Golden State Warriors Player Grades Heading into NBA Stretch Run

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2017

Golden State Warriors Player Grades Heading into NBA Stretch Run

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    Another year, another entry into the NBA record books for the Golden State Warriors.

    They locked up a playoff berth faster than anyone ever has, clinching the spot Feb. 25—two days ahead of the previous mark set by last season's 73-win outfit. If they can close out the year with 20 victories over their final 23 contests, they'll be the first franchise with consecutive 70-win campaigns.

    Surely, any evaluator of this team would give every player an A-plus, right? 

    Not at all, actually. While a few players have aced their assignments to date, no one has achieved a perfect score. A few of them are even sitting a touch below average.

    The 14 players currently on the roster—ranked in order of ascending importance—have all been assessed by everything from their statistical contributions to their performance against expectations and the always-trusty eye test.

14-11: Deep Reserves

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    14. Damian Jones, C

    Jones arrived in Oakland as a long-term project. He has a tantalizing combination of size (7'0", 245 lbs) and athleticism, but he needs polish. Slowed by pectoral surgery and blocked by a crowded frontcourt, he's been either tethered to the bench or honing his craft in the D-League.

    The 45 NBA minutes he's logged to date offer no insight into the player he'll eventually become.

    Grade: Incomplete

                        

    13. Kevon Looney, PF

    This is essentially the first NBA go-round for Looney—he sandwiched five appearances between hip surgeries as a rookie—and one in which he's not asked to do much. He's tasked with being a rebounding specialist, which limits opportunities to showcase his versatility.

    His good-not-great work on the glass (9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes) hasn't done enough to secure a full-time rotation spot.

    Grade: C-

                                           

    12. James Michael McAdoo, PF

    The pre-All-Star break injuries to David West and Zaza Pachulia opened doors along the frontcourt, and McAdoo burst through them—leapfrogging Looney in the process. After only playing 16 times in the team's first 42 games, the third-year forward has seen action during 16 of the last 17. He is limited offensively, but he's found a way to use his explosiveness and energy to make an impact.

    "He knows what to do," Andre Iguodala said, per Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle. "He knows the offense. He knows the options, and he knows the reads. Especially when he's out there with the shooters, he's been setting screens, hustling and being in the right place."

    McAdoo works best as a glue guy, and his quickness helps him cycle through multiple defensive assignments. That said, there are reasons he was often passed over earlier this season. He lacks a go-to skillaveraging just 11.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per 36 minutes—and he's an abysmal shooter (30 percent beyond five feet, 44.4 percent at the line).

    Grade: C-

                           

    11. JaVale McGee, C

    It's been an expectation-shattering season for McGee, who has turned a training-camp invite into a regular rotation role on the league's top team. His production is almost as outlandish as his physical gifts—22.8 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes.

    But his awareness and pick-and-roll defense have both contributed to his short leash (9.6 minutes per game). 

    Grade: C+

10-6: Supporting Cast

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    10. David West, PF

    The transition from former All-Star to role player isn't as easy as West makes it look. Rather than clinging to past success, he's embraced his new gig in a way that greases Golden State's gears. He's on a short list of elite-passing bigs, a steady source of toughness and a genius-level IQ player.

    But he's not a great rebounder or rim protector, especially when he mans the center spot.

    Grade: C+

                                                         

    9. Patrick McCaw, SG

    The roller-coaster rookie ride for McCaw has included four NBA starts, multiple D-League assignments and a handful of trips into and out of the rotation. That's partly due to his inconsistency—his three ball has gone haywire this month, and his lack of strength hurts defensively—and partly due to the fact head coach Steve Kerr has yet to elevate McCaw or Ian Clark over the other.

    "They both have my trust and my confidence," Kerr said, per CSN Bay Area's Monte Poole. "Both of them are very effective. It's depending what we need. ... If we need some size defensively, we'll go to Patrick."

    McCaw brings length to the wing and a willingness to move the ball. He's an asset to the rotation when he shoots well from distance and isn't overpowered on defense. However, he's a work in progress, which should be expected given he's less than a year removed from being the 38th pick.

    Grade: B-

                                   

    8. Ian Clark, SG

    Clark is doing what he can to seize the opportunities that come his way. He's obliterating his personal-best shooting percentages from the field (48.0) and from three (39.3) while supplying a robust 16.3 points per 36 minutes. His ongoing challenge is showing he's capable of more.

    His size (6'3", 175 lbs) presents problems in certain defensive matchups, and he doesn't offer much as a shot creator.

    Grade: B-

                     

    7. Shaun Livingston, PG

    The stat sheet fails to capture Livingston's impact, largely because he's matching his career low in minutes (17.3 per game). He's an expert at playing to his strengths (56.4 field-goal percentage) and has a savvy mind to lead the second team. However, his restricted shooting range can muddle the offensive spacing in certain lineups.

    Grade: B

                                     

    6. Zaza Pachulia, C

    If Pachulia had a little more bounce, he might be the ideal big for this group. As it is, he's not far off. He's a no-maintenance grinder who frees up teammates with screens and cleans their mistakes on the glass.

    His passing is an asset with all the weapons around him, and the fact he can hit elbow jumpers leaves the paint less cluttered. He could provide more defensive resistance at the rim, though.

    Grade: B+

5: Andre Iguodala, SF

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    It's funny that Andre Iguodala's NBA resume features a Finals MVP award. The recognition was well-earned, but it felt like an awkward fit for someone who thrives outside the spotlight.

    He's all too easy overlooked in Oakland. For the fifth straight season, he's setting new career lows in minutes (25.7) and points (6.4). He's also appeared a step slower at times, either feeling the effects of aging or pacing himself for the playoffs (or both). He's been overly cautious with his shot selection6.9 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes, fewest of the rotation players—and on some nights barely noticeable.

    But some of that is by design. For a club that tightropes between creativity and carelessness, Iguodala is a calming influence.

    "His impact, it goes way beyond making a shot," Kerr said, per Letourneau. "His defense, his ball-handling, getting us organized, it's all that."

    Iguodala leads the league with 4.6 assists per turnover. He has the highest plus/minus of any reserve (plus-404). He typically takes the Warriors' toughest defensive assignment and holds opponents below their normal field-goal percentage.

    Does that forgive the volume decline and his offensive reluctance? Not entirely, but on balance, his contributions are far more positive than not. 

    Grade: B

4: Klay Thompson, SG

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    Klay Thompson is a man of his word. He told The Vertical's Shams Charania he wasn't sacrificing his role to accommodate Kevin Durant and the new-look Warriors.

    Thompson's stat sheet is almost a carbon copy of last season's—22.0 points from 22.1, 3.7 rebounds from 3.8, identical assists (2.1) and steals (0.8) averages. His field-goal attempts are down by 0.1 per game; his makes are the same. He went from 3.5 triples a night on 42.5 percent shooting to 3.3 at a 42.0 percent clip.

    "Thompson has one mode on offense, and that's to shoot when he has a shot," Zach Harper wrote for FanRag Sports. "Considering he might be the second-best three-point shooter we've ever seen (next to his teammate Stephen Curry), nothing was going to change his approach."

    Little has changed with Thompson's defense, too. Golden State's backcourt stopper is still stonewalling guards of all sizes. He is knocking 1.9 percentage points off his opponents' conversion rates, and the Dubs defense allows an extra 2.6 points per 100 possessions when he's off the floor.

    Few aspects of the Warriors roster feel more luxurious than having Thompson slotted into the No. 3 scoring spot. He's an incendiary shooter from range and a perpetually improving finisher inside the arc.

    But for being an All-Star, his stats can be forgettable in non-scoring, non-sniping categories.

    Grade: A-

3: Draymond Green, PF

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    When Draymond Green is good, he's unbelievable and entirely unique.

    He had a four-point triple-double, the league's first of its kind. He's on pace to become the first player in nearly 30 years to average at least 10 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Add his 1.4 blocks to the equation, and his stat line becomes unprecedented. He's the assist leader of the most efficient offense ever and arguably the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year.

    But there's no telling what might happen when his emotions get the best of him.

    He has 12 technical fouls, two flagrant fouls and one ejection already this season. He has kicked enough players—intentionally or not—to force action from the league office. He was suspended for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the turning point in his team's historical collapse. And he's had heated sideline discussions with teammates and coaches.

    "He's unapologetic about who he is," Curry said, per Chris Nelsen for the Detroit Free Press. "When you know who you are, you don't have to explain yourself to anybody. Regardless of what people say about him, he knows how important he is to our team. I love having him as a teammate, and whether that fire spills over sometimes, we can take that."

    Green's fire isn't going anywhere, and the Warriors wouldn't want it to. They just hope it won't push him off the rails at the wrong time.

    Grade: B+

2: Stephen Curry, PG

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    The record books show the Warriors suffered a loss on Christmas, but now it looks like a tiny step back for an Olympic-sized long jump forward.

    That's when the Warriors got their MVP point guard back.

    Curry had spent the first two months deferring to his teammates and making sure everyone was comfortable in their new roles. He still performed at an All-Star level—24.1 points and 5.8 assists per game, 39.7 three-point percentage—but it fell well short of his revolutionary standard. He told reporters he wanted more pick-and-roll involvement, and he's been skyrocketing back to his trendsetting ways. Over the 26 games since, he's put up 25.7 points and 7.0 assists a night while hitting 41.7 percent of his long-range looks.

    "I just look to be more aggressive," Curry said, per Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post. "Mostly, it's just having a purpose of balancing my aggressiveness to score and also as a point guard on this team, picking and choosing my spots and understanding how the flow of the game is supposed to be with that perspective."

    Even if he's ceded the title of most talented Dub to Durant, the point guard with unlimited range still means the most to his offense. When Curry plays, they put up a mind-boggling 118.2 points per 100 possessions. When he doesn't, the figure plummets to a pedestrian 104.4—which would be 19th.

    His season grade still carries the effect of his uncharacteristic start, but he's building it back up one defense-deflating triple at a time.

    Grade: A-

1: Kevin Durant, SF

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    Durant was a first-ballot Hall of Famer before arriving in the Bay. The 28-year-old former MVP has somehow been even better than advertised.

    "Durant's consistent efficiency has been something to behold this season, and so too has his versatility," ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote. "He's co-anchoring the defense with Green, passing well and scoring with ruthless efficiency every night."

    The development of Durant's supplemental skills has been the biggest eye-opener of his transformation. He's posting personal bests in boards (8.4 per game) and blocks (1.7) and having his third-best season in assists (4.9). He's also holding opponents to a lower percentage at the rim (49.0) than Marc Gasol, Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis.

    But Durant is also evolving as a scorer. He's never had a higher field-goal percentage (53.8) or true shooting percentage (65.2). He's carving defenses every way possible and is on pace to become only the sixth player to average at least 25 points with a 65-plus true shooting percentage.

    He has never maximized his scoring chances better than this, which makes his growth in other areas all the more impressive.

    Grade: A 

                                

    Unless otherwise noted, statistics accurate through Monday, Feb. 27, and used courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.

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