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With much higher expectations entering this season than last and relatively similar results 54 games into this year, Mark Jackson has faced more scrutiny than a Warriors coach has seen in years.
Despite possessing what many believe to be the best six-man group in the NBA, Golden State found itself sitting with just a 31-22 record entering the break. The notion is that Jackson has under-utilized his talent, which is a position supported by the team's modest 12th-ranked offense.
This criticism is largely unfair. Jackson also has the Warriors playing elite defense (third-best in NBA) despite having only one healthy interior defender on most nights and losing Andre Iguodala for a month. Doing so without Mike Malone, who was widely regarded as the best strategic assistant in the league, is also impressive.
Just as expectations are higher for the Warriors, however, they are higher for Jackson as well. Being good is no longer good enough for the team or the coach.
As the second half commences, Jackson will make that jump along with his club, subsiding all the whispers—warranted or not—about his job security.
For the first time, Jackson will have a reliable backup point guard at his disposal in Blake. The veteran will allow Curry to play off the ball in a way that Jordan Crawford could not. He will also allow Curry to rest more, as he is capable of running a decent pick-and-roll and facilitating the half-court offense.
The Warriors have been atrocious offensively this season with Curry off the floor, and the disappearance of that discrepancy will make Jackson look like he's figured things out.
The team will also get better defensively, if you can believe it. The return of O'Neal and Ezeli will make scoring inside on the Warriors incredibly difficult, even with Bogut off the floor.
Most importantly, the roster's shortcomings will no longer force Jackson's hand. He's been faced with either playing a weak bench unit that gives up leads in a hurry or intermingling them with starters and limiting the time his dominant five have together.
With Blake, Barnes, Green and O'Neal forming an excellent nine-man group with the starters, Jackson will finally be able to employ a real rotation. And with Crawford, Ezeli and Speights filling out the deep bench, the starters should be able to find the rest they need to become more consistent.