With the season now passed the psychologically all-important 28.012455% completed mark, it's time to assess where the Warriors are and what can be done about it.
For starters, let's get this out of the way. If anyone still held out playoff hopes, let them go. You're wasting valuable wishing on more likely things, like hitting the jackpot in the state lottery. The Thunder, currently 8th in the west, are on pace for 47 wins. To best that, we'd have to win 41 of the remaining 58 games. Even an outside shot means winning more than 60% of the remaining contests. While we are losing to Chicago and Detroit and looking lost against Philly, that sort of performance is tooth-fairy level fantasy. Getting close to 0.500 is going to take some awesome basketball from here on out as well, and unless everyone gets healthy and starts playing some good ball, and soon, I wouldn't hold out for anything there either.
Going out and not being an embarrassment every night and doing something that remotely resembles building on the future, doing *something* that makes us think that there's reason to pay attention in the future. That has to be the goal.
So what can be done there?
Let's start with the bright spots.
OK, that's enough of that. The bright spots haven't been that bright. Moving on with the "not burned out bulb dark alley" spots, Stephen Curry is putting in more time than a Warriors' rookie has in quite a while, with results that still suggest that they may have done well in the draft. No, he hasn't been the top rookie point guard. That honor likely goes to Brandon Jennings. Even though he's cooled of a bit from the start, Jennings has been rather sensational. And though his scoring efficiency drags down the overall output a bit, he's shown the ability to do everything you can ask of an NBA point guard and has done it well. Additionally, Ty Lawson hasn't played nearly as much, but in his more limited minutes, he's shown all the tools as well.
[For what it's worth, I never understood why the electrically fast Jonny Flynn was touted so highly and eventually went high in the lottery while the equally electrically fast Ty Lawson sunk to the late stages of the first round. Lawson was better in college and so far has been the better pro. Yes, Lawson's in a better situation, surrounded by better players. But that doesn't explain all of it. What he did in college suggested that Lawson was going to be better, that he would make more of his shots, and per minute on the court, hand out more assists and turn the ball over less and grab more rebounds. And that's exactly what we've seen in the pros. Denver is playing real well. Lawson is part of the reason why. Minnesota stinks. Flynn hasn't changed that. The future may change all of this, but for now, whatever 'reasoning' that had Flynn much more highly touted should be examined closely. Their relative performances are more or less what their previous play predicted.]
But getting back to Curry, he's likely here for a while and for the while, that still seems like it could be a good thing. He's demonstrated that he's the best distributor on the team (setting the bar low certainly withstanding). The assist total could be higher and it probably would be without the overall dysfunctional nature of the Warriors offense. The turnovers are a bit high given the number of assists. But he's shown himself to be a reasonable, though not spectacular shooter, efficient enough to suggest that he should shoot it more often and the offense has shown some life when he's been running it. Still he could and should do more. One suspects that Curry is still trying to show the detractors who said he was just an undersized 2 from a small school that he has the chops to make it as an NBA point guard. And he has shown that he really is a point guard, but now it's time to also show that he's able to put some points on the board, to use that sweet stroke he was known for in college to extend the defense.
So is there a move to make? Curry should continue to play. No huge change there. Calls to send him to the pine in favor of C.J. Watson, a player on a one year deal who by almost all counts will have his bags packed to depart the Warriors locker room for good come the final game of the season, seem a bit misguided. That is except for the fact that C.J. should play more, simply because the team has played better when he's been in. And in the long run, reinforcing lousy play across the board will hurt those who don't clean out their lockers come the night of April 13th, 2010.
So if Curry should play and Watson should play, the minutes have to come from somewhere. And right now, those minutes should come at Monta Ellis's expense.
Please do not interpret this as advocation for sending Monta to the bench, or ditching him entirely. But the nightly Allen Iverson tribute band he's cast himself in is not working out for anyone involved. Forty-one minutes of ball-hoggedly predictable high-volume shooting pads his point total, but makes for a stagnant offense where Monta's points come at the expense of a more efficient offense with a better distribution of the scoring load. At the end of games, opponents know that the shots are coming from a tired Ellis and when defenses can key on a tired player, they tend to win that contest. One gets the impression that Ellis thinks he needs to take every shot, and to some the extent that no one else should be taking 18 shots a night, he's right. But no one should have the opportunity to turn the ball over 9 times a game either. So far this year, Monta has accomplished that 3 times. As a benchmark, Kobe Bryant has done that 4 times in his entire career. An honest 35 minutes a night keeps him fresh and it just might help Curry to become a bit more aggressive when Monta isn't there to take all the shots.
So some Curry spiced with a bit more C.J. Watson, at least until his shooting cools, is in order. Still not the most exciting way to avoid catastrophe, and hardly something to feed our psychotic visions of success sometime in the future. For that, we still have to turn to the off-season's savior apparent, Anthony Randolph.
Randolph's rookie season was rather bipolar. He opened up as a wildly out of control talent who failed miserably in attempts to be an NBA SF, but started to shine as a big man, a rebounding machine with an ever climbing FG% once inserted into that role. The quite-possibly-overstated news stories said that he was putting in the hours over the summer, getting bigger and stronger and working on being the player we need him to be. When Brandan Wright went down, it looked like Randolph would see more time. When Ronny and Andris stopped playing in favor of some quality time with Tom Abdenour, it seemed like Anthony was due major minutes.
But the 21 minutes a night Randolph's averaged seems insignificantly greater than those 18 a night we've seen from Mikki Moore. Moore's previously mediocre to poor rebounding significantly over-predicted what he'd do this year. Apparently no one told him that as the only "big" in the lineup, his rebounding totals would be "padded" in the same manner some allege has happened for Biedrins (but not Turiaf) over the last few years. [We don't know much about Chris Hunter, but for what it's worth, he's been a poorer rebounder than Moore. Either he too didn't get the memo that his totals are supposed to be padded as well, or he's just terrible. Stop the hollering for Hunter, people. That's the wrong tree to bark up.]
More Randolph and less Moore would be a start. Yes, the foul rate limits how much time Randolph can be out there, but it does not explain why we're seeing Randolph on the bench more often than not. Has he 'regressed' some from the end of last season? Perhaps. But overall the trend still seems up. It's just perplexing why he's not playing far more often. At least we'd have something to hang our hopes on.
So what do we have? Reel in Monta a touch and push Curry to step it up and play Randolph the minutes his production warrants? No, the changes probably won't make a huge difference, but rather they try than stick with this Titanic mess that we're seeing.
Make it happen, coach. Those deck chairs ain't gonna rearrange themselves!