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Why isn’t Steve Kerr playing Jordan Bell?

Well, why? The dude looked good in his few minutes... Here are the likely reasons.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets
play me please
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Long-time readers know I have something of an irrationally good feeling for Jordan Bell. I managed to write 6 out of my first 7 Explain One Plays about the newcomer.

Steve Kerr has earned a lot of benefit of the doubt when it comes to team building and morale. I don’t think there’s a coach out there with a better reputation with players that he’s put in difficult playing time situations. However, I’m still frustrated that Steve Kerr has given Jordan Bell fewer and fewer minutes as the season has gone on. Why would he do this, that man devoted to Strength in Numbers and playing James Michael McAdoo and Anderson Varejao in crunch time?

Why? I think we can dismiss as a factor Bell’s hotdog dunk in garbage time that launched a thousand old-timer tut-tuts. Steve Kerr didn’t actually tell Bell that he was in the wrong, he just warned him that he was going to get elbowed by offended Mavericks.

I wrote a longer piece scouting out Jordan Bell’s early season performance at BBallBreakdown, where I look at his unexpectedly excellent offensive performance and his so-so rookie-like defense, using videos and statistics. So his defense is one reason.

It absolutely can’t be taken for granted that a rookie could pick up the Kerr offense so quickly. The Warriors offense is a hybrid of Seven Seconds or Less early offense, and set offense from Spurs Motion, Phil Jackson Triangle, and Adelman Corner. Plenty of players never got the hang of the offense (like veterans Jason Thompson and Brandon Rush, and young draft picks Nemanja Nedovic and Ognjen Kuzmic), and even this season, veteran Nick Young is struggling to grasp it.

He’s still figuring out how and when to rotate over from the weakside block when good pro offenses will punish such rotations with a corner 3.

And teams have been targeting him for isolation attacks. In Bell’s pro debut, Eric Gordon memorably blew by Bell repeatedly for layups and a dunk. You would be correct if you say that Gordon makes a lot of bigs look bad, but the book on Bell seems to be to shot fake repeatedly until he fouls, use spin/pivot moves to get by him, and finish with quick bank shots under the shot block.

And beyond that, I believe Kerr wants to keep his vets ready.

It’s obvious that Jordan Bell has exceeded expectations for a second round draft pick.... On the other hand, the Warriors have a glut of flawed big men on the roster. Due to the salary cap, GSW has gone for volume and variety over quality of big man....

Instead of going with the hot hand, or choosing veterans, or going with youth, Kerr insists on shuffling all five players in and out of the lineup, sharing essentially one spot, which has even led to Jordan Bell being Inactive for two games. It’s not the fastest, most ideal way for Bell to develop. But Kerr is in Win Now mode, and this year is an awkward transition year. Next year the Warriors are likely to lose David West to retirement and may let one or both of Zaza Pachulia or JaVale McGee go as free agents. Jordan Bell, Damian Jones and Kevon Looney (if back) could pick up larger roles. But this year, Kerr needs to keep his veterans sharp and their egos stroked to have them ready for the fires of the playoffs, and unless injuries knock them out of the rotation, Jordan Bell is likely to remain on the bubble for regular playing time.

And without trying to be too coy about this, this is mainly about keeping Zaza Pachulia positive, and to a lesser extent, JaVale McGee. Just like Kerr sensed Harrison Barnes needed to start to thrive, he senses the same with Pachulia. And Kerr would have started David Lee over Draymond Green if not for Lee’s injury. And I personally believe Jordan Bell could replace McGee’s contributions tomorrow, but Kerr will try to keep McGee happy.

Having said that, let me now return to chanting: FREE JORDAN BELL! FREE JORDAN BELL!


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Steve Kerr should play Bell

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    way more, let the kid start. FREE JORDAN BELL!
    (878 votes)
  • 33%
    let Bell earn more time with his play, forget Zaza’s ego
    (1843 votes)
  • 30%
    continue warming up the veterans, in Steve I Trust
    (1658 votes)
  • 19%
    I can’t focus, I’m too angry about the reffing in the Celtics game.
    (1044 votes)
5423 votes total Vote Now

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