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Preview/Game Thread #29: Golden State Warriors Host L.A. Clippers To Begin A 'Crucial' Week With Ekpe Udoh Starting

Golden State Warriors (11-17) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (19-10)
7:30 p.m. PST
TV: CSN Bay Area | Radio: KNBR 680
Blog Buddy: Clips Nation

6:53 pm update from @TimKawakami: "Udoh gets the starting nod because Biedrins is sick, but if Udoh stinks it up, Mark Jackson is going to let me hear about it (I think)."

Since a competitive and exciting game on opening night, the Los Angeles Clippers have met expectations as one of the NBA's more exciting teams while the Golden State Warriors are at a point where management has to begin considering a shift in focus from the playoffs to a future after missing the 2012 playoffs.

The time for public proclamations hasn't come quite yet for management, but the team's three games this week - beginning with tonight's game against the Los Angeles Clippers - could be a tipping point for management, according to an article by Marcus Thompson II.

So with management's focus likely turning to the future finally shortly, it seems appropriate to take the beginning of what Larry Riley has called a "crucial" week to look at a player who should figure prominently in the Warriors' future: Ekpe Udoh.

Thompson writes that, "If the Warriors don't turn things around quickly, Golden State will be forced to turn its attention away from the playoffs and to developing the young talent... and even more minutes for second-year big man Ekpe Udoh."

But playoff situation aside, the bigger question regarding Udoh might be why he hasn't already gotten more than the sixth-highest minutes on the team, as already discussed by Tim Kawakami who (naturally) turns to the plus/minus stats.

Udoh is head-and-shoulders the GSWs’ best plus-minus guy: They’re +111 in the 542 minutes he has played… and -139 when he has been out....Udoh is +4.0 per game. The Warriors overall are -1.9 per game...It doesn’t take a math major to figure out what’s happening–the Warriors are losing 5.9 points a game in the 28+minutes Udoh does NOT play.

Kawakami goes on to speculate on why Udoh isn't playing, but instead I think it's worth sticking with the plus/minus for a moment: Udoh's plus/minus numbers are actually even more impressive than Kawakami gives credit for when you look at the adjusted plus/minus (APM) numbers. EvanZ has already described APM at length in his advanced statistics primer, but to (loosely) summarize APM is plus/minus adjusted for the quality of players that someone is playing with and against.

In Basketball Value's individual adjusted plus/minus rankings for the last two years, Udoh ranks sixth in the entire league. And for what it's worth, he ranks 17th in the league in the 1-year APM rankings.

We don't have to have a discussion about whether Udoh is a better player than the Clippers' top-rated player by APM (Blake Griffin) to say that Udoh has been a huge positive when he's on the floor, primarily because of the defensive ability that we most recently saw on display in Friday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in which hardly anybody else did anything well.

Regardless of management's focus, it seems reasonable to say that Udoh has to get more chances on the court: if this is a crucial week in which they want to win games, they need to at least try finding more minutes for Udoh in the rotation. If they want to shift to a greater focus on development, then they definitely need to find more minutes for a player that is showing great promise right now in less minutes than other similarly effective players.

6:53 pm update from @TimKawakami: "Udoh gets the starting nod because Biedrins is sick, but if Udoh stinks it up, Mark Jackson is going to let me hear about it (I think)."

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