Golden State’s Wing Problem
Will the Warriors make the playoffs with performances like this? Probably. Will they last long in the post season? No way.
— Fast Break (@GSWFastBreak) March 9, 2013
Rockets-Warriors was an entertainment cut above Kings-Warriors, that’s for sure. Golden State also played better against a better opponent.
The tendency exists to overreact to whatever happens in these final, few, stressful games, so let’s keep fixed on the broader view: The Warriors are still likely headed for the playoffs, where they will likely bow out in the first round.
There are a myriad of reasons for why Golden State probably won’t make it to the second round. They have a lack of interior defense when Bogut’s hurt, and a lack of team speed on defense even when he’s healthy. The Warriors are great when Jarrett Jack is on his game, but he’s either hurt or slumping terribly right now. GSW lacks penetrating guards, so easy baskets are difficult to come by. Klay Thompson is a good deep shooter, but he misses so many contested 2’s. The team uses three rookies as rotation players.
Given all that, Mark Jackson and his staff have done a splendid job wringing wins from this roster. They should also be commended for vesting so much trust in their rookie players. The problem is that the role that Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green must take on just might be too big for them.
Harrison Barnes has these moments of electric glory, usually in the form of dunks. Between those plays, and occasional slick layups, there’s a lot of empty space. Harrison struggles to incorporate his athleticism into that gawky handle, and his court vision is blurry. Though Barnes will eventually be a prototypical defensive wing, the kid’s not there yet. He gets stuck on screens off the ball, as rookies tend to do.
Draymond Green exhibits few rookie tendencies on defense. He’s one of the best I’ve seen on that end, right out of the gate. It’s just hard to find floor time for a guy who’s shooting .324. His lack of offensive production has been shocking because Green was a good shooter in college.
Neither is even at the level of an average NBA backup wing and both share the duties at small forward (along with Klay Thompson, who starts at shooting guard). And yet, the Warriors are forced to soldier on with this tandem because there’s no other option.
The only short term solution is that one of these guys markedly improves. This can happen with rookies but it hasn’t happened this season. The Warriors are nearly wingless, and lack a superstar to compensate for the deficiency. Right now, this is a solidly average team that’s an injury away from being a familiar kind of mediocre.