Busting a Myth About Each of the Top Members of the Golden State Warriors
Something's up with the Golden State Warriors. For the better part of two decades, the on-court product in Oakland has ranged from halfway decent to downright dreadful, with most seasons skewing toward the latter.
So how is it that the Warriors have managed to sell out game after game while retaining their rabid fans through such a long stretch of ugly play?
It's a bit of an oversimplification to call Warrior fans naive or gullible. But given the unwavering support during years of ineptitude, it's tempting to go there.
Really, it's more accurate to say that most Warrior fans tend to adopt a glass-half-full approach when it comes to their beloved Dubs. Perpetual optimism, revisionist history and some pretty forgiving hindsight have helped Warrior fans preserve hopeful attitudes through some pretty dark times.
Unfortunately, the same things that have kept Oracle roaring have given way to some pretty misguided perceptions of the players wearing the Blue and Gold. Because that sort of unwavering optimism can't coexist with objective analysis. The two don't mix.
So, having chosen optimism over objectivity, most Warrior fans have sacrificed their ability to make impartial assessments of their team's players. Warrior fans tend to believe what they want to believe about their beloved Dubs, and no amount of statistical evidence or factually supported opinion is likely to dissuade them.
And that type of attitude has given rise to a few stubbornly misguided opinions about this season's edition of the Warriors.
Here are a few myths about the 2012-13 Dubs that need busting.
Myth: Stephen Curry Is a Point Guard
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Stephen Curry can be a pretty good passer and a better-than-average ball handler. He can also be the best spot-up shooter in the NBA. The problem, of course, is that he can't really be both.
Curry is the Warriors' de facto point guard, but just because he brings the ball up the court doesn't mean he's really the team's best option to distribute and set up his teammates. He's been groomed as a shooter his whole life; plays are supposed to end—not start—with the ball in his hands.
A couple of stats prove the point. Curry ranked third in the entire NBA last season in spot-up shooting efficiency with a points-per-possession average of 1.38, according to Synergy Sports. He was also in the league's top five percent in shooting off of screens. However, among point guards, Curry ranked 36th in the NBA in assist rate in 2012-13.
Stephen Curry is not a point guard.
Myth: Klay Thompson Is the Next Reggie Miller
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This myth has been perpetuated recently by some prominent media members. It's easy to look at Klay Thompson's sweet outside stroke and conclude that he's the NBA's next great shooter. And I'm not even arguing the point that he's already among the league's best marksmen.
The problem with this myth is that it doesn't do justice to the rest of Thompson's offensive game. Sure, he was terrific on the catch and even better coming off screens. But he also showed he could score in isolation and in the post. In each of those offensive situations, Thompson rated in the top quarter of all NBA players.
And last year, Thompson was just getting his feet wet.
The fact is that the comparison to Reggie Miller begins and ends with Thompson's similarly deadly outside shooting. But really, Thompson's game is already far more multi-faceted than the one-dimensional Miller's ever was.
Myth: Harrison Barnes Can Shoot
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Everything about Harrison Barnes is polished. His jumper looks like it's pulled from a textbook, and he conducts himself like a seasoned pro in interviews. It's easy to understand why fans' hopes are so high for Barnes; he simply looks exactly how a sharp-shooting, prototype NBA small forward should.
But when you look at the numbers, there's really no indication that Barnes will be that guy.
Barnes' career college numbers, accumulated in two seasons at North Carolina, just aren't very encouraging—at least from a perimeter accuracy standpoint. He shot just 43 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the much shorter NCAA arc.
Fans might be encouraged by Barnes' summer league performance, where he hit 8-of-14 from three, but that's a pretty small sample size when compared to the 75 college games he played.
For what it's worth, I think Barnes has the ability to become a very good NBA player. But there's just no evidence that he's more than a below-average shooter right now.
Myth: David Lee Is Just a Scorer
But in defense (ironically) of Lee, the guy's not just a scorer. The video above shows he's got a good feel for the game and is a willing passer. He's a solid outlet distributor and is pretty clever in his interior passing, too.
Lee figures to finish a lot of pick-and-roll plays this season, which is an area where he excels. But also look for him to shovel a few quick ones to Andrew Bogut for easy dunks. And most of all, watch as he finds the Warriors' contingent of open shooters on the perimeter with accurate kick-outs.
David Lee doesn't play any defense, but he's more than just a scorer on the offensive end.
Myth: Andrew Bogut Is Injury-Prone
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Andrew Bogut said just about all that needed to be said on the myth that he's injury-prone in a radio interview with 95.7 The Game shortly after the Warriors acquired him last March.
The last two injuries, I can’t control falling on my arm and breaking everything in my right arm. And I can’t control having a good defensive quarter in Houston … and falling on a foot. If you call that chronic, it’s pretty uneducated in my opinion.
Bogut's right. He's been unlucky in the injury department, and saying there's any inherent frailty to the big Aussie is just plain ignorant.
The Warriors' new centerpiece does have a habit of putting himself in harm's way, but that's all part of being a defensive anchor. Hard contact is unavoidable.
Bogut is bound to absorb (and deliver) plenty of punishment whenever he plays, but it's not like his injury problems have been nagging hamstrings or sore knees. The guy has suffered a couple of flukey, catastrophic injuries.
Those things don't tend to repeat themselves.
Myth: Jarrett Jack Can Defend at the Point
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When the Warriors swung a deal for Jarrett Jack last July, it seemed Golden State had addressed many of its chief concerns. Jack could certainly back up either guard spot and had proved himself a capable starter should the Warriors need an injury replacement for Stephen Curry.
But the Warriors struggled to defend opposing point guards last season, allowing a below league average PER of 16.2 at the position.
And Jack probably won't help in that area. Last season, he was a vastly superior defender when matched up against opposing shooting guards, who couldn't take advantage of Jack's lack of quickness. He allowed point guards a PER of 16.7, against just 7.3 when he covered shooting guards.
In 2010-11, the story was similar. Jack allowed point guards a PER of 17.0, but held shooting guards to 13.4.
Jack will undoubtedly contribute as a leader, proven scorer and gritty competitor. And he'll be murder on opposing shooting guards. But he simply won't help the Dubs corral opposing point guards.
Myth: Brandon Rush's Brilliant Season Was a Fluke
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The fact that Brandon Rush got precisely zero free-agent offers from other teams this past offseason is a pretty good indication that the league has its doubts that he can duplicate his brilliant 2011-12 performance. Of course, the Warriors' plan to match any offer he received probably had an effect, too.
Nonetheless, it's easy to understand why some teams might see Rush's season as a fluke. He posted career-highs across the board, including a sizzling 45 percent from three-point range.
While it's unlikely Rush can exceed those numbers this year, there's a pretty good chance he'll come very close.
For his career, Rush has been shot 41 percent from three, and his other numbers weren't too far out of the norm, relative to his historical averages. The Warriors simply figured out the perfect role for him, and he's just entering his prime in what will be his fifth NBA season.
His PER has improved every year, along with his true shooting percentage. Rush's season wasn't a fluke; he was just coming into his own. Expect more of the same in 2012-13.
Myth: Andris Biedrins Can't Help the Warriors
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Few players have been as roundly maligned as Andris Biedrins over the past couple of seasons. In just three years, Biedrins has gone from being one of the NBA's most promising young players to one of its most derided.
Things bottomed out last season, when Biedrins averaged less than two points per game and plainly refused to engage offensively, for fear of being fouled.
But Biedrins is still just 26. He's also healthy and there's no longer any pressure on the Latvian big man. In fact, it's likely that rookie Festus Ezeli is already ahead of him on the depth chart at center. If all the Warriors need from Biedrins is 10 or 15 minutes of solid rebounding and rim protection per game, he can still give them that.
And maybe, just maybe, he'll rediscover a shred of his former confidence, which could make him a valuable player again.
Just about everyone has written Biedrins off this season, but he's still got the ability to be a contributor.