In the first part of our Q&A with Matt we tried to make sense of Stephen Jackson's trade demands. That was quite an interesting exercise.
In this segment we talk about the Warriors defense (or lack thereof), rookie Stephen Curry's shooting woes early on in the Las Vegas Summer Leagues and the preseason, and how to balance the minutes on a talented, but imbalanced roster.
Golden State of Mind: The Warriors were easily one of the worst (if not THE worst) defensive teams in the league last year. How can the Warriors improve in that area this season? How much of their defensive issues come down to defensive system (i.e. coaching) vs. effort vs. poor defenders?
Matt Steinmetz: You don't get to be the worst defensive team in the league for any one particular reason. A lot of it, to be fair, has to do with style of play. If the Warriors, for whatever reason, decided to become a halfcourt team tomorrow, they would no longer be the worst defensive team in the league ... even though they didn't change in any fundamental defensive way. That said, it's not great, is it? I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they struggle to guard two of the most important positions on the floor - point guard and power forward/center. I say power forward/center as a way of saying post-up guy. I know you're supposed to pick one side or the other in the whole Baron Davis debate, but the fact is that he could at times set a defensive tone from the point guard position that then got his teammates involved. It didn't mean the Warriors became a lock-down defensive team, but it meant that they had guys swarming and hovering and trying to wreak havoc and it was effective in stretches. Let me make clear: at times. But when Baron started pressuring out front, it usually got everyone else more active. They don't have anyone like that. And by the way, I'm basically talking about last year. I don't anticipate things will change drastically, but I'm just saying. As for opposing big men who are skilled, the Warriors struggle there, too. And I say that acknowledging that Ronny Turiaf and Andris Biedrins aren't bad defenders at all. Turiaf gives you a chance against a lot of back-to-the-basket players. But he's just never going to be more than a low-20-minute per night guy. He's going to get in foul trouble. He goes after every block and doesn't allow easy buckets. I wouldn't want him to play any other way. But he's never going to anchor your frontcourt. It's no secret Biedrins struggles against powerful centers. So even though between them they're not bad defensively, my point is that there are some holes up there. And once you get past those two, you're looking at Anthony Randolph and Corey Maggette. Now we're getting into a real problem area in terms of frontcourt defense.
Golden State of Mind: Coming out of college Stephen Curry was most known for his sweet shooting stroke. However Curry has struggled mightily in terms of FG% in the summer leagues and in the preseason. He has however put up some nice assist totals, which should come as no surprise to anyone who heard Coach Bobby Knight hype him up as the best passer in college basketball last year. Will Curry's jumper and FG% in the NBA be more in line with the scoring acumen he displayed at Davidson? Is there something different about his shooting technique that's causing the low %'s? Will handling and distributing the rock be his forte in the league?
Matt Steinmetz: Coming out of college, much of what we heard about Curry centered on whether he was a point guard or two guard. Seems to me, that's not much of a debate anymore. The kid's a point and looks like he'll be a pretty good one. I'm less concerned now with his shooting than I was a month or so ago because I now see he can help your team without necessarily shooting the ball well.
The challenge for Curry this season will be figuring out how to best run this team ... or try to run this team. He's got a lot of teammates who aren't as willing to pass the ball as much as he is, and they're going to want the ball from him as much as possible. Trying to decide among Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette is going to be a thankless job, and it's going to be impossible for him to make everyone happy. That's not an easy position for a rookie to be in.
Golden State of Mind: Let's say you're the head coach of the Warriors and trying to manage this imbalanced roster with talent, but some gaping holes. Who would be your starting 5 and how would distribute the minutes to get the bench players involved?
Matt Steinmetz: That's actually a tough question. On the one hand, the starting five would seem to be pretty easy: Curry, Ellis, Jackson, Randolph and Biedrins. On the other hand, I'm not sure that Randolph playing with those guys is best for the team or Randolph. Randolph is still young and learning so he's finding himself worrying more about his own game than how it fits into the team concept at this point. Also, there's no doubt that Nelson might have to look at using Curry and Morrow more together.
It's pretty amazing that Curry is the only player on the team that seems to look for Morrow. Then again, if you really take a good hard look at the personnel of Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette, they aren't really players who look for teammates. All three of them, Jackson included, think of themselves as scorers. So when they don't find Morrow - or any open teammate, for that matter - it's not so much they don't want to pass the ball, it's that their games are limited and that's not really what they're cut out to do.
It's easy to say the Warriors have played only two games and there's no reason to panic. On the other, it seems apparent that there's too much overlap of position and skill on this team and the Warriors could really benefit from having another player or two who thinks about the team more than they do about their own games.
Stay tuned for Part Trey!