Writing about Andre Iguodala's importance to the Golden State Warriors after the win against the Portland Trail Blazers the other night, ESPN's J.A. Adande wrote, "...two NBA executives told me how important they think Iguodala is to the Warriors, maybe even more than Thompson and Draymond Green."
I'm not sure I can get behind the idea of Iguodala being more important to the Warriors than Green, but we certainly felt the significance of his absence during the Warriors win against the Phoenix Suns last night.
With Iguodala out at least two weeks and Stephen Curry in foul trouble during the third quarter, it was clear how much they need both of those guys on the court if they expect to perform consistently. With Ian Clark inserted in an apparent attempt to preserve Shaun Livingston, the Warriors fell apart, as Chris L of Warriors Fast Break described.
When Ian Clark entered, the Suns immediately attacked him defensively as a ballhandler. And Clark and Rushâat least last nightâwere ineffective in giving the W's any semblance of what Iguodala gives the W's rotation.
I like what Monte Poole said post-gameâthat Iguodala raises the W's temperature when they need energy and cools them down when they're too frantic.
And it obscures the dilemma to suggest that Livingston can simply step into Iguodala's role. The W's (bench) is at their best when both Livingston and Iguodala are on the floor. Livingston can't play both positions at the same time.
So what we're ultimately looking at is the necessity for head coach Steve Kerr and his staff to completely restructure the Warriors. And as both Chris L and Kevin Jones of KNBR mentioned, that means somehow changing the way Shaun Livingston is used — Jones listed Livingston's role at the top of his list of five "trickle-down effects from Andre Iguodala's injury".
The Warriors love a lineup with Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Livingston because the trio switches off on who brings the basketball up the court. It messes with opponents’ defensive strategy and Kerr hinted that we may get to see these three together more often than originally planned.
I bring that up now because it actually reinforces something similar to what I wrote during the offseason about Livingston's effectiveness last season: he was best playing with Curry last season but didn't get to do so very often. As interesting as how they get through this stretch without Iguodala might be seeing if they find reason to use these lineups more often once Iguodala returns.
However, the case Adande was making goes back to intangibles that Iguodala possesses that everyone close to the team seems to bring up that might not be immediately obvious to those of us watching as outsiders or even media who get limited access.
One point of emphasis was turnovers, perhaps the Warriors' weak spot, and they cut them down to eight Friday...Usually Igoudala is the chief nitpicker. He even found himself nit-picking while watching the rest of the game on TV from the locker room. That's one thing the Warriors might have to go without again for the short term, in addition to his defensive versatility. This might even be a helpful, if unwanted, learning period.
"I think it'll be good for them to try to emulate what our second unit does when I'm not out there," Iguodala said. "We've got to get to that point. Sometimes when I'm not out there with the second unit, we might struggle a little bit or we might get a little selfish. It'll be a good test for us."
To be fair, it's not as if Iguodala can't be with the team, but a nitpicker who's actually on the court can be much more effective in being that calming presence who can re-direct the team to their goals when they start to get a little off course. That's why Kerr was right to make a big deal of this injury, as reported by Rusty Simmons of the S.F. Chronicle.
"It’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. "Andre is so important to everything we do — not only just in terms of schematically, but also in terms of emotionally. He settles us down. He’s one of our two captains. He’s one of our guys who just always knows what’s happening on the floor."
The Warriors are hardly a team without options, but it's quite clear that they have some things to figure out with Iguodala out and the playoffs approaching.
The Warriors have some problems to fix on the road to history
Speaking of nitpicking, the Warriors are not without problems.
Everyone has been harping on turnovers with this team for years now and there at least seems to be some good news on that front: after having 15 or more turnovers for three straight games (@LAL, vORL, vUTA), they've had just 15 combined in their last two games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns.
Harrison Barnes told 95.7 The Game the turnovers issue was addressed today in the film session.— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) March 11, 2016
So at least they're working on that. But it also remains one of the biggest coaching challenges for anyone in charge of this team, as reported by Scott Ostler of the S.F. Chronicle before the Jazz game last week.
Right now, Kerr’s biggest challenge is persuading his players to not get too fancy and careless, while allowing Curry and Crew to finger-paint all over the living-room wall.
"I think it’s a little tougher to deliver the message (about carelessness) this year than last year," Kerr said before the game. "Last year, we hadn’t won a championship, and I could always play that card: ‘I know how to win a championship and you don’t.’ They know how to do it now, we did it together last year. ... It does get tougher once you’ve won one. The message gets old. You’ve got to find creative ways to deliver it."
(For the record, I love the finger painting metaphor)
But defense has also been a problem and, as noted in a FanPost by ScipioTheYounger this past week, a major problem has been that the second unit's defensive efficiency has really declined recently, something that isn't likely to get better without Iguodala on the floor.
Warriors are 16th in DRtg since the All-Star Break. They were 2nd prior to the break.— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) March 11, 2016
Here, I think we might be able point to another glaring absence: Festus Ezeli has been out since before the All-Star break (he last played on January 25) and Marreese Speights (or Jason Thompson) just wasn't the answer as a replacement rim protector.
Thankfully, Ezeli might be coming back soon.
Festus Ezeli (knee) is making good progress & is "on track to comeback" according to Steve Kerr. Will be reevaluated on March 21. #Warriors— John Dickinson (@JDJohnDickinson) March 10, 2016
Marreese Speights' takeover
On the bright side, Marreese Speights had a banner, if inconsistent week this past week.
There's been plenty of talk about Speights' 25 points in 18 minutes against Phoenix, but he was quite good against Utah as well, scoring 16 points in approximately 15 minutes. After that game, Kerr described what makes him so effective off the bench in an article by Simmons.
"Mo was fantastic," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. "What I love about Mo is that he always stays ready. Sometimes I don’t play him. He keeps a smile on his face, keeps working and every time we go to him, it seems like he delivers. "He’s just a great pro. He understands his role on our team, and he helps us win."
Whatever spell Kerr casts over Speights, let's hope he keeps it up.
Prior to the season, we discussed having a FanPost of the Week but couldn't figure out a way to do it and it sort of got lost in the shuffle of other things we've been doing to (hopefully) improve the site.
But then I realized that as long as I'm doing these reviews weekly, I should just throw in a FanPost of the Week based on a theme that has come up frequently among Warriors fans. This week, it's pretty obvious: the ongoing Harrison Barnes discussion.
Parvenu wrote up a FanPost about Barnes in direct response to our podcast in which we just really weren't nice about Barnes (or anything else, really — it became something of a Hater's Ball). It was among the top posts of the entire SB Nation-NBA network earlier this week and it's hard to avoid that Barnes has been on everyone's mind.
Good observation. Knows he's no longer in team's plans? https://t.co/guZleb9SEB— feltbot (@feltbot) March 13, 2016
Other odds & ends
- Todd Whitehead of Nylon Calculus examines the case for Curry to win MVP and MIP with lots of pretty charts and pictures. He concludes that Curry should not win MIP, but I liked his little Superman comparison after writing, "Curry has transformed from mild-mannered MVP, Wardell Stephen Curry Jr., to Supersteph."
- Andrew Bogut might not be a fan of Damian Lillard right now (h/t BornInDaEB for the FanShot), but Oakland still loves him and he loves returning. Courtney Cronin of the San Jose Mercury shared a great short video about his upbringing in the East Bay while Jason Quick of CSN NW did a nice feature on why this year's game against the Warriors meant more than most.
- Eli Horowitz of Pounding the Rock writes that, "Given the Warriors' dominance, it's fun to speculate about a Warriors/Spurs Western Conference Finals. But analysts and fans are kidding themselves if they think that Coach Pop and the Spurs and preparing for that at this point."
- According to Mika Honkasalo of Vantage Sports, Steph Curry leads the league in hockey assists by a pretty wide margin, "Among 72 qualified players, Curry leads the NBA in Indirect Pass Rate at 20.17, which is twice the rate of the positional average."
There are certainly other links, tweets, vines, and videos that I have likely missed, so feel free to drop links from this morning in the comments, create a FanShot with links that we can share on our social channels, or write a FanPost if you have a longer commentary to share with the community. There has been a lot of great content posted in the community sidebars and I've been trying to just refer you there rather than making these posts any longer with them.
And since Kurt Rambis has reminded us all that people other can actually view your "likes" on Twitter, feel free to check up on what I've been keeping track of during the week by following me at @NateP_SBN and letting me know what I've missed.