Wow, the ten game winning streak that the Golden State Warriors had earlier this month seems like a distance memory as they are just 4-6 since that point and playing extremely inconsistent basketball. It’s puzzling why the Warriors can’t seem to get any consistency now that they’ve had all their starters back healthy for quite awhile. Why is this?
The easy thing to say is that the Warriors defense has been inconsistent and not up to their standard. That’s true. Defense is something that Coach Mark Jackson continues to preach, sometimes his message gets through, but sometimes the Warriors defense gets cut up like Swiss cheese. It’s surprising when it happens because Andre Iguodala has been one of the best perimeter defenders throughout his career and Andrew Bogut has gotten back to being the rim protector that he was pre-elbow injury.
The Warriors have two really good defenders. However, Stephen Curry and David Lee in particular are average defenders and that means that the Warriors need to play better team defense, which they aren’t doing well enough yet. Even though Curry and Lee aren’t great defenders they are much improved from years past which is why inconsistent defense with the starters is puzzling. Klay Thompson is a curious case. He has the potential to be a really good defender, which he’s shown, but far too often his defense isn’t present. The reason why will be explained later.
Another part of the Warriors inconsistencies on defense is Coach Jackson not playing Bogut enough minutes. He seems to have Bogut on a minutes count, but Bogut has shown that he’s healthy. Usually when he goes out is when the flood gates open ( i.e teams getting free reign to the basket because Marreese Speights is a very suspect defender) and teams also get countless offensive rebounds when Bogut departs from the game. Jackson resting Bogut has had a hand in a number of Warrior losses this year. He needs to commit to playing Bogut more, until Jermaine O Neal and Festus Ezeli come back from injury.
Getting back to Thompson. A key to the Warriors success this year was going to come down to how consistent Thompson would be. He’s still far too inconsistent, and it’s hurting the Warriors chances of living up to their expectations. Also, what’s apparent is that when Thompson’s three point shot isn’t falling he mopes around and hangs his head instead of focusing on other aspects of his game. When he has a bad shooting game is usually when his defense suffers. When he’s having a good game shooting the other elements of his game follow. He needs to find a way to bring the defensive intensity that he has shown flashes of on a consistent basis.
Thompson’s still a young player (23 going to be 24 this year) and still has time to develop into an efficient player. It’s scary because he’s averaging 19 points per game, while still being inconsistent. It’s easy to project the player he will be once he becomes consistent, which could happen very soon.
The last thing that remains a concern is the bench. The Warriors trade for Jordan Crawford has helped the bench. Crawford isn’t playing much ( should be playing more minutes), but he’s at least shown the ability to be a viable bench option, once Jackson gains his full trust.
It’s apparent that the Warriors bench either don’t have set plays run for them or they have no idea how to run the offense like they are supposed to. There are players shooting threes who shouldn’t be shooting threes over players who should get the ball more. A perfect example is Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Green is a valuable player: he’s tough, gives the Warriors physical play, is an elite defender and rebounder for his size, but he takes to many bad shots evidenced by his poor shooting percentage; 38 percent this season and 35 percent for his career.
All of this has relegated Barnes to a role player among the bench players, which is embarrassing, because he’s the most talented player on the bench unit, but there’s lots of instances where he looks lost and doesn’t know what to do. He’s been open several times and hasn’t gotten the ball. True, he’s not shooting great and his confidence is shattered right now. The bench role isn’t for him.
Barnes and Thompson should be switched. Thompson should come off the bench and Barnes should start with Curry, Iguodala, Lee and Bogut because he’s shown a comfort level playing with guys who actually run an offense and not just one on one basketball. Thompson coming off the bench will give the Warriors a bonafide scorer off the bench every night which would help the bench production significantly.
The Warriors are an exciting team to watch. With Curry and Thompson in particular they can be an impossible team to defend when they get hot. However, they still need to get better on the defensive end and get better production as well as cut down on careless turnovers.
Observing this team it’s clear that the Warrior bench is still missing Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry as they were big impact players last year and provided veteran leadership that the bench lacks this year. The Warriors aren’t on the championship level of OKC, Indiana and Miami just yet.
However, the season isn’t over and the Warriors have time to find another impact player if necessary and become more consistent on the defensive end. If they do these things they should still be a tough out come playoff time.