With the surprising playoff run of the Memphis Grizzlies this postseason, it’s interesting to point out what this means for those viewers at home. Specifically, the Golden State Warriors. Merely four years ago, the Warriors were NBA’s Cinderella darling, who, as an 8th seed, upset the Dallas Mavericks, the regular season Goliaths.
Since that glorious playoff anomaly, tremendous amounts of upheaval and transition have led to and resulted in Golden State’s fourth consecutive year in the lottery. What can the Warriors do to ensure they do not have another 14-year playoff drought? They can start by paying close attention to the Grizzlies’ blueprint.
While the new owners of the Warriors, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have vowed a quick return to the postseason, they can assume competition for the eighth spot in upcoming seasons will possibly be with similar smaller-market franchises like Memphis. As the Grizzlies proved with their tenacious, unexpected postseason run, Warriors brass can take a long look at their games to see what is needed in order to contend not only for a playoff spot, but also a championship.
Of course, everything starts at the top. Golden State somehow convinced former Grizzlies president, Jerry West, to step into a black hole, with the belief that his brand name will rejuvenate an abysmal team. It’s baffling that West would want to seemingly waste his time reconstructing, but it’s a testament to ownership’s positive belief that they have in embedded into the organization. But West alone will not equal wins—he’ll have to work his magic to get the Warriors to be contenders.
Golden State decided not to retain Keith Smart as head coach, and there is no indication as to which direction they’d prefer to choose: the up-and-coming assistant coach route, or longtime free agent head coaches? NBA assistants like Brian Shaw and Dwane Casey certainly have their advantages. As a first-time head coaching opportunity, they will want to commit themselves to ascending a downtrodden franchise like Golden State. Some say they can better relate to today’s young superstars than would a more surly, demanding veteran coach.
Still, renowned coaches like Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Brown, and even Hall-of-Famer Jerry Sloan have been wafted into consideration. Golden State must be careful not to go after marquee coaches just for their name recognition. But they should bring in one of them because of their branded styles of play, which they will want to implement. Throw money at JVG and challenge him to start anew with this team. This would likely result in a total dismantling and revamping of the current roster—a much needed reset for an underwhelming group of players.
This is not a horrible idea given the stagnancy of a team that is void of a dominant frontline. It’s been repeated numerously that Golden State lacks any relevance in the paint, having no players who can truly operate offensively in the post, while being able to defend it as well. Yes, David Lee rebounds well and can consistently score over 15 points a game, but he cannot keep up with the bigs in the West.
Lee does not have the skill on the block to match the Duncans, Dirks, Gasols (both of them) or even Perkinses. Nor does he have the above-the-rim pick-and-roll scoring of Tyson Chandler, LaMarcus Aldridge or Gerald Wallace.
He’s an above-average defender of the boards, but doesn’t block many shots—a requirement when opponents get past the porous perimeter defense. Basically, he’s Troy Murphy, Part 2. Leee was great in the East, but he won’t be the missing ingredient in the recipe for the Western Conference playoffs.
Though they just traded for him last year, the Warriors should re-trade him for some beef up front, possibly Nene—someone who mashes with the bigs down low, and does so with menace. Van Gundy preaches rebounding and interior defense, something the Warriors do not have in their repertoire. Andris Biedrins and Lee straight-up for Nene and The Birdman, Chris Anderson, would be a stark upgrade to their frontline. Golden State needs to infuse their team with some tenacity and improved inside play.
The final brick to be removed from the structure of the present Warriors team would have to be either Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry. After two middling seasons at best, it has become clear that the Warriors can go only so far as this dynamic backcourt duo can take them. Unfortunately, that isn't very far.
Each has a tremendous innate scoring ability and a natural skill for making spectacular plays. However, it is impossible for them to do so at the same time on the court, when both require a significant amount of ball-time in order to execute their basketball savvy.
As painful as it is for Warriors fans to hear, the most exciting, talented and mesmerizing backcourt tandem cannot coexist in a successful manner. Ellis, while breathtaking and completely jaw-dropping, is a redo of Allen Iverson: a smallish guard who goes 200 mph; can put up 44 one night, then take 22 shots while only scoring 13 the next night and isn’t a true, natural distributor.
Curry, in the same vein as Steve Nash, is a pure shooter, but lacks defensive stamina and common sense. However, he’s not quite a natural distributor either. It’d be hard to imagine success of a team who has both Iverson and Nash. It simply would never have worked.
When in crunch time, Ellis, the veteran albeit with a poorer shooting stroke, will end up with the ball in his hands, leaving Curry, the sharpshooting youngster, to stand aside and watch. The two will never win together—especially not at Golden State.
It is hard to envision the Warriors without their gutsy highlight-reel superstar. But in today’s point guard-driven NBA, it is more likely that the Warriors will find success with the steadier, more controlled playmaking and shooting of Curry.
Ellis, though a tremendous all-around offensive talent, simply cannot shoulder a team being a smallish off-guard. Curry needs some big men to pass to to create better overall shots for his team. Again, some arsenal up front will help him.