Studs and Duds from Golden State Warriors' First Slate of Games
Through five games, the Golden State Warriors are tied for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Beating the Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves does not make a team elite. But, Sacramento beat up the Warriors last season while Philadelphia was 3-0 after, having beaten the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. Minnesota is healthy, and they are a 45-50 win team if healthy.
The point is, Golden State has been impressive, as have most of its players.
Having said that, not everyone is contributing as expected. And while most of the team is playing well, there are a select few who are playing better than well.
Stud: Klay Thompson
To put it simply, I should have drafted Klay Thompson in my Fantasy Basketball league. You should have, too, unless you did (in which case, congratulations).
Thompson's numbers through five games are off the charts. He's shooting 57.9 percent from the field, 55.9 percent from deep and 86.7 percent from the line.
There are other guys in the league off to similarly hot starts, and the incredibly small sample size of five games makes it easy to dismiss most of them.
What separates Thompson, however, is that he combines robot-like percentages with streetball-like volume. He's averaging 24.0 points and 3.8 threes so far.
While his fantasy value may end there, shooting and scoring is only half of his value to Golden State. After blossoming into an above-average perimeter defender last season, Thompson has continued to grow defensively.
Even if the shooting numbers drop (they will, of course), Thompson is having the breakout season many expected from him last year. An All-Star selection is not out of the question.
Dud: Draymond Green
The good news is that Harrison Barnes is back in the Golden State lineup. This should push Green out of the sixth-man role and down to eighth or ninth on the depth chart.
Green has been nothing short of terrible as the Warriors' primary playmaker off the bench, as he has more turnovers than assists and is only averaging 3.8 points on 38.9 percent FG shooting in 20.4 minutes of action a night.
It is hard to blame Green for this, as he simply does not have the skill set to be a facilitator or scorer in the NBA.
With Barnes back, Green should see his minutes go down to about 14 a night as he returns to the role he thrives in: a tweener forward who can either give you some extra rebounding at the 3 or some extra shooting at the 4. He's a plus defender, and his hustle-and-effort level go beyond the box score.
As much as was made about the second-year player's shedded weight and added athleticism during the offseason, it's clear that Green is nowhere near ready to be a heavily-featured piece within an NBA offense.
Stud: David Lee
"David Lee is an awful defender."
"David Lee has a terrible contract."
"The Warriors looked great without David Lee in the playoffs."
"David Lee should be traded."
It persisted all offseason. After leading the NBA in double-doubles, 20-and-10 games, making an All-Star appearance and leading the Warriors to 47 wins last year, Lee was somehow the most disliked guy on the Golden State roster.
One unfortunate injury and a few good playoff performances from Barnes were all it took for so many to forget Lee's impact on this team.
Hopefully, the first five games have jogged some folks' memories.
Lee has averaged 20.4 points and 9.4 rebounds on 57.1 percent FG shooting and 87.5 percent FT shooting. He has done so in 29.8 MPG, which is more than six minutes less than his averages during his first three seasons with Golden State.
The fact is that Lee is the team's best rebounder, best pick-and-roll player, best ball-handling big, best passing big and best post scorer.
Going through a six-game series against a defensively suspect Denver Nuggets team is one thing. Going through an 82-game season and making a championship run without one of the five best power forwards in the NBA is quite another.
Dud: Andrew Bogut
When on the court, Andrew Bogut has been a stud. He is shooting 66.7 percent from the field, blocking 2.0 shots a game and has added 2.4 assists and 1.0 steal despite playing only 21.2 minutes a night.
The problem is that Bogut is not a role player. He should not be playing 21.2 MPG. He should not be averaging over a double-double per-36 minutes yet only 6.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
One could look at Bogut's per-36 numbers and confuse him for Anthony Davis—until they saw the 6.8 in the personal fouls column.
Naturally, the Warriors' starting center is going to pick up fouls. He sets filthy, punishing screens on offense and defends the rim at all costs defensively. Part of what makes Bogut such a dominant big man is his inability to play gently.
The fact is, however, that the Warriors will not be fighting for a top seed in the Western Conference this season if Bogut continues to commit 4.0 fouls in less than 22 minutes of action each night.
Stud: Andre Iguodala
Like Thompson, Iguodala's absurd shooting numbers will not last. More so than Thompson, they will almost certainly undergo a severe drop off soon.
So, let's take this opportunity to appreciate the best start to a season Iguodala has ever had: 15.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 5.8 APG, 2.0 SPG, 56.9 percent FG shooting, 47.8 percent 3PT shooting.
The small forward's career-shooting averages are 46.1 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from deep. But, while those numbers should come down to earth, the rest of Iguodala's stat line should keep up—or improve.
The 29-year-old has always been a very good NBA player, but neither of his two former teams—the 76ers and Nuggets—were able to fully utilize his skill set.
With Golden State, his passing and slashing abilities are being maximized by excellent floor stretchers in Stephen Curry and Thompson. The attention those two draw (along with Lee and Bogut) creates more space for Iguodala to operate than ever before. When the defense collapses on him, he has elite shooters and scorers to dish it to.
Iguodala may not become a 40 percent three-point shooter this season, but the profound impact he has on the entire team should continue.
Dud: Toney Douglas
Anyone who expected Toney Douglas to run the show as the primary backup point guard and facilitator off the bench was fooling themselves. Iguodala was brought in to be the main ball handler with Curry on the bench, and Douglas was supposed to be able to simply bridge the gap while both were sitting.
He has not done so.
Douglas is only a point guard in size. He's always been a shoot-first guy offensively and has stayed in the league due to his extraordinary on-ball defense.
Still, he has put up better than a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio throughout his career, which is essentially all Golden State needed him to do. As long as Douglas is setting guys up for buckets twice as often as he's giving the ball away, Barnes, Speights and co. should be able to comprise a solid second unit offensively.
But, Douglas has committed 1.4 turnovers in just 15.6 minutes a night. He's also shooting 34.8 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from deep and has canceled out his strong defense with 2.2 fouls in his limited role.
The Warriors aren't looking for much from Douglas; all they are asking him to do is defend, be an average shooter and take care of the ball.
If he cannot satisfy those requirements, the Warriors will be shopping for a replacement this Februrary.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com