Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? — The Warriors Edition
By Geoff Lepper
The NBA’s All-Star break does not come at the halfway point of its season, of course. So instead of 41 games remaining to right the ship, the Warriors have only 28 contests left – not nearly enough time to transform their 19-35 record into anything resembling a playoff contender’s mark.
What, then, can we take away from the first two-thirds of Golden State’s 2008-09 season? And what can we look forward to as the final weeks tick away? Here are the assessments of one observer:
MID-TERM GRADE: B.
WORK TO DATE: His rebounding ability at power forward shored up the Warriors’ small-ball lineup, and ranking third in the league in 3-point percentage (46.2) was a great bonus. Still has too much of a propensity to not see open teammates, but he is showing improvement there, with an AST/TO ratio since Jan. 1 of 1.64. (Prior to that this season, he was at 1.12; in his previous two NBA seasons, he was at 1.06).
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Prove that his shooting from distance is something the Warriors can count on long-term, and not just an aberration.
MID-TERM GRADE: C-plus.
WORK TO DATE: Showed some flashes of good play but had already started to backslide before suffering the sprained ankle that caused him to miss the final 15 games heading into the All-Star break.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Let’s be realistic here – he’s going to be lucky just to earn some playing time now that Monta Ellis is back. He has to be efficient with whatever minutes he does get.
MID-TERM GRADE: B-plus.
WORK TO DATE: Tough to give an A to anyone who shoots less than 60 percent on his free throws, and Biedrins has slipped from a solid start (60.4 through Nov. 31, 52.3 since then). [As a side note about that FT%, it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of impact playing for the Latvian national team again this summer will have on Biedrins, if he does so. He could spend the entire summer working on rebuilding his shot and not be done with that task, but if he’s once again toiling as Latvia’s only NBA-caliber talent, he’ll be concentrating on beating triple-teams instead.] Also has shown regression in defending screen-roll plays, something that’s more obvious given how solidly Ronny Turiaf is performing in that area.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Become a consistent 36-minutes-and-up player, a level he’s only reached eight times in 50 games this season. That fact is partially due to Don Nelson’s aversion to playing Biedrins and Turiaf side-by-side, but Biedrins has the opportunity to force the coach to leave him on the court with superior play.
MID-TERM GRADE: C.
WORK TO DATE: He’s been exactly what the Warriors should have known they were getting – a no-defense scoring guard who can sometimes pass. In other words, he could be Ellis four years from now. Here’s a stat that still astounds me: Even after all the hype of how Crawford was moving from the 2 in New York to the 1 here in Oakland, his AST/MIN rate is exactly the same in both places – 4.4 per 36 minutes. (Even worse, that’s below his career average of 4.6.)
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Show that he and Ellis, who seem to be such similar players, can work together to form an effective backcourt. And improve his defense such that the Warriors are no longer 10.4 points per 100 possessions better on D without him on the floor.
MID-TERM GRADE: INC.
WORK TO DATE: None to speak of, 13 minutes in five games.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Impress somebody around the league to the point where he nets a training camp invite for next season.
MID-TERM GRADE: C-minus.
WORK TO DATE: Ellis was battling for weeks with the team regarding his schedule for getting back on the floor. In retrospect, it looks like the team was right. His mid-range game is nowhere near ready, and his AST/TO ratio of 0.96 is pretty abysmal, even if he isn’t playing the 1. On the bright side, he has hit 5 of 7 treys, one of the areas he was working on improving prior to Moped Madness.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Simple — get back to where he was a year ago, at a minimum. A 10- or 15-game run (or more) at that level of play to close out the season should finally put to rest all the fears about his health – and the team’s lingering threat to void the remainder of his $66 million deal.
MID-TERM GRADE: B.
WORK TO DATE: Jackson is a bit of a statistical muddle, having put up numbers that both his supporters and detractors can use to bolster their cases. On the one hand, his counting stats are terrific – 18.3 points per game, along with a career-high 5.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds. But even with his recent hot streak from the floor, his FG% remains a sickly 40.5 and he’s still second in the league in terms of TO/G, just behind Steve Nash.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Jackson has been terrific over his last 18 games (23.2 PPG, 6.9 APG, 5.7 RPG, 44.7 3FG%). He just needs to continue that run, especially his 2.68 AST/TO ratio in February.
MID-TERM GRADE: D.
WORK TO DATE: Impressed Nelson enough in practice to earn a spot and force the release of second-round draft choice Richard Hendrix. Hit a game-winning shot against Milwaukee in an exhibition game in China. During the regular season, however, he hasn’t shown much. His per-48-minute +/- number is a painful minus-21.2.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: He’s already got a guaranteed deal for the rest of this season. What more do you want?
MID-TERM GRADE: C-plus.
WORK TO DATE: A lightning rod for criticism during the early going, when Nelson insisted on running him out at power forward even as that unit flopped. Has been chided by opponents and teammates alike for caring more about individual scoring than overall success. With a deal that makes him hard to move in this economic climate, however, Warrior fans need to get used to his presence in Oakland.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: The move to a sixth-man role makes his singular focus more tolerable, although it would be appreciated by many if he was a more willing passer, defender and rebounder.
MID-TERM GRADE: B.
WORK TO DATE: Showed a surprising nose for boards and worked hard on defense (if not always effectively) along with his unsurprising 3-point shooting (league-leading 49.4 percent). As undrafted rookies go, he’s a steal so far.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Learn to do more with less time on the court; during the month of February, Morrow has received a grand total of 6 minutes and 21 seconds’ worth of playing time, and hasn’t scored a point since Jan. 31. With the logjam on the wings, Morrow will no longer have time to get acclimated. He just needs to come out firing.
MID-TERM GRADE: C.
WORK TO DATE: He’s the Nuke LaLoosh of the NBA – wild, impulsive, full of boundless energy, with athleticism that goes off the charts and the impression (IMHO) that his raw talent would carry him through. Every board gobbled up at the defensive end or highlight-worthy rejection has been canceled out, by a blown assignment or an ill-advised shot.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Keep his head down and put up big numbers in terms of rebounds and blocks while reining himself in offensively. That may not change Nelson’s mind about him, long-term, but if he succeeds at that, some team will probably be interested enough to bite on a trade package.
MID-TERM GRADE: A-minus.
WORK TO DATE: Outside of Matt Barnes in 2006, Turiaf might be the Warriors’ best free-agent signing since they brought in Avery Johnson to replace the injured Tim Hardaway just before the 1993-94 season (when AJ would lead Golden State to 50 wins). Turiaf won’t have that kind of impact on this team, but he filled a void and then some; the team’s defense has been strengthened whenever he’s on the floor (2.8 percent drop in eFG% with him out there versus not), and he’s shown a nice ability to play not just screen-pop but also true screen-roll in the absence of Biedrins these last few games.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Keep on keepin’ on.
MID-TERM GRADE: B.
WORK TO DATE: It’s easy to concentrate on all the things he’s not – not a great leader on the break, not a great individual defender, looks for his own shot too much, etc. – but for what the Warriors are paying him ($711,517), he’s given them great value as a backup point guard.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: As one of the Warriors’ few definite free agents, he should look to consolidate the gains he’s made in 3-point shooting and also try to show some expanded court vision to make himself more attractive to teams looking for a relatively inexpensive option at the point this summer.
MID-TERM GRADE: INC.
WORK TO DATE: Well, at least he didn’t pull off his sweatpants for one of his brief stints in a game and find he’d forgotten to put game shorts on.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Be packed and ready to go elsewhere as soon as the season ends.
MID-TERM GRADE: B.
WORK TO DATE: Came into his own for a brief time in December after Maggette’s hamstring injury left Nelson with few options at the 4. His baby hook in the lane is practically unblockable, and he was just beginning to refine that move when he dislocated his left shoulder on Jan. 7 and hasn’t played since. Unfortunately, it seems like it’ll be back to square one for Wright when he does get back.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Get healthy and stay healthy. No one wants to be tagged as fragile in this league, but that’s exactly where Wright’s at right now.
MID-TERM GRADE: C-plus.
WORK TO DATE: Refused to acknowledge that small ball was not working for weeks after running Al Harrington – a guy who could have helped make that style a success — out of town in exchange for yet another guard. His tough love may have transformed Randolph’s previously lax practice habits, but the almost arbitrary distribution of playing time to the rookie hasn’t done any favors to his stock as a trading chip.
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Among the veterans, see how Crawford and Ellis are going to fare as a pairing. After that: Get the youngsters more playing time. One of the major reasons to extend Nelson’s contract was so he wouldn’t worry about trying to catch Lenny Wilkens, the NBA’s all-time winningest coach, this season. That’s a good theory for a team that is building around a youthful core; now Nelson has to follow through with the plan.
MID-TERM GRADE: C.
WORK TO DATE: Signed Stephen Jackson to a maximum-allowable contract extension, doing so nearly two years before Jackson’s current deal was set to expire and offering no concrete explanation why Jackson merited that treatment while the team played hardball with its other free-agents-to-be. Appears to be the instigator behind the stripping of Chris Mullin’s authority, a situation which continues to drag out in painful slow motion. Rowell gets credit for keeping the Arena mostly full despite some miserable ball for much of the first two months of the season, but his sales staff – one he often boasts as being the best in the league – faces its toughest challenge in a couple of years as season-ticket renewals for 2009-10 go out. The Warriors have one of the most loyal fan bases in the NBA, but will loyalty trump a horrid California economy?
GOALS FOR APRIL 15: Sell, baby, sell.
28 Responses to “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? — The Warriors Edition”
Blackgsd February 17th, 2009 at 9:28 pm
Love your blog but you are way too kind to Nellie and the FO. IMHO.
Marques8 February 17th, 2009 at 9:52 pm
I thought these were remarkably good except when you got to Nellie and sang “Row, row, your boat” yet again. If Bellinelli is a C plus, Nellie, has to be at least a B minus. I also thought your grade for Monte given how long he’s been back and the condition he is in was more unkind than wise. As for Harrington, Mike D has already called him out a couple of times as a selfish player.
CURSE OF MULLIN February 17th, 2009 at 9:58 pm
Are you kidding–Nelson a C plus; Rowell a C? Rowell and Nelson are responsible for this schizophrenic mess the Warriors call a Front Office. Before signing Maggette and Crawford and extending Jackson, the Ws were well-situated to develop their young talent and wait to play the FA market next year to add the young PG they so desperately need. Now, a mere six months later, we are in one of the worst trade positions in the league going forward, and Nelson won’t play talented youth BW and AR because he’s consumed with his short-term individual win total goal at the expense of the team’s long-term development. C plus and C? Boy how I wish you had been grading me in high school.
So he signed Jack to an extension before he hit the FA market, ensuring that the W’s control a very good player’s fate (be it as a Warrior or a trade chip), and iced out the guy who wanted to hand over the W’s to Baron Davis. I agree, a C isn’t good enough. Rowell is the most underappreciated guy, simply for those 2 moves… The Maggette signing hasn’t proven to be as bad as everyone here hoped - Maggs is being maximized as a player right now - and the Turiaf signing was a steal. As much as I hated retaining Buke, he too holds positive value, but can only be traded if he agrees to it..
Monta Ellis deserves an F. So does the Warriors medical staff.
Mike W. February 17th, 2009 at 11:29 pm
Your analysis would have been a lot more astute if you had divided the first 54 games into two sections: Without-Monta and With-Monta. Since he returned, the team is very different, and so are some of the players. You noted how much better Jackson’s stats have been in the past 18 games, without noting that his improvement occurred when Monta took much of the burden off his shoulders. Corey’s emergence as a terrific 6th man occurred at about the same time. Lumping everything together made for an unbalanced, even stale, approach. Grade: C.
Chris Cohan February 17th, 2009 at 11:44 pm
Geoff, you suck for having a free blog we can visit and act like a-holes in.
Chris Cohan February 17th, 2009 at 11:45 pm
Once upon a time, I was feltMike.
Just launch your bloggie already, felty.
Twinkie defense February 18th, 2009 at 12:06 am
Hey Lep, re. your criticism of Nellie & smallball: what happened to the lineup project? Who’s been winning games for the Warriors the last few weeks? And are the two things related?
quite making sense twinkie!
Twinkie defense February 18th, 2009 at 12:28 am
Outstanding report card overall Geoff, especially the descriptions of Jamal Crawford and Stephen Jackson. Crawford’s desire to play point guard has been all talk, and Jackson’s All-Star caliber play of late isn’t enough to forget a November and December full of turnovers, missed shots and that mysterious wrist injury. He’s simultaneously amazing and horrible.
Thought a few grades were too high, however. Monta Ellis deserves a D-plus at best since his injury was avoidable and effectively ruined the Warriors’ season. Brandan Wright’s interior defense and nonexistent rebounding alone make him less than a B-grade power forward, before we even get into his fragility. Don Nelson is the only coach who’s actually admitted during an NBA season that he needs a defensive coordinator, and has spent an inordinate amount of time bashing a 19-year-old in the press while letting Jackson and Crawford do whatever they want at all times.
That said, it was a really great read and an outstanding summary of a strange first half of the season for the Warriors.
One final question: what grade would Chris Mullin get? Incomplete? Maybe it doesn’t matter since he’s about to go to the Knicks as a transfer student.
I got some numbers for Twinkie. We’re 16 games under .500 playing this stupid smallball all year. We’re -16 in the W-L playing this crap, how about that for numbers?
LOL@anyone talking after some weak ass 3 game win streak, haha We went (9-7) during a stretch 12 out of 16 at home, AT HOME. That is nothing to brag about.
[...] Jackson in the second half. . . Check out Geoff Lepper’s first half Warriors report card on 48minutes.net. A couple of his grades were a tad generous in my opinion (Monta, Wright and Nellie to be [...]
You write, “One of the major reasons to extend Nelson’s contract was so he wouldn’t worry about trying to catch Lenny Wilkens, the NBA’s all-time winningest coach, this season.”
That might have been the GSW management’s reasoning for signing Nelson but Don Nelson’s (DOB 5/14/1940) is old enough to count and plan out every year of his life. Extension or not, he’s going to want to reach that NBA record ASAP.
I can see him wanting to swap young talent for vets. so he can reach that record sooner and with fewer gray hairs. Trades might not happen since vets are expensive and salary cap issues rule the front office.
Chris Cohan February 18th, 2009 at 8:23 am
I think you’ve angered the masses by not giving Marco Belinelli an A+
Rowell gets an F. The only 2 reasons that Oracle fills up are
1)season ticket holders renewed a few weeks before Rowell let Baron walk so they end up giving away or selling most of their tickets below cost. Kind of obvious when you look at how many people are selling their tickets on Craigslist and Stubhub this year compared to the last few years where it was difficult to find a ticket. (I am a STH.)
2) the Warriors sell as many tickets they have left at $8 to fill the place up.
As he has stated in an interview with Hu, everyone has a boss, he’s “the boss”. Way to go boss!!! Let’s see you fill up the Oracle next season when one third of the season ticket holders walk.
CazzieRussell February 18th, 2009 at 9:45 am
Objective, national writers, on the outside looking in, refer to the Warriors as the most dysfunctional team in the league & Rowell gets a “C”?!!
commish February 18th, 2009 at 10:21 am
I presume the C for Rowell is the average of an F for basketball managment IQ and an A for keeping butts in the seats. Otherwise the C is a joke. And Nelson’s grade: dude, we are 16 games under .500 and Nelson has shown no remorse or inclination to correct his tendencies from the last two year. Dude, he created a “defensive coordinator” and walked away from what should be at least half a coach’s responsibility. I sure don’t understand his grade at all.
No one on this team should get more than a C they have all had their moments to shine as well as fall flat on their faces .
You give CJ a pass because of his salary ?
If our bigs were actually playing at a level worthy of A’s and B’s we would be going to the playoffs .
M.Squared February 18th, 2009 at 11:54 am
-A “C” for Rowell? Really? Rowell gets an “F”. The only way you can give him a C is if you are counting the kissing skills that he demonstrated on Stephen Jackson’s Ass with that ridiculous extention. That one move alone is a fireable offense.
-As for the rest, AB, Turiaf and Buike are the only guys really earning their checks on this team. Others have shown flashes but nothing resembling consistency or solid value ( as evidenced by other teams having no interest in speaking with the W’s at the trade deadline).
-While we’re at it, lets’ bump Nellie down to a D too. I could have coached them to 19 wins- maybe even a few more if you consider that 2-3 games were lost because no one could inbound the ball (with a lead) in the closing seconds. And if I couldn’t- then I guarantee that the young guys would be farther along at this point.
-Monta should get an F just for admitting he was riding a moped. At least lie and say it was a dirt bike or something……
M.Squared February 18th, 2009 at 12:04 pm
Pre-Monta, Post Monta, it doesnt matter…. this team wasn’t a playoff team from the middle of the summer. Everyone who wants to blame this season on injuries should put the crack pipe down.
Utah has missed Williams for considerable time and has missed Boozer from pretty much the whole season and they have made due. Houston has missed a lot of key players as well. This is not a team you can blame injury woes on.
I agree, it was horrible how Rowell signed Jack to a below market value contract before 2010… it would have been a better move to allow him to continue boosting his value through us and then leaving us to sign with a contender… damn you Rowell!
Lepper’s best line: “and offering no concrete explanation why Jackson merited that treatment while the team played hardball with its other free-agents-to-be.”
Give me a break… Pietrus/Baron/Barnes? Do you really need a concrete explanation for any of those 3? All of you stooges who pine for Mullin crack me up.. 4-56 for Baron Davis would have been the worst thing this franchise could have done… I’d rather have gimmickball for 3 years than Baron for 4…
CazzieRussell February 18th, 2009 at 2:23 pm
FNQ, there’s not a GM in the league that would have given Jackson that extension then!
Damn u Rowell!!!
M.Squared sez “This is not a team you can blame injury woes on.”
Clearly we can’t assess how the roster fits together because of injuries, so you can blame injuries for poorer than expected performance.
In addition, Baron Opts out for a horrible (Clippers fault) contract, a panicked signing of Maggette & Williams to fill the hole and Ellis’s moped injury all happened after the draft.
Front office problems and our awesome new strategy to signs vets to long term contracts without regard to the deteriorating economic climate (and impact to NBA salary cap).
Top it with a coach chasing the NBA record for wins with no regard to developing players.
Joe Sez some financially struggling NBA team relocates from a small market to San Jose, a wealthy city with NBA ready stadium and large fan base.
M.Squared February 19th, 2009 at 12:39 am
My apologies, I didnt know you and “Bobby” are related. How is it below market when he is getting a max extention? He’s 30 years old and is going to be making max $ til he is 34? Yeah- great deal. I like Jackson. He is frustrating at times- but I think he is a good player and has had a helluva month– BUT- he is not a #1. His best years are as 3rd option who defends, passes and knocks down open J’s. Jack is not a guy you pay max $ to shoot 25 times per night. And with 2 years to go on a deal- there are about 5-7 guys you extend in this league right now: Kobe, Dwight, LBJ, Deron, Paul, Durant, Bosh.
Injuries or not- the team is not built to get into the playoffs- and if by chance it did- it’s not going past round 1. Straight fact. Good teams weather storms and play through injuries as evidenced by Houstons 17 game run last year. As much as I like some of the Ws youth- Wright-Marco etc… their health wasn’t putting us into the 8th playoff spot and Monta wasn’t either. With a basketball mind handling the Harrington trade and telling Jack to play out his 2 years and we’d be in the middle of a lot of trade discussion between now and summer that would present ways to fix this roster.
M.Squared February 19th, 2009 at 12:42 am
SJ Grizzlies. It could happen. The Fex ex center looks like the Coliseum in June. There’s no way they stay in Memphis.
Max extension isn’t the max he could get on the free agent market… and as a #2 that plays good defense, 3-27 is a steal… I don’t think he’s a #1 either, as he’s proven it at both stops before us. When Monta crapped out, Jack’s value took a big hit… but that doesn’t matter because there should be no intention of trading him now anyways..
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