We're at about the midpoint of the Warriors 2007-2008 season. The good news is that if the regular season ended today the Warriors would be playoff bound for the second year in a row and are only 5.5 games out of the prestigious #1 seed in the mighty Western Conference. The bad news is that they are clinging to only a 0.5 game lead over the Utah Jazz for the right to not count ping pong balls in May.
At last season's midpoint Fantasy Junkie hit you with a fun auto-centric midterm report card. Since it's beyond frigid right now in this brutal Bay Area winter I thought I'd bring the heat for you all in this year's Warriors 2k7-2k8 Midterm Report Cards using the NBA Hotspots feature on NBA.com. Hotspots is presented by NBA Live 08 from the same people who brought you those nice outdoor hoops courts in Redwood City, EA Sports. I'm a big fan of information visualization and thought it'd be cool to go Edward Tufte on you in this piece.
Make the jump to see what's IN THE GAME!
Kelenna Azubuike: B
You can't help but root for a guy that worked his way from the NBDL to the pro's. Kaz is a solid option off the bench for the Nellie. He can shoot the three-ball and rebound at a very nice rate. His highlight blocks make you jump out of your seat, but his D just isn't there yet. You have to wonder if he has the speed, handles, court vision, and defensive ability to be much more than a steady option off the bench given his age (24). How much better will he get? The second half of this season should tell us a lot.
A somewhat depressing trend is that his numbers have been declining pretty much all across the board since his early brilliance.
- November- 31:36 min, 13.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.6 apg : 1.1 to, 0.7 stl
- December- 22:41 min, 8.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.4 apg : 0.9 to, 0.5 stl
- January (through 1/21)- 15.05 min, 6.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.6 apg : 0.5 to, 0.8 stl
The left side is the best side!
Matt Barnes: C
Barnes has really rebounded strong the past several games from some expected early season struggles. I'm fully willing to throw out his first half and look towards what should be a much, much better second half of the season for him. He's the Warriors X-factor and the better he plays the better this team is and the further they go in the uber-loaded West. Our prayers are with him and his family.
Just wait till the end of the season.
Marco Belinelli: F
Belinelli's shot release sure does look pretty, but the results aren't pretty one bit. He's the shooter who can't shoot. Who would've thought that with all the off season hype coming from Nellie and the Warriors organization (they couldn't wait to start printing and selling his #18 jersey and in a season ticket holder event they were saying something to the effect of "you'll be amazed"), this "sharpshooter" would be clanking 68.6% from the field and bricking 71.4 of his 3's? If Belinelli's not scoring and knocking down his shots, I can't really blame Nellie for asking him to go down the DLeague. His passing, rebounding, and defense have a long ways to go if he's going to make it in this league.
It's way too early to close the book on his tenure with the Warriors or his NBA career, but right now it ain't looking good. That's really too bad too. Warriors Nation really wanted to play Marco Polo!
John Hollinger from ESPN.com took a lot of criticism for a lot of Warriors fans for his comments before the season about Belinelli:
2007-08 outlook: A sweet-shooting guard from Italy who was the Warriors' first-round pick, Belinelli made waves with a big performance in the Warriors' summer league and generated high hopes that he can take Jason Richardson's spot in the backcourt.
Golden State fans are in for a crushing disappointment. Belinelli's translated European stats are extremely poor, and the track record of those numbers has been extremely reliable the past few years. They suggest he'll make some shots from the perimeter, just as he did in summer league, but struggle off the dribble and contribute absolutely nada to the rest of the box score.
Hollinger's right on the money so far.
Burr thats cold!
Andris Biedrins: B
Biedrins has solidified his spot as one of the best finishers near the rim in the league. His handles were virtually nonexistent last season, but they've improved by leaps and bounds this season. Watch him grab the rebound and push the ball upcourt with few dribbles up to get Warrior Tempo started. He's not going to take anyone off the dribble and if he does it with a pesky guard within close proximity it's going to get picked, but you have to appreciate that improvement. Biedrins doesn't get much help on the boards and on D in the paint from the other Warrior forwards, centers, and even Nellie's decision making, but he never complains.
Sadly he has yet to improve in the other areas he needs to work on if he's going to be a prime time player that the Warriors should devote a huge chunk of their payroll to. His man to man defense especially near the bucket has regressed and his weakside D and shot blocking just aren't where they were last season. He was billed as a defensive player, but he's morphed into a below average to poor defender and an excellent scoring option for lay-ins, dunks, and rolls/ cuts down the lane. It's funny how things play out, but he has half a season still left to make some big leaps in his game that we'd all like him to make. As of right now his production isn't that different than last season. If the Warriors are going to solidify their playoff spot and improve on last year, he's going to need to step up because the Warriors don't really have any other option (at least that's what Nellie seems to think).
- 2006-2007- 29:00 minutes, 9.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.1 apg : 1.5 to, 1.7 blocks, 0.8 steals
- 2007-2008- 27:36 minutes, 10.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.2 apg : 1.3 to, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals
That big jump in production that I'm sure he and his agent were banking on when they were talking extension this past offseason unfortunately hasn't happened yet.
Biedrins could really improve his game by leaps and bounds by working on his shot technique. If you look at his shooting form on free throws and short hook shots, he oddly uses the bottom of his palm and upper wrist to try to will the ball into the basketball, instead of letting the ball roll off his fingers. I'm not sure where he picked up this unorthodox technique, but it seems like it really makes the game harder for him unnecessarily. He's got great, soft hands so I'm not not sure why he's held so steadfast to this odd method.
Can you say 1 dimensional?
Austin Croshere: B
When the Warriors signed Croshere in the offseason I had no idea what they were thinking. He had virtually no upside, peaked at being an average NBA player back at the turn of the century, and was coming from the upset-ed Dallas Mavericks. I still question the signing given all his injury woes, but he's proven to be solid player off Nellie's rarely used bench. Sure there's nothing the least bit exciting about his D and he's unlikely to be on this roster next season (if he even makes it that far), but he's provided some good stretches off the bench. Way more than you could ever expect or hope from him. At this point in his NBA career, he's not a very good NBA player, but Nellie's found a way to use him for some good minutes off the bench. Nothing spectacular, just solid.
"Austin Croshere can get scary hot!" -- Fitz
(RECAP: Warriors 120, Bucks 90 - Scary Hot)
Baron Davis: A
Can you really ask all that much more from Baron Davis this season? Yes, it would be nice if he didn't have those offnights (ahem, ahem, ahem, ahem, ahem, ahem...), but the man is putting together a fantastic season. The Warriors have asked him to lead them in scoring (22.2 ppg), run their offense 8.1 apg), help alleviate their poor rebounding (4.7 rpg), and create turnovers on D (2.4 steals) all while playing nearly 40 minutes every night. They're also asking him to do this without his other half of the high flying BoomRich backcourt and no replacement that lightens his scoring or rebounding load one bit this season. That's a lot to ask for and for the most part BD has stepped up big time.
His D just wasn't there during that pitiful 0-6 opening to the season, but Baron's been playing tough defense with a few offnights here and there with Nellie asking him to guard the likes of some big name Western Conference guards. He's overworked, but that rarely stops him from trying on D and pulling some random clutch shots pretty much out of nowhere (just ask the Lakers). Take away Baron and this team is arguably worse than the Sacramento Kings.
The best stat about Boom Dizzle this season so far: 0 games missed
(I hope I didn't just jinx that!)
If only they highlighted all the crazy clutch shots he took and made!
Monta Ellis: B+
Monta really struggled in the early going of this season and it looked like he was in danger of losing his starting spot to Kaz for the rest of the season and beyond. It made you wonder if he was in the Warriors' longterm plans. However, just like last year when everyone was talking about Dajuan Wagner and forgetting about him, Monta didn't care what "They Said..." and picked up his game big time. He's become the league's best 1 man fast break and has developed a pretty reliable mid-range J off the dribble, which is somewhat of a lost art in the NBA. Monta's also stepped up his glass work a bit and the results were on display recently against the Bulls (7), Pacers (8), Spurs (9), Magic (12), and Rockets (9).
The funny thing is if you look at his numbers, they really aren't that much different than last year's MIP breakout campaign. He's definitely cut down on the turnovers (especially those painful unforced ones from lazy passes and lack of focus), but his 3pt shot is shakier than ever (I read somwhere that Nellie likes 3's, so it's important to get those from his starting 2-guard).
- 2006-2007- 34:17 minutes, 16.5 ppg (47.5% FG and 27.3% 3pt), 4.1 apg : 2.9 to, 3.2 rpg, 1.7 steals
- 2007-2008- 35:30 minutes, 17.1 ppg (50.4% FG and 21.2% 3pt), 3.3 apg : 1.8 to, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 steals
Also his D seems to have fallen off quite a bit from last season. He doesn't seem as hungry in the passing lanes or pressuring the ball. It speaks volumes about Nellie's view of Monta's defense that he never has him guarding the other up and coming PG's in the West like Deron Williams or Chris Paul or even the legendary Allen Iverson. If Monta is going to be a formidable tag team partner for BD who the Warriors are so dependent on, he's got to help Boom out matching up with these types of PG's.
The key questions for the remainder of this season that will answer a lot of questions this offseason when the Warriors and Monta's camp are working out a probable extension:
- Has he leveled off?
- Will he ever be more than an undersized shooting guard?
- Can he become a better offensive facilitator?
- Can he become a reliable or hopefully dominant scoring option in half court sets?
- How much of a liability will he be on the defensive end if he's going to be a fixture at the 2-guard spot?
- Can he play big when other teams negate his speed and quickness with equally fast players or better transition D?
- And most importantly- will his post game interviews always be so awkward? (Seriously, this one bugs me the most by far!)
This is what the Hotspots look like for a 1 man fast break.
Al Harrington: C
Al's really struggling this season and it's anyone's guess how many minutes Nellie will give him each night. He scoring, rebounding, and assists are all down. I love this guy's defense against bigger players in the post (he does a superb job of fronting his man and denying the entry pass when called upon) and his positive, fun demeanor. If Al could jump just 2-4 inches higher, he'd be a much better finisher and rebounder. Until that happens, he's just going to be mediocre overall player who can hit the trey at an exceptional rate. Throw on the jump shoes Al!
Oddly enough his hotspots chart would lead you to believe he's a good finisher inside. Unfortunately, that's just not true.
Troy Hudson: F
T-Hud's been injured pretty much since day 1, but that doesn't mean this was a curious offseason signing to begin with. Props to the man for having a long and solid NBA career.
Is it over folks?
Stephen Jackson: B+
You can easily find fault with his shot selection, turnover, and Coit Tower high dribbling, but don't forget that Jackson's giving the Warriors all he's got and then some. Jack's had to play above his level this season because he's been forced to pick up the slack offensively for Jason Richardson. Expecting him to continue to shut down the team's best defender and put up 20 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 4.2 apg is just asking too much. If he keeps it up for the remainder of the season playing nearly 40 minutes nightly without major fatigue or nagging injuries I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Life without Jack on this team isn't fun. It's 1-6 depressing. The moral of the story is appreciate what he's giving us. Take the good with the bad. The J-Rich trade created a situation where the Warriors are living and dying by a guy who's shooting 39.8% from the field and 32.4% from downtown. Unless they lighten his load, I don't expect Stack Jack's shooting percentages to get that much better. The Warriors have asked him to be something that he's not- a second offensive option on a playoff team in the West.
That's a LOT of 3's.
Stephane Lasme: F
Wow that was quick. The Warriors cut Lasme before you could even say Chris Taft.
Sorry I just found this amusing.
Patrick O'Bryant: D-
When the Warriors drafted him both he and the organization said he was a project. So why didn't they pick up his option this past summer if it was well understood and agreed upon that it was going to take him a few seasons to become a player for the Dubs? As expected midway through his second season in the association he's still a... project.
Aside from the awful foul rate, I like what I've seen from him those few times he's gotten to play this season. Much better than last season when looked like he really didn't care. Still at this point in his career he has to step up especially when the Warriors have glaring holes offensively and defensively in the low post. Opportunity knocks, but can he carpe diem?
It's like POB's playing NBA Jam- "HE'S ON FIIIRE!"
Kosta Perovic: F
This very well could be a completely different grade when it's all said and done for the Warriors 2k7-2k8 season, but for now paying a guy part of the midlevel exception to play in the DLeague when Nellie and the gang need help now is absolutely ridiculous.
Whoever thought a zero threat position could make you perfect from the field?
Mickael Pietrus: D
MP2's suffered through some very difficult health issues- a tough shot to the nose and the flu- and Nellie has cut back on his minutes and opportunities big time, so I can't blame him too much. But you'd really hope that a former lottery pick in his 5th season would be a better all around player offensively (he seems to only make the flashy pass that gets him on the highlight reel) and not have so many moments that make your hair fall out (back to back turnovers from stepping out of bounds? Ouch!).
It's only a question of when his tenure with the Dubs is over. I think I've typed this a million times now, but I'm really going to miss his goofiness. The guy's a character!
Maybe we should rename Air France to Jet Blue.
CJ Watson: B
I'd give this guy an A+ alone for the great nicknames he's provided us already. He's not the pass first backup PG the Warriors desperately need and he hasn't shown any indication of being a shut down defender against other PGs, but I've liked what I've seen through his 7 games with the Warriors so far to hang on to him for the rest of the season. CJ is fast enough and athletic enough to play Warrior Tempo. 10.29 KBLX is in heavy rotation!
Smoove R and Beeee!
Brandan Wright: D
He seems like a really good kid and I feel bad because he seems a little depressed. Wright's rookie season hasn't exactly gotten off to a great start. It's a pretty big red flag that Nellie doesn't trust Wright enough to play him when the front court could use a ton of help and the bench is so thin. Other rookie forwards/ centers like Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Yi Jianlian, Jamario Moon (although it should be noted he's a 27 year old rookie, so it's a misnomer), Luis Scola (27-ditto), Sean Williams, Joakim Noah, Jeff Green, Glen Davis, Al Thornton, Thaddeus Young, Corey Brewer, Jason Smith, and a few others rank higher than him on David Thorpe's 2007-2008 Rookie Class rankings [ESPN] which makes you wonder if the Warriors took the wrong guy with the BETcats #8 overall pick.
To tell you truth I'm terrified this pick is going to come back to haunt the Warriors for quiet some time a la Joe Smith. Wright's frame and physique is a huge hindrance down low both offensively and defensively against NBA 4's and 5's and right now he doesn't have the range, handles, or speed to be a perimeter player. He runs funnier than CWebb ever did when Nellie was cracking jokes at his expense during his rookie season with the Dubs. I hope I'm wrong here. God I hope I'm wrong.
He's got a ways to go, but he's still very young and learning.
Don Nelson: A
Nellie definitely has to find a way to use his bench more or force Mullin's hand into getting him some players he feels comfortable playing, but if someone told me the Warriors would be 7 games over .500 at this point in the season back in November I'd think they had been sipping a little too many post-game frosty beverages with Nellie. Is there any other coach in the league that could be forced to use Stephen Jackson as their 2nd offensive option and get this far? Is there any other coach in the league that could get this far without a single traditional dependable low post scorer in half court sets? You can't help but appreciate what could sadly be a hoops coaching legend's final tour of duty. Fight the power Nellie... Fight the power.
What are your midterm grades for the Warriors? No cop out Incompletes either!
Also flip back through the archives for all the past GSoM Report Cards. It's always fun to see how players have progressed, regressed, or stayed the same.