run over a span of 4 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter. The first seven points came about against a Medium lineup with a clearly gassed Randolph at the 4.
But instead of bringing in a rested Biedrins to replace Randolph and slide Turiaf to the 4, Nelson brought in Biedrins and Maggette as a 4/5 Small combo – despite the fact that Maggette was minus-11 to that point as a power forward and plus-3 defending small forwards.
Los Angeles, predictably, embarked on a 12-4 run to widen its lead to 102-91 with 3:54 left. Game over.
10 Responses to “No Stephen Jackson, no Brandan Wright: What do the Warriors do now at power forward?”
I think that if Anthony Randolph gets sufficient floor time at the 4, he’ll show that’s the place for him and do well overall. Yes he’ll get hammered a bit underneath, but you’ll always see him scrapping for the ball, even diving on the floor. He’s wild in general, and that carries over to defense, which isn’t really ALL bad. Anthony is much tougher than Brandan and he’ll have a chance now to show that. Sure he’ll make mistakes on both ends of the floor but it’s worth the investment in him to see how he looks. He mixes it up underneath by nature. We need that.
SufferedThroughJBCarroll January 10th, 2009 at 7:09 pm
Lep..+/- is only a useful stat over the long-term..It’s silly to be using it on a quarter by quarter basis lol
Anthony Randolph starting… “He takes things for granted.”
[...] –Should Ronny Turiaf play power forward next to Andris Biedrins? Couldn’t hurt, according to Geoff Lepper. (48minutes.net) [...]
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