The Golden State Warriors start the second half of the season in a very questionable state, but coach Mark Jackson can make the necessary adjustments to get the team back on track.
After such a hot start where everyone had a hand in the team's ascension to elite status, the Dubs have become a mediocre team. Injuries have played a big part in the descent, but coaching style has also impacted the bottom line.
The Warriors were an early playoff lock and competing for one of the coveted top-four playoff spots earlier in the season. The Warriors are now fighting just to get into the playoffs.
Coach Jackson would definitely like to see the earlier version of the Dubs than what he has seen lately. But what can Jackson do to change the course?
He is still a young coach, although he has an extremely high basketball IQ and a successful resume as a 17-year point guard with significant accolades.
Have the Team Ready at the Start of the Game
At tip-off, the Warriors need to be ready to play. These aren’t meaningless preseason games, these games are extremely important to earn a trip to the postseason.
The Warriors are playing on their heels too often and falling behind early in games. The team trails by double digits too many times in the first half, meaning that they have to use excess energy to chase the deficit, which will affect the team in the closing months of the season.
Coach Jackson needs to set it up so that by the time the team goes through pre-game drills and introductions, the team has a sense of urgency. He has to reaffirm that belief with a hearty pep-talk before the team walks out on the court.
If the team is ready to play, the team will compete at a level that is required to make the playoffs. If the Dubs don’t have to overwork themselves, they will have more energy when it counts.
Coach Jackson needs to be able to amend his lineups so he has five players that can contribute meaningful minutes at all times. So far this season, his rotations have not fared very well when the starters are on the bench.
The recent addition of Steve Blake, for fan-favorite Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, will give Stephen Curry protection and needed rest. Blake can jumpstart a stagnant bench offense by getting the assists and setting up offensive plays.
With a proven ball-handler by his side, Harrison Barnes might be ready to take that next step when he isn’t working with the first unit. Barnes is currently averaging 8.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 1.0 APG when he starts on the bench (through February 19).
Coach Jackson also has to find more time on the court for Draymond Green, a guy that can guard all five spots. He is also reliable in the final minutes of the game, when the team needs a crucial stop or a key bucket on offense.
If Coach Jackson can utilize his new talent and differentiate the rotations to maximize his bench, the Warriors won’t be so constrained.
Define the Offense
Are the Warriors only a jump-shooting team? Do they have any presence in the post?
Is the only defined form of offense the dreaded isolation play and the kick out for a perimeter jumper?
The Warriors put way too much confidence in their jump-shooting game, as they ride the wave of a hot-and-cold Klay Thompson and the usually hot Curry. The team sets screens, but the end result is usually a jumper.
The goal should be to find the highest percentage shot available and not settle on the old reliable and overused jump shot. Coach Jackson needs to get his big men involved in producing baskets and at the very least, get to the free-throw line.
Andrew Bogut is shooting 63.6 percent from the field because he primarily shoots within the key (277 out of his 294 field-goal attempts). If Jackson can run a few more plays for the big man, it will help space the floor and raise the percentages of the jump shooters.
The only missing factor in that strategy is sending Bogut to the line. He is having his most difficult season from the charity stripe, where he is shooting a career-low 34.6 percent.
David Lee is another mobile frontcourt target, who can be used in a lot more situations than just the iso play. He doesn’t pass the ball as much as Bogut near the rim, but he can help redefine the Dubs’ offensive philosophy.
Finally, Andre Iguodala was acquired to make plays, distribute the ball and get to the basket. His offense, save for a few game-winning jumpers, has been extremely limited since he injured his hamstring.
Jackson needs to find a way to have a more free-flow offense that gets the ball into his hands, so that he can return to attacking in transition.
Home Sweet Home
One major factor is the under-performance on the home court. The Warriors have a paltry 17-10 home record through February 20.
This is #ROARacle, the place that no opponent wants to play in the playoffs, because the crowd is so fierce. There is also now a waitlist to purchase season seats.
If the Warriors want to be a playoff team and advance to the elite company of the NBA, they must do a better job at home. On the road, the team has a 16-12 record, which is solid and sixth-best in their conference.
However, at home the team has the eighth-best record in the conference. Home losses to the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats stand out the most, because the team wasn’t ready to play and assumed that those games were easy victories.
If the Dubs really want to move to that elite level, they will have to act similarly to the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, where it is extremely rare to steal a road victory.
The overtime victory against the Houston Rockets on February 20 was a solid start to bringing the Oracle advantage back.
Playoffs or Bust
The pieces are in place on this team to get into the playoffs and make a similar run to last year. The biggest question that remains is if Coach Jackson can elevate the play by making the necessary adjustments.
With such a playoff drought for so many years, the success of last year’s playoff run and this season’s free agent class have risen the bar to a very high standard. Coach Jackson will have to at least meet expectations for this year to be considered any type of success.
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