Golden State Warriors Final 2011-2012 Season Report Card: Frontcourt
What a season for the Golden State Warriors, one that started out with hope and optimism featured struggling performances, injuries, trade rumors and displeasure of team ownership. The 2011-2012 campaign ended in disappointment and apathy, with Golden State redundantly extending their curse by finishing with a losing record and missing the playoffs—again.
The season was so upside-down that fans were hoping the Dubs would intentionally lose in order to help retain the team’s draft pick in the upcoming NBA lottery. And yet through all the sufferable turmoil, the Warriors fanbase remained as loyal as ever, finishing with the third-highest attendance average in team history (18,858 per game). Amazing, given the franchise’s tortuous past couple of decades. However, Warriors fans know that it’s certainly possible for worse things to happen.
With the regular season over, it’s time to dish out some year end grades. After all the player shuffling and roster adjustments throughout the year, we’ll evaluate the front court and backcourt on the final roster.
Here are the final grades for Warriors forwards and centers in 2011-2012.
Andris Biedrins, C
Andris Biedrins' career is moving backward.
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Final season averages: 1.7 ppg; 3.7 rpg; 1.0 bpg; 60.9 field-goal percentage; 15.7 mpg
There is nowhere better to start that from the bottom and Andris Biedrins resides in the cellar of the Warriors organization. What a terrible, horrible, sickening season Biedrins put together this past year.
The team’s starting center was often on the outside looking in, both offensively and defensively. He was essentially demoted by midseason, replaced by Ekpe Udoh, but then awarded his starting role by default after Udoh was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Soon thereafter, however, Biedrins was sidelined by various ailments, which ended up being a blessing for the team as a whole, fans and Biedrins’ overall pride.
It’s not often that a 25-year-old, eighth-year NBA player regresses to the point of putting up the worse numbers of his entire career. But that’s exactly what happened with Biedrins this past season. He averaged less than one field goal made per game (1.7 points). How is that possible?
Well, Biedrins’ confidence has been so shot that he, ironically, does not shoot the ball. He attempted only 64 field goals in 739 total minutes in 47 appearances all season. By contrast, Mickell Gladness, who ended up replacing Biedrins at center by season’s end, finished with 59 field-goal attempts in only 26 games. Biedrins essentially attempted one field goal for every 11.5 minutes he was on the floor. That’s only about once per quarter of basketball.
It’s a sad, sad case to watch. Just three seasons ago, Biedrins averaged 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. What has happened?
He has fallen out of favor with three different head coaches—Don Nelson, Keith Smart and now Mark Jackson. But he doesn’t have the facilitators to get him into situations where he can excel. True, Biedrins is not a dominant player; but he clearly has the athletic abilities to contribute at both ends of the court.
Unfortunately, he probably has played his last days in Golden State. After a putrid performance this season, the Warriors need to apply the amnesty clause on Biedrins and give the team a new look and allow him to start over with a clean slate somewhere else.
Final Grade: F-. Biedrins’ best game last year came in the Warriors’ season opener—10 points with eight rebounds and three blocked shots. He did not score more points in a game for the remainder of the season and he topped eight rebounds only three times the rest of the way.
Mickell Gladness, C
Final season averages: 3.0 ppg; 2.6 rpg; 1.1 bpg; 42.9 field-goal percentage
The Warriors were desperate for any performance from the center position; so in mid-March, Golden State signed rookie Mickell Gladness to a 10-day contract after he had been released by the Miami Heat. By season’s end, Gladness found himself in the Warriors’ starting lineup.
Golden State didn’t exactly thrust him into the rotation right away, however. Gladness mostly appeared off the bench; and when he did start, he did not receive significant playing time. Thus, his statistics were not all that eye-catching: 3.0 points, 2.6 rebounds in 12.4 minutes per game.
In limited action, Gladness did prove he can contribute defensively, putting up 1.1 blocks per game with Golden State. Obviously, he was not called upon to be an offensive weapon, but his numbers were worsened by the fact that by season’s end, the Dubs featured an all-rookie backcourt that was likely unable to put Gladness in position to make baskets. Given the nature of the team’s last month of the season—undermanned, five rookies in the starting lineup and an ambition to lose intentionally—Gladness took a lot of jump shots instead of scoring on put-backs or layups.
Whatever the end result, Gladness was simply happy to find himself on an NBA roster and was even more smiley to be in a starting lineup. Not bad for an undrafted rookie.
Final Grade: C-. His numbers indicate he was not all that impressive, but given the circumstances of the team’s roster, he performed adequately. He wasn’t asked to do anything in particular other than to be a healthy body in the front court, first filling in for David Lee and then stepping in for Andris Biedrins. Gladness has some length that disrupts the opposing offenses; but he clearly is not a long-term solution at center—nor is he really a short-term one either.
Richard Jefferson, SF
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Final season averages (with GSW): 9.0 ppg; 3.5 rpg; 1.5 apg; 41.8 three-point percentage
What at first appeared to be a random trade turned out to be a pleasant surprise for Golden State Warriors fans. The Dubs acquired swingman Stephen Jackson (and Andrew Bogut) in the deal that sent guard Monta Ellis and forward Ekpe Udoh to the Milwaukee Bucks. Jackson’s reunion with Golden State did not last long, as he was quickly swapped to the San Antonio Spurs for another aging veteran small forward, Richard Jefferson.
It didn't seem to make a lot of sense, especially given the fact that he has a couple years remaining on his contract. But he turned out to be a delightful contributor to the young Warriors team for the final month and a half.
What he lacked in true on-court performance, he more than made up for with sportsmanship and leadership off the bench. For a precocious Dubs squad that featured six different rookies in the rotation down the stretch, Jefferson’s presence off the bench was vital to the team keeping its collective composure and playing through some tough times. Though he is not the scorer he used to be, the 11th-year swingman came through with some solid three-point shooting and steady contributions off the bench.
Will that be enough for Golden State to keep him next season? Wait and see.
Jefferson hasn’t exactly been the type of player to have the offense run through him; and at this stage of his career, he’s more of a role player who fills up the stat sheet in other areas. He doesn’t demand the ball, though he’s still capable of scoring via slashes to the basket or spotting up from the perimeter. As a bench player with the Warriors, he seemed to fit nicely with the team’s second unit. Maybe he has found a new home with Golden State.
Final Grade: C. Nothing in particular jumps out from Jefferson’s stint with the Dubs. He had some effective games where he’d ship in double-digit scoring, and the follow that up with marginal performances. But overall, he seemed to complement the Warriors bench nicely.
David Lee, PF
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Final season averages: 20.1 ppg; 9.6 rpg; 2.8 apg; 50.3 FG%; 78.2 FT%
The Warriors’ most valuable player last season was David Lee. With Stephen Curry out for the majority of the year nursing numerous ankle injuries, and after star guard Monta Ellis was shipped to Milwaukee, the veteran Lee was the de facto man in charge. He was the Dubs’ best player remaining and the team leaned heavily on him to lead a squad of young, inexperienced rookies and role players.
Lee became the focal point of the team’s offense, averaging 23.2 points in 19 games after the Ellis trade. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was so green and unproven that they only won five of those games. But not for lack of effort from Lee’s end.
For most of the 2011-2012 season, Lee was a true warrior, playing through and with various injuries, until finally he was forced to sit out the last eight games of the season. He ultimately underwent surgery to repair torn abdominal and abductor muscles.
Though Lee is not exactly in the same class as other Western Conference power forwards, he is still a solid scorer and capable rebounder. His defense is nothing to be excited about, but overall, Lee is a formidable front court player who hopefully will complement a healthy Stephen Curry next season.
Final Grade: A-. His numbers across the board were not overly eye-popping, but he did finish 13th in the NBA in double-doubles, 27, despite missing nine games. That’s nothing to scoff at. However, the pressure of having to be the primary scorer affected his efficiency. He set a career high in terms of field-goal attempts per game, 16.2, but his 50.3 field-goal percentage was a career low. Still, a solid effort considering the surrounding cast and the unfortunate circumstances throughout the season.
Dominic McGuire, F
Dominic McGuire was a formidable defender this season, even against Kobe Bryant
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Final season averages: 3.5 ppg; 3.8 rpg; 1.7 apg; 44.8 field-goal percentage
Dominic McGuire was signed by the Warriors last offseason as a free agent, and he was expected to come off the bench and provide defensive effort to a team that traditionally has struggled on that end of the court.
But due to a whirlwind of circumstances to the Warriors’ starting lineup, McGuire contributed in areas that were quite unanticipated.
The lack of depth in the backcourt was apparent after injuries, trades and inexperience forced coach Mark Jackson to give McGuire the ball-handling duties, i.e, bringing up the ball. Not that McGuire became the point forward and dished out tons of assists; but his versatility allowed Jackson to manage the lineup during a critical stretch when the team was without serviceable guards.
In addition, the fifth-year forward demonstrated that he is a quality on-the-ball defender, capable of going up against smaller point guards and longer, stronger front court players. His skillfulness at the defensive end of the court may not have changed the result of many games; but McGuire exhibited tenacity that the rest of the team needed to even have a chance to remain competitive.
Final Grade: C+. McGuire’s strength is his one-on-one defense, and he showed he can contain opponents to a certain extent. He didn’t exactly rack up the stats that would support this notion; but on-the-ball defense isn’t necessarily about accumulating steals or blocked shots. McGuire is a legitimate defender, and he is rewarded for his effort at that end of the floor.
Mikki Moore was down but not out
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Final season averages: 3.4 ppg; 3.1 rpg; 0.4 bpg; 45.0 field-goal percentage
Mikki Moore’s story is one of perseverance. Prior to this season, the last time the 13-year center/forward appeared in an NBA game was with Golden State in 2010. Surgery to remove a bone spur in his right heel ended his season, and he had been recovering ever since.
The Warriors re-signed him as a free agent in mid-April, mostly so that the team could field enough players in uniform to have a full bench. The 36-year-old Moore had been rehabbing in the Developmental League prior to being called up by Golden State.
Moore only appeared in seven games with the Dubs, finishing with averages of 3.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Obviously, the Warriors weren’t exactly asking for more from him, so these stats are hard to evaluate. The good news is that from a professional standpoint, Moore is healthy looks like he’s still capable of producing off the bench for an NBA team in the future.
Final grade: C-. Nothing major to report. Simply impressed that after missing the entire 2010-2011 campaign, Moore is back at full strength and ready to continue his NBA career. Props for his determination to get back.
Brandon Rush, SF
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Final season averages: 9.8 ppg; 3.9 rpg; 0.9 bpg; 50.1 FG percentage; 45.2 three-point percentage
What an impressive campaign for Brandon Rush. What seemed to be a somewhat innocuous free agent signing last offseason turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the Golden State Warriors.
Rush was an member of the Dubs’ exciting second unit and he established career highs in nearly every relevant statistical category, including points per game (9.8), assists per game (1.4), blocks per game (.9) and field-goal percentage (50.1). But it was his deadly long-range accuracy that helped Golden State finish as the second-best three-point shooting percentage in the league. Rush’s own 42.5 three-point percentage placed him sixth in the NBA.
Not bad considering he only started one game all season.
It was that efficiency that helped Rush quickly become a fan favorite off the bench. He was a versatile offensive spark for the Dubs, and Mark Jackson ultimately used him more often down the stretch than he did starting small forward Dorell Wright.
Maybe that is a sign of things to come next season?
Final grade: A-. Rush was a force on both ends of the floor, as his defensive effort is what helped him remain in close games down the stretch. But let’s not rush to judgment here. Though he played at a high level, Rush’s role is clearly that of a bench player. Still, he was one of the league’s best sixth men, on a team full of them.
Jeremy Tyler played a lot of garbage time this season
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Final season averages: 4.9 ppg; 3.3 rpg; 42.1 field-goal percentage
The rookie center didn’t do too much this past season. He shuttled a bit between Golden State and their Developmental League affiliate. But Tyler became a staple on the roster when the Warriors desperately needed able bodies to fill the bench with so many regulars injured.
After appearing in only a handful of games off the bench, Tyler finished the season somewhat strongly as the team’s starting power forward. In the month of April, Tyler averaged 8.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Not too shabby.
There are some obvious holes in his game, though, as Tyler struggled with his efficiency on the offensive end. His shot selection was suspect, as he finished with a dismal 42.1 field-goal percentage. But as a rookie, he’ll definitely make strides to utilize his strengths in the paint. Additionally, a starting lineup with five rookies made the fluidity of the offense grind to a halt.
Final grade: D+. Nothing to jump up and down about. Tyler would agree that his offensive games needs a ton of work. He is not a jump shooter by trade, but many of his field goal attempts were outside of the paint, and that’s not where he is most effective. In time, he can succeed—but probably as a role player off the bench.
Chris Wright, F
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Final season averages: 2.9 ppg; 1.9 rpg; 51.1 FG percentage; 77.4 FT percentage
The last game of the season is what skews Chris Wright’s grade. With the Warriors limited in the number of healthy bodies on the roster, coach Mark Jackson decided to put Wright into the starting lineup to see what the rookie could do.
The answer: deliver.
The 23-year-old Wright played 46 minutes and scored 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting in a very meaningless game. Most of his points were on dunks and put-backs. Still, Wright’s performance raised some eyebrows. The 6'8" power forward showed efficiency and skillfulness around the paint, something the Warriors struggled with for the entire season—even more so after David Lee went down.
If a grade were given based on that single game, Wright would definitely have straight As across the board. But based on his limited action and generally sparse productivity throughout the year, it’s hard to give him high marks.
Final grade: C-. Clearly, Wright demonstrated that he has the ability to be a formidable scoring threat—if he’s given ample playing time. In a game in which the Warriors started five rookies, Wright took the reins and showed what he is capable of, and that is leading a team in points scored. Of course, Wright would not have put up those numbers had the Warriors featured any relevant scoring options, and if Mark Jackson used more than two bench players. But Wright has to be commended for his presence manning the middle.
Dorell Wright, SF
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Final season averages: 10.3 ppg; 4.6 rpg; 1.5 apg; 1.0 spg; 36.0 three-point percentage
Much had been said about Dorell Wright’s performance this season. How his face was plastered on milk cartons for being missing in action all year. After churning out a stellar 2010-2011 campaign in which he finished third in the Most Improved Player Award voting, Wright was widely considered to be in a season-long slump this year, as nearly all of his numbers across the board slipped.
But a closer inspection reveals that his efficiency was not that far off from last season. His field-goal percentage (42.2) and three-point percentage (36.0) were only a few ticks off from his numbers from the previous season. The real issue was the quantity of his scoring, not the quality.
For some reason or another, coach Mark Jackson did not have faith in Wright, and Wright’s minutes suffered as a result. After averaging 38.4 minutes per game last year (seventh most in the league), Wright only appeared in 27.0 minutes per contest this season.
This explains how Wright’s cumulative numbers dropped. In 2010-2011, Wright led the NBA in threes made, and he averaged one three-pointer made every 16.2 minutes played. This year, Wright played nearly half as many total minutes as he did last season, and he finished with one three-pointer made every 15.7 minutes played. He was effectively more prolific.
That’s why it’s somewhat unexplainable as to how Wright could get lost in the shuffle this year. With point guard Stephen Curry out for the majority of the year nursing injuries, it would have seemed logical that Wright would get more scoring opportunities. And after Monta Ellis was traded midseason, should Wright receive more action on the offensive end?
Clearly, Jackson favored bench swingman Brandon Rush, whose defense as well as his three-point marksmanship were far superior to Wright’s. Rush received as much playing time as Wright and was inserted during more important moments of games. This effectively made Wright the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Final grade: D. In Wright’s defense, Jackson just did not give Wright the opportunity to excel. Whatever new offensive system Jackson implemented made Wright feel uncomfortable, and Wright wasn’t confident enough to make up for it on the defensive end. It’s unfortunate to see such an improvement from a player one season and then to watch him regress the following year, evaporating into thin air as if all that progress never happened.
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