Players Who Must Step Up for Golden State Warriors' Remaining Games
Last year, a No. 6 finish, a return to the playoffs and a second-round exit was a fantastic result. This season, the team's eyes are set on a top-four seed and a deeper playoff run, if not a championship.
The Warriors have not yet been an elite team this season, but they are much closer than they were in late December. General manager Bob Myers was thought to have no tradable assets outside of his core players, yet he somehow turned Toney Douglas and Kent Bazemore—the team's top two guards off the bench to start the season—into Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake.
With the trade deadline now passed, it is up to the players already on this roster to finish the job and bring this team to where they all want to be.
Every player has room to grow, and almost every one of them will have to for the team to win a title. Of course, some must more than others, particularly the following three.
It is hard to believe that Harrison Barnes is actually shooting 40.7 percent from three-point range this season.
Maybe the reason the thought of a Barnes triple triggers more fear than excitement in Warriors fans is that so many of his threes have missed badly, clanking off the front rim, flying over the hoop entirely or smashing off the backboard to either side.
Or maybe it's that he has struggled so mightily from mid-range, in the lane and around the rim. He's shooting only .06 percent better from these locations (41.3 percent on two-point shots) than from deep. Therefore, we are used to seeing a Barnes shot go up from anywhere, thinking "this probably won't go in" and being correct. The threes and the twos thus blend together in our memories.
Barnes has been a massive disappointment offensively through the first four months of his second season. Luckily for Golden State, Steve Blake, Draymond Green and Jermaine O'Neal are a pretty badass three-man reserve unit.
Barnes now finds himself competing with Jordan Crawford for the primary "instant offense" position off the bench.
The problem is that Crawford is a chucker by nature, leaving Barnes as the Warriors' only hope at a Manu Ginobili or a James Harden in Oklahoma City type of sixth man who can come into the game, swing it and do so consistently enough to help a team win 50-plus games and multiple playoff rounds.
It is tough to ask a guy who leads the entire NBA in plus-minus per game (and it is not even close) to step up.
"Tough" is actually an understatement. "Unfair" is a better description.
Despite playing with new teammates, missing a month with a strained hamstring and possibly playing through some lingering effects ever since, Iguodala has made his four-year, $48 million contract look like a bargain.
The man is quite possibly the league's best wing defender, and the pairing of him and Andrew Bogut is the defensive equivalent of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge offensively. The problem is that Iguodala has underperformed on the offensive end, where he has proven throughout his career to be almost as capable and just as versatile as he is on defense.
His player efficiency rating is the lowest it has been since his rookie season, and his higher-than-normal shooting percentages are solely a result of a scorching-hot November.
The bigger issue, however, is his lack of assertiveness offensively—a problem that can hopefully be corrected by a mindset change rather than requiring a summer of hamstring healing.
His reduced scoring (9.6 per game) and assisting (4.4 per game) is no surprise, as he has never played with so many capable scorers and playmakers around him. But he is not looking to penetrate and dish or finish at the rim, opting to instead swing the ball or take a stagnant jump shot.
The Warriors outscore their opponents by over nine points while Iguodala is on the court. If he asserts himself more offensively, that number may or may not go up. What will happen is his opponents will get into foul trouble, he will get his teammates in rhythm and he will allow Stephen Curry to play off the ball more often.
Bogut's proverbial "step up," were he to take it, would be as simple as climbing a flight of stairs (although one always holds their breath when it comes to the big man and everyday activities).
Compare this to Barnes, whose "step up" is really more of a leap over a 10-foot wall (something even the Black Falcon would struggle with).
Bogut has been phenomenal all season, controlling the glass, shooting a career-best 62.9 percent from the field and dominating the game defensively. He is tied with Roy Hibbert for the best defensive rating among NBA centers, meaning he should also be right there with Hibbert in leading the Defensive Player of the Year race.
The former No. 1 overall pick has played like a No. 1 overall pick this season, which is significant as he has never really done so before during his nine years in the league (save maybe his 2009-10 season).
Like with Iguodala, it seems quite unfair to place pressure on Bogut to better his performance. Unfortunately, the Warriors have no other choice if they want to win a championship this year.
The team is nearly flawless—elite defense inside and out, the best backcourt in the NBA, an ultra-versatile group of forwards and three big-time rim protectors. The only hole is the lack of a bully on the block. David Lee has filled this role as best he can, but he is unable to make an impact against the league's better defensive frontcourts.
Bogut has this kind of ability. He has the body, the touch, the ball-handling and the passing ability to run the offense from the post and draw double teams. He has not done so, primarily because he is a terrible foul shooter.
This is understandable, and Mark Jackson prefers using Bogut as a high screener for Curry. But in order to beat the West's top teams, the Warriors will need to somehow wear their opponents down inside, get DeAndre Jordan, Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard and Serge Ibaka into foul trouble and have a way of getting easy baskets even when Curry and Thompson are bottled up.
Fair or not, Bogut is the one guy on the roster who can provide this.
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