By: Scott Horlbeck
Bill Simmons had Ric Bucher and Marc Stein on the B.S Report last week (February 11th). I’m a huge Simmons fan so I listen to all his podcasts. After greeting both guys, his first question goes to Bucher – mind you, the Warriors have lost four in a row at this point.
Simmons: “Let start with the Warriors. After a four game tail spin, I was actually thinking about them as a possible real dark house in the West because I think it’s going to be really tough to win a playoff game there. Is this team the rabbit of the 2013 season, or do you actually they can go anywhere in the playoffs?”
Bucher: “Winning a round would be a huge accomplishment. The problem they have is they’re a system team, but ultimately, as you guys know, to win a playoff series, you need that go to scorer at the end of games. And, you can gameplay – take certain things away from them, and ultimately, Jarrett Jack by default is sort of their go-to guy.”
Stein: “Steph Curry and David Lee don’t count?”
Bucher: “Well, the problem is, the reason they go away from Steph as the point guard and move him to the two at the end of games is because Steph really can’t create his own shot. He’s great at that quick coming down on the break, stop and pop from three, but outside of that, if you put a big defender on him or you force him to drive, you can make the game difficult. And David Lee – same thing. There are just matchups – length on both of those guys that really can make the game hard for them. That’s why they go to Jack because Jack physically can bump off most point guards and at least get that sort of fade jump shot – mid range. But that’s really what you’re relying on for the most part, at the end of games, and I don’t think that’s good enough to win more than a series against the right opponents.”
Pretty standard stuff, nothing that’s going to blow you away – but there’s one thing Bucher said that all of a sudden seems eerily relevant to the trade rumors floating around about Klay Thompson and Eric Gordon.
Bucher said that because of Steph’s lack of ability to create his own shot, especially when being guarded with size and length, Jack sort of becomes their makeshift “go-to guy” at the end of games. “Bump off” is the way Bucher put it, and I think that’s a perfect way to describe it. With Steph’s slender frame, he needs a certain amount of space to get off his jumper because he doesn’t have the upper body strength to “bump off” a 6-5 or 6-7 defender. And while Jack doesn’t possess half of Steph’s skills, he has the body and the strength to create space for his jumper, and as a result, has become the Warriors “go-to” guy at the end of games. But here’s the problem – Jarrett Jack can’t be your “go-to” guy at the end of games if you plan on winning games or series in the playoffs.
Don’t get me wrong; Jack has been fantastic for the Warriors this year. Having the ability to bring a guy off the bench like Jack is an asset, and the Warriors are lucky to have him (props Front Office). He’s provided them with the stability and veteran leadership that has been much needed in the past – WE LOVE JACK!
But not as our go-to guy.
Now, who is a strong/powerful/compact player than can “bump off” long and physical defenders, but also has the skill to be a “go-to” scorer at the end of games.
Maybe, say, a guy who recently turned 24, averaged 22.3 points per game two years ago while playing workhorse minutes, is unhappy with his current situation, and has never played on a good team (don’t discount this – think about playing pick-up and getting stuck with the crappy team that doesn’t pass, set screens, move without the ball, etc – it’s miserable).
DING DING DING!!!
You guessed it!
Now, here’s what I don’t understand – once the rumors of this possible trade made their way to Twitter, it’s been almost unanimous, at least from the Warriors stand point that a) the Warriors wouldn’t make the trade, and b) they shouldn’t make the trade.
Here’s my question: since when was Klay Thompson this golden commodity that the Warriors kept hidden in the back room and only brought out if you knew to ask about it? So let’s all settle down for a second and straighten a few things out.
1. Eric Gordon is not Monta Ellis. Just because they both play shooting guard and are under 6-4 does not mean they’re the exact same player. But if we’re going to do the size thing – Gordon is built like an NFL running back. He outweighs Monta by 35 pounds, and is stronger than Monta in every aspect of the game. He’s also a better long distance shooter. In his last full season – the lockout season – he shot 36.4% from three, which isn’t great, but is better than Monta’s career 32.7%. And since were on the topic of three point shooting, Klay is shooting a blistering 33.3% from downtown in the month of February.
2. I know we all love Klay’s feathery stroke – but let’s be honest– he hasn’t exactly been the model for consistency. While most of his major-category numbers are up from his rookie season, we’re all still waiting for him to make that jump. But the most frustrating thing about Klay, again, is his lack of consistency. There are games were Klay simply doesn’t show up, and for a team like the Warriors, they can’t afford those types of games from him, especially right now during this six game slide, and especially come the playoffs. Is this something he will grow out of – who knows? The question is, is he worth the wait?
3. Another thing I don’t understand – since when was Klay a lockdown defender. Yes, his on-ball defense and lateral quickness have improved, but to say Klay is a better defender than Gordon – based on what? To me, Eric Gordon is quicker and more athletic than Klay, which doesn’t automatically make him a better defender, but what does? And although Gordon is three to four inches shorter than Klay, he’s strong enough to force bigger guards out of the post – something Klay can’t really do.
Matt Steinmetz has been making the case on Twitter that Eric Gordon is “a scorer, first and foremost,” which is true. No dispute there. But the basis for that statement is the idea that Monta and his scoring held Steph back, with the presumed thinking that Gordon and his scoring will do the same. But why do we immediately assume Gordon’s impact on the Warriors and it’s players will be the same as Montas’? How is that an intelligent and fact-based assumption?
When I think back to what Bucher said about Steph and Jack and how winning in the playoffs is all about having a guy who can score at the end of games, the Warriors don’t have that guy. They just don’t. And if the roster stays the same come the trade deadline, they won’t have him come playoff time. Eric Gordon can be the Warriors “go-to” scorer. Like Bucher said, the Warriors have to bring Jack off the bench because of Steph’s lack of ability to “bump off” defenders and create his own shot. With Gordon, Steph stays at the point, the opponent’s best defender most likely takes Gordon, and now you have multitude of options. Gordon can attack the rim, kick out to Steph, drop off to Lee, – with Gordon on the floor the Warriors simply become harder to defend. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most.
I’ve always looked at these types of scenarios in this way – put yourself in the shoes of the defense. Who scares you more – Jarrett Jack or Eric Gordon? Who’s more difficult to defend, Jack and Steph, or Steph and Eric Gordon?
Come playoff time, these games are going to come down to the wire, and you’re going to need a go-to guy down the stretch. Someone you can count on to get a quality shot. If you think the Warriors already have that guy – great. Don’t make a trade. If you don’t think they have that player – maybe Gordon is the guy.