I am a very selfish writer, if you're into thinking that I'm some semblance of a person that writes. The Golden State Warriors' historic start generated many headlines, chief among them the improvement of Marreese Speights, Klay Thompson, the coaching staff's excellence, Stephen Curry's MVP campaign, and Draymond Green's DPOY candidacy. Pretty much everything positive. As the season has worn on, however, the headlines have begun to fade away as the national spotlight has shined among them and the same themes are being pushed out over and over again. What else is there to discuss when you're already done so over a month ago? So of course I had a piece penned attempting to divulge the recent struggles of the Warriors as they look to head into the All-Star Break on a high note. Then the Phoenix Suns came into town and trashed the entire thing.
To save face, I'm going to try and understand Steve Kerr, Ron Adams, and Alvin Gentry's adjustments as other teams begin to game-plan the Warriors a certain way.
1. Leandro Barbosa as bench unit scorer. Kerr has already tried this on different occasions throughout the season and it's failed nearly every time. He plays Barbosa as the first or second guard off the bench, usually to ignite a stagnant bench attack. The last two games, Barbosa is 13-19, albeit with most of those coming in garbage time against the Utah Jazz. If Barbosa is able to knock down threes at an average rate (career 38.8 percent), it leverages more upside given that he's such an excellent finisher.
2. David Lee as the backup center. Another offense-based twist, Kerr has essentially gone away from Marreese Speights (17 minutes in last two games) for now, in hopes that Lee can provide some inside scoring and passing. In his 24-9-6 game against the Chicago Bulls, Lee took advantage of post-up mismatches and dished his way to a vintage Lee effort. The jumper still isn't all the way back and might never surface again but I think Ron Adams will be fine knowing that his defense is much improved especially in terms of contesting shooters. I expect Lee to steal most, if not all, of Speights' minutes as Kerr will want to play Draymond Green or Harrison Barnes as much as possible. The Speights-Lee frontcourt don't play enough defense and cramps up the spacing way too much especially in Shaun Livingston-Andre Iguodala lineups.
3. This one seems obvious but Stephen Curry is playing a bit more now that games are close again. In 37 wins, Curry has averaged 32.7 minutes and in the eight losses, he's almost at 36 minutes per game. As the dream start nears closer to reality, Kerr knows his minutes, and ways he uses him in the rotation, will have to change. I'm a lazy piece of trash so I haven't charted how much Kerr has gone to Curry to finish the entire first and third quarters but he's done it the last few games given the closeness of the contests. Earlier in the season, he'd be content with a 6-7 stint to start the game and a 10 minute close-out of the half, but a Livingston-Iguodala stretch is just too much even when Klay Thompson is on the floor. The Warriors have to play lockdown defense to beat elite teams unless guys like Green and Iguodala are draining threes.
4. I don't pretend to know Ron Adams' schemes or adjustments but it's fun to watch his players fly around the ball when Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green are there to protect the rim. Playing Lee at the five also necessitates a more perimeter-oriented defense. It allows Draymond Green to jump out on unsuspecting point guards on pick-and-roll defense. The change-up also comes when Bogut lays back and ices the opposing driver into the baseline. Andre Iguodala is sometimes even used as a safety-esque type of player where he starts on the worst offensive player but mainly so that he can help and dig down against post or slashing players. As lineups with Lee and more Curry enter the fray, Adams will have a tough job balancing both sides. It might be a choice between Lee and Speights when games start mattering a bit more.
In a season fraught with success, Steve Kerr is proving that remaining static quells the upward trajectory of this team. The Warriors don't get where they are right now without some systemic changes. They will not get where they want to be without the same thought process.