The return of Andre Iguodala is a great first step.
Santa Claus is making his annual trek, and the Golden State Warriors have some significant holiday wishes that need to come true in a hurry.
The Warriors and their fans are very thankful for how the squad is built and see the playoff potential. The two just wish that the Dubs would not be hovering near the .500 mark so close to the end of the year.
Everyone was extremely hopeful going into the season, and the 8-3 start justified that confidence. However, injuries and lack of depth put the team in its current, troublesome situation.
The team needs to buck the trend of getting down early and chasing hard to pull out desperation wins. That pursuit is going to wear out members of the team, especially Stephen Curry, who is averaging over 40 minutes in the month of December.
The Dubs need to get back to a defensive focus and not give up huge runs throughout the game. Andre Iguodala is the missing piece of the puzzle, but the Warriors can’t pin all of their hopes on his back.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at the holiday wishes for the Warriors.
The Warriors bench is very thin due to lack of experience and injury problems. Head coach Mark Jackson has not seen any progress, and he has only a couple of players who can be genuinely relied upon.
With the prolonged injury to Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes had to return to his starting spot, and there was one less bullet in the bench chamber.
Draymond Green is the only player who has been consistent. He is only a second-year player, but he plays with the knowledge and grit of a 10-year professional.
Everyone else is just a spectator.
Marreese Speights has had arguably only three good games all season, while Toney Douglas and Kent Bazemore have not brought the productivity to the floor. Nemanja Nedovic has not shown any Derrick Rose tendencies.
If Speights can show any consistency with the skill level he provided against the Houston Rockets, the bench might be salvageable.
The bench players need to have a better focus and work on blending with the starters in both practice and the game. Jackson needs to put the players in situations where they can be successful and grow their confidence level.
Jackson needs to implement a strategy quickly, or the starters will be running out of gas by February with all of the minutes they have to play.
Santa needs to bring some confidence and a boost in skill level.
The Warriors have to have a better defensive focus.
The Dubs don’t know how to put out a consistent 48-minute effort, as evidenced by the comments of Draymond Green. The team is playing sporadic defense, and opponents are consistently looking to take advantage of David Lee and Steph Curry.
The return of Andre Iguodala will reverse that trend, but the team can’t rely upon him to play one versus five. The players on the floor need to accept responsibility for the current deficiencies.
The Dubs had given up over 100 points in 10 of the 12 games they played with Iguodala on the bench.
Mad dog Andrew Bogut is one of the players who has prided himself on defense and brings the attitude to the floor. He needs to do a better job of getting the message across to the rest of his frontcourt mates, so they put pressure on themselves to succeed.
Coach Jackson needs to have a shorter leash with Lee. If Lee is not playing good defense or following the game plan, Green or Harrison Barnes needs to take his place.
This move will send a clear message to Lee to force him to get right, or he will sit on the bench. Green is rapidly improving and has the comfort level already to take more minutes.
As in practice and the games, the team needs to work on jelling on the defensive end. The players need to have 100 percent focus and be able to switch off screens and move effectively to play the ball.
If Santa can grant the defensive wish to the Warriors, the team can regroup and start climbing back up the standings.
Draymond Green truly wants to win, and that is his bottom line.
The Warriors are a much better team when he is on the floor. He can make plays defensively, run the floor well and hit clutch three-pointers.
Did I mention that he has a coach-like mentality and an enormous basketball IQ?
Green is not the most skilled player on the court, and he knows it. However, he knows how to get the little things done, provide toughness where it counts and convert opportunities.
He should be the main option at the end of the game if David Lee is having defensive problems. He also needs to be the guy inserted into the game when the team is losing defensive focus.
Green has the ability to play both forward positions, and he seems to be getting an uptick in minutes during the month of December.
Coach Jackson is relying on him as his best option off the bench away from Harrison Barnes. Now Jackson has to be more selective and put Green in when the momentum changes.
Santa needs to make it a Dray day more often.
Curry and the rest of the Warriors need to limit the turnovers.
The Warriors need to focus on hanging on to the ball. Every player is guilty of this trend, and it starts with the leader, Steph Curry.
Yes, Curry has the ball in his hands more than anyone else on the team, but as the point guard, he should be held to a higher standard.
He is third in the league in assists and sixth in scoring as of December 18, but he also leads the league with 4.2 turnovers per game.
He and the rest of the team are very guilty of carelessly turning the ball over at the wrong times during games. The team is averaging 17 turnovers per game, which is third-worst in the Association.
The Dubs were looking to improve their position in that category, since they finished fourth-worst last season with 15.1 donations per game. The Warriors have played in a lot of close games this season, and those three to four extra turnovers have been game-changers.
Just like the focus on defense, Jackson needs to instill that same attention on offense. If Santa could get the Warriors down to 13 or 14 turnovers per game, the Warriors would be closer to elite status.
The Warriors have had a tough time against playoff-level opponents.
The Warriors have had a lot of hype surrounding the Andre Iguodala acquisition and the healthy returns of David Lee and Andrew Bogut. The team was projected to be a top-four Western Conference finisher.
However, due to the injuries and lack of development, the Warriors have gone 2-8 against the current top eight teams in the conference (through December 18).
The Dubs are currently on the outside looking in.
All of the excuses are built in, as the Warriors have played the most road games of any team in the league, had significant injuries and had minimal production off the bench.
It will get easier.
If Santa provides all of the wishes, the Warriors will beat the teams that they are expected to beat. Against the stronger teams, the Warriors will hold their own on the road and should win a higher percentage at home.
The Warriors hope this will be a very happy holiday season.