5 Mistakes That Mark Jackson Must Correct with Golden State Warriors
In order for the Golden State Warriors to truly make the leap this season, Mark Jackson will have to correct some mistakes.
The Warriors advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season, and they hope to go even further this time around. Golden State has solid players at every position as well as serviceable backups.
An argument could be made it has the best starting unit in the league and it should be in the championship discussion with the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.
The Warriors boast a top-10 defense as well as a passable offense, which should put them in the same stratosphere as the elite units in the league. However, the coaching staff occasionally leaves fans wanting more because of tactical miscues that keep popping up.
Harrison Barnes’ Role
Harrison Barnes is not a stud bench player, and Golden State’s coach should stop treating him as such. The Warriors have this odd tendency of putting the ball in Barnes’ hands and expecting him to simply create plays.
Barnes is a finisher, and asking him to do anything other than that will produce mixed results. Consider this: Barnes is utilizing more possessions (calculated through usage percentage) than Andre Iguodala, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
That is simply a mismanagement of resources. Iguodala is a better ball-handler, creator and finisher, but Barnes gets a bigger share of the possessions. Jackson needs to adjust the role of his sixth man and take away some of his responsibilities.
After reducing Barnes’ workload, the next step for the Dubs...
Modify Second-Unit Lineups
Jackson has stubbornly stuck with some of his reserve groupings despite their failures. The coaching staff enjoys empowering the second unit by playing a five-man unit composed entirely of bench players.
For the most part, the bench lineups have done fine defensively, but they have been terrible offensively (think on par with the Philadelphia 76ers, who reside at the bottom of offensive efficiency rankings).
The reserves simply are not talented enough to consistently produce points, and that puts the Warriors in a few holes early in games. Jackson should take notes from Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks, who has figured out how to stagger the minutes of his best players.
The Warriors should always have at least one or two starters on the floor to ensure they can consistently put points on the board throughout contests.
Put Defense First
Jackson is quick to point out that Golden State is a defense-oriented team, but his actions late in games certainly indicate the contrary.
The Dubs’ best interior defender is unquestionably Andrew Bogut, and yet, the coaching staff is more than happy to sit him in the fourth quarter. Per NBA.com, Bogut spends more time on the bench in the final period than at any other point in games.
Golden State surrenders 101.2 points per 100 possessions in fourth quarters. The only other instance when they are worse is in the opening frame of contests, per NBA.com. Bogut’s absence to close out games is an impediment to the Warriors’ success.
The Warriors need Bogut on the interior to anchor the paint and increase Golden State’s chances of winning tight games.
Upgrading the Offense
Jackson must fix a Warriors offense that often looks pedestrian at best. Golden State has far too many instances where they get away from their set plays and rely on one-on-one situations to produce points.
Per Synergy Sports, 10.9 percent of the Dubs’ field-goal attempts come via isolations. As a reference point, that’s more than the Oklahoma City Thunder (10 percent), who have the league’s most potent scoring weapon in Kevin Durant.
The Warriors are better when running their sets, which often free up their shooters with creative misdirection plays. Jackson must make his team consistently get into its offense, where it can execute and get high-percentage shots.
Embrace the Unconventional
This isn’t necessarily a mistake, but more so an issue that needs to be corrected. Jackson is far too conventional in his approach, which means the Warriors have some untapped potential. Jackson sticks with his lineups and never breaks away from his traditional approach.
Instead, the Dubs coaching staff needs to experiment a bit more during the regular season with hybrid lineups. There is no telling what it might find. Last season, Jackson only realized that Harrison Barnes could be unleashed as a power forward in small-ball groupings when David Lee was injured, leaving him with practically no option other than starting Barnes.
This season, Jackson seems to be outsmarting himself by keeping perhaps one of his best five-man units under wraps: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. That group has only played 44 minutes, per NBA.com, and scores 123.7 points per 100 possessions. Projected over a full season, that figure is easily the best in the league.
Unveiling these sorts of lineups on the rest of the NBA could potentially make the Warriors an unbeatable matchup nightmare.
Statistics accurate as of March 13, 2014.