Draymond Green unsung hero? Yup.
30-22 is not a bad way to end the first half of the regular season for the still playoff-bound Golden State Warriors.
Granted, the five-game losing streak is bad and unearthed many holes that not many people could have foreseen—Andrew Bogut coming could actually be a problem? However, there's a six-day break ahead and that is ample enough time for many of the stars to recuperate.
As with any successful team, there are unsung heroes for the Warriors whose underappreciated play has helped lead the team to its strong start. These heroes run the length of the organization, from players and coaches to the front office. It has been a team effort that has revitalized a franchise that had been stuck in the dumps for years—discounting a two-year jolt of energy the "We Believe" team provided.
Ranked from importance, these players, coaches, executives and aspects of the Warriors game have been underrated all season.
Draymond Green can't hit a jump shot to save his life at this point in his NBA career. Who knows why. He shot well in college at Michigan State, but that hasn't translated to the big leagues yet.
But we're not looking for superstars here, are we.
The reason Green makes this list is because he, as much as anyone, has been the face of the Warriors transformation from a soft, wide-open offensive team to a gritty, more physical one. If Andrew Bogut was healthy this season, he'd arguably play a significant role in this new identity, but Green's tenacity and willingness to perhaps play a bit dirty (?) have earned him tough-man status in the locker room.
Willing to play a little rough and not back down has been Green's calling card this season. From calling out the Houston Rockets to mouthing off to the King himself, the Dancing Bear has no issues tangling with the best.
There are still many holes to his game: if he doesn't start to hit jump shots or improve his offense in general, he'll have difficulty cracking the rotation. However, at this juncture of his career, his ability to elevate the toughness of the team alone earns him one of this season's unsung heroes nominations.
Landry has been strong all season and may need more minutes down the stretch.
As Bogut works himself slowly back into the rotation, Carl Landry has been phased out a bit. Landry has played a season-low 21.1 minutes per game this month.
However, it hasn't been due to poor play. In fact, Landry has played exceptionally well both in the post and opposite David Lee.
Landry's ability to pin his man down under the basket, post up and finish has earned him respect as another tough player off the bench. Unlike the starting unit, the bench has proved to be a down-and-dirty squad that has sparked the Warriors on many occasions.
With Lee obviously fatigued during the five-game losing streak and Bogut still not 100 percent, perhaps it is time for Landry to play several more minutes. His veteran leadership, with that of teammate Jarrett Jack, should lead this very young team down the stretch.
Curry's shooting has helped open up the offense.
There are no slashers in the Warriors offense.
There are no true post-up players in the Warriors offense.
There is no elite swingman they can build the offense around.
So how is it that they are able to rank ninth in offensive efficiency in the NBA?
Simply put, Stephen Curry's three-point shot. This isn't simply Curry running the offense by himself and sinking bombs from the perimeter; instead it's what his perimeter presence does in opening up things for his teammates that has proved so effective.
Hoopspeak.com posted a fine article that depicted how the Warriors offense is essentially inverted from that of other NBA teams. We see the Houston Rockets driving, kicking and slashing their way to open threes, but the Warriors rely on the threat of Curry's shot and the spacing he provides.
It doesn't hurt that Lee, Curry, Bogut and even Thompson know exactly where to put the ball when the defense is scrambling.
The offense has slowed down a bit in the past week, but there's no reason to think that the 44.7 three-point shooting guard from Davidson will stop spacing the floor.
The only thing slowing Curry from reaching superstardom is that annoying ankle.
Mark Jackson has done well in his second season as Warriors head coach but assistant coach Mike Malone deserves credit as well.
When Mark Jackson was first hired as the coach of the Golden State Warriors, all fans were thinking about was his lack of coaching experience and perhaps the beginning of another bad coaching experience.
Well, that and "HAND DOWN, MAN DOWN".
With much less fanfare, Mike Malone was hired as the assistant coach of the Warriors shortly thereafter. His renowned defensive coaching attacted many suitors.
Malone was the lead assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Hornets before being hired away by Golden State. He has been courted by several teams for head coaching openings and was nearly hired by Mike Brown, ex-coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
For some odd reason, he decided to come to Golden State. Maybe he just wanted a challenge. And what a difference he has made.
I don't want to attribute all the improvements to Malone, as Jackson has assuredly played a huge part in the turnaround, but there was a reason why other teams wanted a piece of Malone.
His admirable defensive tactics have been able to hide to some degree the flaws of Curry and Lee on the defensive end. This year's Warriors team plays the pick-and-roll on defense much more aggressively than in prior seasons, hedging out more forcefully to stop the passer. They've also bolstered their rebounding and have done a better job clogging the paint, thus forcing more perimeter shots.
Despite the recent slide, the Warriors are still ranked 15th in defensive efficiency, according to Hoopdata. With Bogut slowly acclimating back to full speed, the defense has nowhere to go but up.
Jack has been one of Myers' best pickups in an underrated offseason.
How often do fans or even writers even mention the executive of a team for having an excellent season?
Beside R.C. Buford and Sam Presti, there aren't many other general managers who have their names connected to excellence. Even though it's been one year, Bob Myers has done an terrific job compiling a team that not only has an excellent core and oozes potential but also fits extremely well together.
He knew the team wouldn't be the most athletic, so he focused on its deficiencies and traded fan favorite Monta Ellis immediately. While Bogut hasn't exactly been the elite low-post center he was in Milwaukee, the absence of the ball-sticking Ellis has helped this offense thrive.
Signing Landry from the bargain bin and trading for Jack have been huge under-the-radar moves that have spurred on one of the best benches in the NBA. And don't forget Kent Bazemore, who has played meaningful minutes and conducted many rather absurd celebrations from the bench.
Throw in the fact that Brandon Rush was supposed to be the main starting small forward this season, and there's a strong case to be made for Bob Myers as Executive of the Year.
Throw in the fact that it appears ownership has no mandate on how much Myers can spend reveals how much confidence they have in the young general manager.