If the Warriors want to keep succeeding, they'll need more of this from Barnes. - USA TODAY Sports
After a tough loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, I take a quick look around the team and try to assess what might be impending struggles.
A little over a month ago, I attempted to take stock of what was the early hatchings of a very promising season. Since then, it has bloomed nicely into a season on the verge of an All-Star representative and perhaps a playoff berth.
It was a surprise to everyone that the Dubs came out and outrebounded literally every opponent on their way to one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. That hasn't changed much as they still rank in the top five, coming in at number three with 75.52 percent a game, according to Hoopdata. What some may have considered as fluky starts from players such as David Lee, Carl Landry and even Stephen Curry have been proven wrong. This team is here to rebound for real. Kudos to Mark Jackson.
As for something that has popped up recently, it is the torrid three-point shooting. Earlier this season and for whatever reason, players such as Curry and Klay Thompson were struggling a bit from distance. The Warriors are currently shooting 39.1 percent from long-range, ranking fourth in the league. Their true shooting percentage (which weighs both three-point percentage and free-throws, and what I feel is a more accurate assessment of shooting performance than effective shooting percentage) is 54.5 percent, ranking seventh in the league. The bulk of this has to do with Klay and Curry's rejuvenated shooting strokes but it should mostly be attributed to Coach Jackson's daily game-plan. Even though Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins essentially clog up the lane and present the Warriors with a 4-5 offensive game, it doesn't hinder the fact that underrated passer David Lee is able to swing the ball from one block to the corner in a flash.
Now that they have seemingly fixed their woes from behind the three-point line, they've also shown that they can guard the three. Much-heralded Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey has instilled the philosophy of three-point shooting to his team, letting them bomb away from distance despite a scarce number of shooters on their team. The Warriors defense has adjusted to that and has shut down the opposing offenses from three.
According to TeamRanking, the Dubs have allowed the fourth-highest rate from two-point range, allowing 72.9 of opponents shots from there. The Warriors have allowed their teams to shoot 25.1 threes per game, fourth in the league, but have shut them down to the tune of 33.2 percent per game, fourth best in the league. While Jackson might want his team to force longer twos, their defense against long-range shots has the team owning the eighth-best defensive efficiency in the league, according to Hoopdata.
Now that the three-point shooting is fixed, defense revamped, and Curry's ankle seemingly back in the good graces of the basketball overlords, what else is there to worry about?
Team growth. While it isn't an immediate concern, there is an alarming trend that has presented itself in the past couple weeks that may come into clearer form as the season extends into the tougher portion of the schedule. With two rookies in the starting lineup, another playing rotation minutes and a sophomore also starting, team growth can be seen as a positive and negative.
After hitting the game-winner and playing a career-high 30 minutes in the game against the Miami Heat, Draymond Green has seen his minutes dip below 20 eight times, with six of those coming in the past two weeks. His field-goal percentage is hovering at 30 percent and if he continues to miss shots, especially open ones, he may only be a fringe NBA player.
As for Festus Ezeli, his stone hands are well-documented but it is his lack of offensive polish—alongside with the somehow worse off Andris Biedrins—that may cause spacing problems against better teams.
The X-factor coming into the second half of the season—besides Andrew Bogut's ankle—will be Barnes' ability to grow and become a much better creator than he has shown so far. Even though he has played well the past couple weeks, he still isn't shooting very well (42.3 percent) and has only shown flashes of what he is capable of. This leads into Mark Jackson's rotations, which will need to perhaps scale back Curry and Lee's minutes and take out struggling vets that he has leaned on all season. This was evident in the Clippers game last week when Jack was struggling and Jackson, instead of holding Barnes back until the end of the first half like he always does, decided to insert him around the seven minute mark. A couple nice passes and a three later, the ship was righted and the team went on for a blowout win. It will be Barnes' growth that will dictate how Jackson's rotations go.
Good news, at least Richard Jefferson isn't playing.
Tying in with the concern of the developmental players is the depth of the team. If Bogut isn't going to come back this season, Jackson will have to lean heavily on players that have never come close to a full slate of regular season games. He is essentially running a seven and a half-man rotation with Biedrins, Green and Charles Jenkins all playing scattered minutes every game. A solid bench will have to play many more minutes down the stretch. And we know how important and fragile a Curry sprain can be...
Player trending up
Way too much Curry pessimism up there. Curry is the only player in the league to average 20+ points, six-plus assists and two three-pointers a game. Oh, and he averages 4.3 boards on the season as well. He is currently shooting 43.5 percent from the field, but 45 percent from three. In his past eight games, he has shot 133 times, making 63 (47.3 percent). In that span, he has also shot 65 threes, making 34 of them (52.3 percent).
It's as if Curry shouldn't shoot anything BUT threes, threes and more threes. According to my infinite knowledge of math, 3>2 and 45>43.5 so this is a good thing, yes?
For players that average 30+ minutes per game, Curry owns the fourth-highest PER amongst point guards, coming in at 18.96. However, he does play the most minutes amongst point guards, with 37.8 a game but we haven't heard a peep about his ankle in ages.
Sounds weird to say but I hope that David Lee goes to the All-Star Game so that Curry doesn't have to play more minutes than he has to. Yeah, I'm selfish. And?
Player trending down
Klay Thompson. His overall numbers are starting to come around and he is taking somewhat better shots—there is still the occasional random three with 25 seconds (wow, that's fast) on the shot clock. However, there isn't a tangible amount of improvement being shown. This is probably a product of the expectations shouldered onto him after a breakthrough rookie season, but it appears that Klay is content acting as the three-point specialist, spotting up from the corner in transition and running around pindowns on offense. When he does dribble, he usually takes one or two bounces into a fadeaway but doesn't attack the basket the way he did down the stretch during Tank City.
It may tough given that Barnes is garnering more touches and Curry and Lee will always get theirs, but Klay has much more game than he has shown thus far.
I preface this by saying that plus/minus and even adjusted plus/minus is a flawed statistic (as is most stats) but it doesn't make it less fun to mess around with numbers and see where it gets you. If you want to do your own toggling, check out our own resident advanced statistician Evan Zamir's new toy.
The best five-man unit, accounting for a realistic amount of minutes played together, is the Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Lee-Biedrins lineup which owns an 80 percent Win%, according to 82games. However, it's a little more fun to check out the Landry-Lee lineups, as they seem to play the majority of crunch-time minutes and overall minutes, for that matter.
It appears that without Jack in the lineup with Landry, they play much worse. With the small lineup and Jack, the Dubs are a +58, but with the small lineup and Barnes, the team is a mere +4. This is probably due to Jack's familiarity to Landry dating back to their New Orleans days. That same small lineup without Klay (replaced with Barnes) is a +22.
What can we take away from this?I like to look at vaguely informed statistic and draw important game-altering conclusions from there. And also do not ever put in Landry without Jack please, Mark Jackson.
Or just keep doing what you're doing because you're 21-11, seven games above the Los Angeles Torn Labrums (Lakers), fifth in the Western Conference, and frontrunner for Coach of the Year.