The starting five of the Golden State Warriors is being asked to do a lot these days.
It seems as if the Warrior lineup on the court at tipoff is carrying almost the entire weight of the team, as the second unit players have not stepped up so far this season. The only reserves that coach Mark Jackson is comfortable using are Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Jermaine O’Neal. The remainder of the bench is struggling significantly.
The lingering injury to Toney Douglas has not helped the team, as Coach Jackson had to try out different players to fill the backup spot to Curry. Kent Bazemore got the first crack, but Jackson became more comfortable with rookie Nemanja Nedovic.
Bazemore spent the offseason and the beginning of this season trying to learn and progress as a backup point guard. At times, the experiment was working, but when the real games started, he could not handle the responsibilities of running an offense.
He committed costly turnovers and did not look comfortable with the ball. As a result, he slid over to the shooting guard position, where he hasn’t quite played to his fullest potential.
Bazemore has been limited by Coach Jackson during the past month, when the young guard has received more than ten minutes of playing time in only two games. The second of those was in a lopsided loss to the Houston Rockets, but at least he had a chance to show a little bit of what he brings to the table as an defender and energizer off the bench.
He needs to build upon the recent success and prove to the team that he is a reliable playmaking and defensive option like he showed against the Portland Trail Blazers.
With Douglas already back and Andre Iguodala returning soon, Bazemore’s window of opportunity is closing quickly.
He has to prove that he is more than a cheerleader, who can function only in meaningless minutes. Through Dec. 9, Bazemore is averaging only 2.8 points, 0.5 assists and 1.0 rebound, a marginal increase from his rookie season’s statistics.
In the other corner is Nedovic, who is getting to see significantly more playing time than expected. He is not getting major minutes, but he is playing enough to give Curry small breaks.
Nedovic is succeeding when he has isolation plays and can drive to the basket. He keeps control of the ball and doesn’t commit many turnovers.
However, he definitely needs to increase his shooting percentages. Through 22 games played, Nedovic is shooting only 23.3 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from three-point range.
He just needs to gain confidence and act like he is in control when he is on the court, as he does here in the accompanying video:
Since he only averages 1.7 attempts in 6.9 minutes, Nedovic needs to looking for his shot more vigorously. With the return of the backup point guard Douglas and the upcoming arrival of point forward Iguodala, Nedovic won’t find many consistent opportunities.
He needs to make his game, practice and D-League time count, so that when he is called upon again, he can deliver.
Toney Douglas made this list because he had a prolonged injury, and he wasn’t consistent when he was playing. He made a limited return on Dec. 9 against the Charlotte Bobcats by playing a little more than two minutes, and he hit one three-pointer.
Douglas is going to be counted on a lot more upon his return. He needs to fill in at a high level, in order to give Curry more legitimate breaks so that the Warriors' leader and best player is not overtaxed.
Douglas is known for his good defense, but he can also score. He is actually shooting a little better from the field compared to last season, and he is feeling it behind the arc with a 46.2 percent clip.
As you can see from the highlights, Douglas has the ability to carry a team for certain stretches.
He needs to be more consistent, because in the eight games he has played, he has scored in double figures twice. He is not counted on to be the leading scorer, but he needs to be more of a consistent presence.
Marreese Speights is arguably the biggest disappointment coming off the bench so far this season. His game is not evolving, as he sticks with his mid-range jumper and stays away from inside battles.
Does he replace the effort and skill level of the departed Carl Landry? Not even close.
The Warriors had high hopes for Speights, as they inked him to a three-year, $11 million dollar deal that includes a player option. They based what appeared to be their cost-effective signing on the 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocks that the forward-center averaged in 39 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
His production so far through December 9 is only 4.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG and 0.3 BPG. The Warriors look like they found some fool’s gold.
Speights needs to roll up his sleeves and learn how to get dirty on this team. He needs to ask for help in learning how to work inside, and he needs to develop some more moves.
He is supposed to have a mean streak, and someone on the team needs to light the fire inside. If he can find minimal success with some of his deficiencies, it will hopefully get him going.
Coach Jackson needs to find those spots by setting him up with situations against other teams’ second units where he has a chance to prove that he can evolve.