The Warriors, despite a strong start, have yet to strike a balance with a quintet that is nearly as good on one end of the floor as it is the other. For example, the starters can’t score at all and defend barely better than the team’s average, and bench-heavy units – for all their success – lack the dynamism on the wings to consistently avoid offensive droughts.
As always, injuries and cohesion have played a big part here. Brandon Rush’s season-ending injury in the opener changed everything with respect to the perimeter rotation, and Andrew Bogut’s prolonged absence has done the same in the paint. And what their vacancy has done on both ends to the style Golden State wanted to play cannot be overstated either, in the same vein all of the Warriors offseason acquisitions deserve a grace period in getting up to speed.
So while I disagree mostly with what groups Jackson has played and when, there have been ancillary factors at play here that make that always-difficult task much tougher than initially anticipated. With that in mind, I present a much simpler and easier solution: play Carl Landry as many minutes as he can take.
It’s no secret Landry has been the Warriors best player this season, a constant source of energy and offense whenever he’s been on the floor. He’s scored at least 18 points and/or grabbed at least eight rebounds in six of Golden State’s 13 games, all while leading the team in field goal percentage. Nobody expected play like this from the 29 year-old journeyman, and the Warriors’ success despite those aforementioned injuries is owed as much to Landry’s consistent production as anything else.
But even raw numbers like 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game combined with 59.5% shooting don’t do his dominance justice. That’s right, dominance. Check out some of Landry’s advanced numbers compared to other power forwards and you’ll come away even more impressed.
(Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett continue to eschew being listed at their real position of center, skewing the numbers against Landry. When it’s noteworthy we’ll mention it.)
- Player Efficiency Rating: 22.79, second among PFs (Duncan is first)
- Points Per 40 Minutes: 22.3, second among PFs (Duncan is first)
- Rebounds Per 40 Minutes: 10.6, 22nd among PFs and 1.8 better than league average
- Usage Rate: 22.1, 17th among PFs
- True Shooting Percentage: 65.5%, second among PFs and 4.3 points better than next closest player with Usage Rate >20.0.
- Percentage of Baskets Assisted: 44%, fourth fewest among PFs and six points better than next closest player with Usage Rate >20.0.
Based on play this season alone, then, Golden State is basically bringing the NBA’s best offensive power forward off the bench. So that should explain some of the major discrepancies between the success of some of the Warriors reserve units versus those of mostly starters. It’s really not much different than when Manu Ginobili was in his prime playing a sixth-man role for San Antonio; if not for his up-and-down career thus far, Landry would be receiving similar plaudits.
Landry’s play likely isn’t sustainable. He’s always been an offensive force when on his game (most evidently in his rookie season, actually), but not the type of one-on-one post scorer we’ve seen thus far in 2012-2013. So he’ll regress a bit to the mean and his numbers will come down, but that shouldn’t change the takeaway from the season’s first month.
Golden State doesn’t have a more efficient and consistent offensive option in the paint than Landry, and his new effort and focus on defense combines to make him worthy of major, major minutes. He’ll continue coming off the bench due to the organization’s commitment to David Lee and may even see some Sixth Man hardware at the end of the season because of it. But it’s tough not to hopefully wonder what could be if the Warriors were treating Landry as the player he is right now – again, perhaps the league’s best offensive power forward – as opposed to the merely solid one he’s been most of his career.
*Statistical support for this article provided by hoopdata.com.
Follow Jack Winter on Twitter @armstrongwinter.