Grading Every Golden State Warriors Players' 1st Round Performance so Far
Like all playoff series wins—though this isn't one yet—there will be the quintessential superstar and role models that step up in the nick of time (think Robert Horry) to land their team a win.
And the Warriors are holding true to form; having Stephen Curry announce himself as the best shooter in the NBA and Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green playing huge roles down the stretch of the last couple games.
With what might be the last home game at Oracle upcoming, now's a good time to step away from a physical game and reflect on how we get here. There won't be grades for players like Andris Biedrins or Kent Bazemore because of their lack of playing time and effect on this series.
I tried my best not to grade on a curve but in a series where the Warriors have surprised everyone, it's kind of tough to do.
Draymond Green shot 20.9 percent from three-point distance for the regular season. His lack of quickness and talent showed up as he struggled to crack a rotation spot and the toughness and smartness he exhibited at Michigan State mysteriously vanished.
So of course in a set against a surprisingly tough Denver Nuggets team, Green is 4-of-8 from three and has shut down Andre Miller sans the layup in Game 1.
His activity and nonstop motor has brought the defense to another level, especially at Oracle Arena where energy bounces off the walls like Flubber.
Role models always need to step up for a team to advance and another big game from Green would solidify that playoff trope.
Festus Ezeli had a tough game at the latter end of Game 5 but his quick feet really showed what he brings to the table that Andrew Bogut may not be able to.
He still has terrible hands and makes simple rookie mistakes; like the turnover he had off a rebound late in Game 5. Regardless, his play as a backup center has been an underrated storyline this season.
Jackson trusts him to the point where he had him at the end of a close game along with two other rookies in Green and Harrison Barnes.
While he may never be a starting center, his activity on the glass has proven invaluable to the Warriors this postseason.
With David Lee going down—and not a part of this grading process—Landry has picked up the slack on offense; namely, the scoring aspect.
He doesn't own the same ability to pass and rebound but his posting up and midrange jumpers mirror that of Lee's ability to create space and a safety valve for Curry.
Landry played a huge role in Game 5, destroying the smaller Wilson Chandler or Andre Iguodala in the post en route to a close win. Jackson has had to toss together unfamiliar lineups and he's had Landry in there with defensive centers like Ezeli and Bogut to alleviate some of the pressure.
Despite some defensive breakdowns like last night, Landry has been a quiet killer on the offensive end.
Jarrett Jack has played exactly as he has all season long.
His play is a pendulum that swings from great to horrible all in a single sequence. In Game 5, he forced too many shots and failed to find open players despite Thompson and Curry needing touches.
In Game 4, he made the correct plays repeatedly against Denver's traps, killing them with floaters and great touch passes.
Though he hasn't been able to stay with Ty Lawson—who has?—it's his terrible defense against Andre Miller that's become a concern. Jack is still invaluable because of his inability to handle and create off the dribble at the end of games, but in an almost must-win on Thursday, they'll need the good Jack and not the one throwing shots up despite a hand in his face.
As for the series, he has alternated between great and terrible. Here's thinking he'll help end this thing before it stretches into the weekend.
This has been the Barnes that everyone has wanted to see all season.
Coming into the season, he was supposed to play a marginal role with David Lee taking the frontcourt touches and even Brandon Rush stealing most shooting opportunities. But sometimes, injuries are a blessing in disguise—though we'd never wish that upon anyone.
With Rush out and Lee suffering a season-ending hip injury, the Warriors have gone small in an attempt to spread out the Nuggets. This has worked beautifully as he's gotten open shot after open shot, even calling players off to go isolation.
With Lee in the game, Barnes was always the fourth to fifth option. Now, we're finally seeing what he can do with more touches against preferable matchups.
He's also played solid defense, along with Green and Thompson, at the top of the matchup zones, creating havoc and stemming just enough penetration from Lawson and Miller.
Thompson was the only player to show up in Game 1 and has been a solid performer at the off-guard or small forward position since.
His combined shooting touch—shooting over 50 percent overall—and great individual defense on Ty Lawson has turned the tide on several games. When Lawson was on fire in Game 5, Jackson opted to try Thompson—his Swiss army knife defender—on Lawson and Klay succeeded in slowing him down while Curry got going.
The potential for an elite defensive team is there when Barnes, Thompson, Green and Rush can play at the same time but for now, we'll have to enjoy the underrated work of the best perimeter defender on the team.
And though he hasn't hit many huge threes like Curry, his spacing has provided Curry just enough space in the halfcourt offense. Before Game 5, Karl had Iguodala chase Thompson around which enable Curry to drive repeatedly past Lawson and Miller.
Shooting isn't his only threat on offense, it's the fear of his quick release that gets players like Curry, Barnes and even Bogut open.
Bogut's been hit or miss in this series, as one might guess because of his injury and conditioning, but his hits have reverberated from Oakland to Denver.
Besides the latest game, Bogut has been able to provide a huge presence on the defensive end as he always does. However, what makes this more impressive is Denver's propensity to run and run some more.
Bogut has taken care of the penetration on defense and delivered numerous bone-crushing blows to Kenneth Faried and Iguodala.
And in Game 5, he showed what the Warriors have always been missing. Because of Denver's traps, he was able to act as the escape valve and probed the middle on numerous occasions, throwing down several big dunks and passing to the corner for wide-open threes.
While most, like myself, thought he wouldn't make a big impact in this series, he'll have to show he can handle the up-and-down nature better than he has in Game 6.
Other than that, he's been a huge boon and the Warriors would almost lose every game without him.
It's the Stephen Curry show every time a Warriors game is on.
I personally thought we'd get to see the Davidson version of Curry show up, the player who jacked up threes with no conscience, flying around screen after screen a la Reggie Miller and Ray Allen, and doing it all with an assassin's demeanor.
But Curry has been much more than just a shooter in this series; he has taken over games through the dribble-drive attack, something his critics didn't think he could do because he wasn't a real point guard.
One has a sneaky feeling Curry may throw out one of the greatest games ever in a Warriors jersey. For now, we'll settle on him having one of the greatest postseason series for a first-time performer.
Stephen Curry is the third player with 100+ points and 40+ assists in first four playoff games, joining Kevin Johnson and Oscar Robertson.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 1, 2013