Golden State Warriors Stock Watch: Risers & Fallers at All-Star Break
The Golden State Warriors entered 2012-13 playing their worst basketball of the season. They have lost five straight games in pathetic fashion, and almost everyone is to blame.
However, the team's great play through 47 games had them at 30-17, meaning that even five straight losses hasn't even begun to derail their playoff aspirations.
In this article, I will assess the stock of every player in Golden State's rotation. Because the team has struggled so mightily over the past two weeks, I will not fault players too strongly for their ultra-recent play, but rather attempt to gauge what direction their game has been trending for some time, and whether they are on their way to a better or worse second half.
In some ways, Harrison Barnes' rookie campaign has been incredibly inconsistent. He averaged 8.3 points and 2.4 rebounds during his first seven NBA games, 13.1 and 7.6 in his next seven, 6.3 and 3.2 in his next 13, 12.2 and 4.8 over his next 10, 5.1 and 4.3 over his next seven and 12.3 and 3.6 in his most recent eight games.
While this consistent inconsistency may very well continue through the remainder of Barnes' first season, Barnes has quietly been one of the more consistent Warriors. When he isn't scoring, he stops shooting; when his attempts are falling, he stays aggressive.
This isn't the mentality of Stephen Curry, David Lee or Klay Thompson, nor should it be as they are the offensive leaders. This is also not an approach that Barnes can stick to if he hopes to become a star in this league. Nonetheless, the rookie is helping his team win by carrying them when he's on and getting out of their way when he isn't.
How far has Andris Biedrins fallen? In 2006-07, he was nicknamed the "Latvian Powerhouse." Before the 2007-08 season, he was given a six-year, $54 million contract. After the season, that looked like a bargain, as Biedrins led the league in field-goal percentage and nearly averaged a double-double. In 2008-09, he not only reached a double-double, but averaged 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
In 2012-13, Biedrins is having his best year since that 2008-09 season. He's only averaging 0.5 points and 3.1 rebounds, but his energy is high and his rebounding rate is actually pretty good when you consider that he plays under 10 minutes a night.
How far has Andris Biedrins fallen? So far that we're impressed by this.
For obvious reasons, Andrew Bogut's stock is up from where it was for most of the season. He's actually on the court, and he's put up good numbers—9.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.0 BPG, .556 FG percent—despite being out of game-shape and not used to the Warriors offense.
Here's the issue: No one doubted for a second if Bogut would be able to put up these type of numbers. They're far better than Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins combined, of course, but still way off Bogut's career averages.
Sure, Bogut's been the best center for the Warriors this season by a mile, but he hasn't been good enough to take over games or help the Warriors beat big teams, and a month ago we assumed he would be doing those things and more upon returning.
The Warriors are currently on a five-game losing streak. While Curry's numbers during the skid—19.6 PPG, 7.8 APG and a surprising 5.8 RPG—make him appear to be undeserving of blame, his shooting percentages—38.5 FG percent and 34.5 3-point percent—suggest otherwise. His defense has also been horrendous, as twice in the month of February he's made Jeremy Lin look like Deron Williams.
Of course, this is a very small stretch, and before the five-game slump, Curry was averaging 23.8 points and 6.6 assists while shooting the lights out to the tune of 47.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep.
To an extent, Curry will go as his shot goes, and the Warriors can live with that considering that he's the best shooter in the world right now. This season, however, had been less about Curry's stroke and more about his ability to take over games as a facilitator and perimeter defender. He'll need to get back to this type holistic game if the Warriors are going to get back to winning.
We all know Festus' limitations. He has few to no scoring moves. He struggles catching balls in the post. He can't shoot free throws. He can't pass. He commits too many fouls.
We also all knew that the Warriors were not going to go anywhere in the playoffs with Ezeli as their starting center. So while Andrew Bogut's assessment of the situation was harsh, it rang true. Ezeli should fit in much better as a bench option who can provide energy, size, defense and rebounding.
Strangely, Mark Jackson doesn't seem to agree. Since Bogut's return, Ezeli has only played in six of nine games and has yet to see six minutes of action in a game that Bogut dresses for. Andris Biedrins hasn't lost any minutes since Bogut's return, and Ezeli has dropped from starter to benchwarmer.
Draymond Green throws convention out the window. He has no natural position, no pure skills that seem to make him NBA-worthy, no consistent playing time and no statistical output worth looking at. One might point to his 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes as a good indicator of his value, but his projected 5.4 fouls quickly destroy that argument.
No, Draymond, at the surface, appears to be a fringe NBA player. What keeps him in the Warriors rotation (playing prime fourth-quarter minutes, no less)? Man defense, help defense, screen-setting, loose-ball grabbing, secondary assisting, intensity, unselfishness and basketball IQ.
These sound like a bunch of cliches, and it's true that any one of these skills does not make a great player. Given that, you'd be hard pressed to find another player in the NBA who does all of these intangible things as well as Draymond. When he's on the court, the Warriors play well, and that's the most important stat of all.
Over the past 14 games, Jarrett Jack is averaging 15.9 points, 7.6 assists, 45.9 percent shooting from the field and 41.5 percent from beyond the arc. This is while coming off the bench. Jack is not only the best backup point guard in the league, but he should be near the top of the sixth-man of the year discussion.
Of course, Jack has shortcomings that keep him from being a starter. He lacks the quickness to penetrate off the dribble and is consistently beaten on the defensive end. Still, Jarrett Jack has been the most clutch Warrior so far this season. As the games get tougher and the stakes get higher down the stretch, Jack's game should continue to get stronger.
The book on Carl Landry is simple. He gets on the offensive glass, can score in the low post and guard other similarly undersized power forwards very effectively. He also has a one-dimensional offensive game, doesn't run the floor well and gets abused by bigger players down low.
For most of the 2012-13 season, Landry's strengths were overpowering his weaknesses. His rebounding and scoring efficiency was so strong that he more than made up for his defensive shortcomings and lack of size. Lately, Landry's offense has cooled off and his rebounding rate has dropped, making him a liability to have on the court.
Even if Landry picks it up offensively again, Andrew Bogut's return and Draymond Green's well-rounded play provide better frontcourt options for Mark Jackson.
No one player is more to blame for the Warriors' current five-game losing streak than David Lee. He has failed to post a double-double in three of the five games (his previous three failures spanned 15 games), has failed to score 20 points four times (he had only not reached 20 in 10 games all season) and has doubled his season total of assist-less games from two to four.
As poor as his recent play may seem, it's only bad relative to the monster season Lee has enjoyed. He's been ultra-consistent: He's scored at least 10 points in every game since the season's first week, averaged 19 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and shot the ball at 51.4 percent despite finishing at the rim more rarely than most power forwards.
Lee has had some off games, and the Warriors have followed suit. The good news is that Lee will undoubtedly bounce back, and the numbers seem to indicate that the Warriors will again follow suit.
Klay Thompson is overrated as a shooter. Or at least, the Warriors offense overrates him. While Thompson certainly has the ability to take over a game by becoming unconscious from long range, he's more streaky than he is knock-down. He's shooting 41.6 percent from the field, a very low number for a guy who isn't out there grabbing offensive boards, setting screens or tallying up assists.
Sure, his 38.9 percentage from three-point range is very good, especially when you consider the fact that he jacks up almost seven treys a night. As lazy as these shots seem, a Klay Thompson three is worth 116.7 points per 100 possessions, far better than the 106.3 they average as a team.
And sure, when he's rebounding and defending like he has almost all season (the five-game losing streak notwithstanding), he's a very, very good player and makes the Warriors tough to beat.
Regardless, the Klay Thompson-contested mid-range jumper is the worst feature of the Warriors offense, and needs to disappear forever.