3-on-3: The Rotation Guys
The Golden State Warriors (16-13) are fresh off a road victory over the Denver Nuggets (14-13). There are some recurring teams that showed up last night about the team and we tackle them in this installment of 3-on-3.
1. Who has been the best Warrior this season not named Stephen Curry?
Jordan Ramirez: Andrew Bogut and it hasn’t been close. His point totals will never impress — a modest 7.7 PPG as of this writing — but he wasn’t brought on this team to be a dominant low-post scorer. His primary objectives on the floor relate to defense, rebounding and more defense and Bogut has delivered in all those aspects in this early season.
When on the floor, the Warriors carry a net rating (team net points +/- per 100 possessions) of plus-6.6 points. Recently, Mark Jackson has pulled Bogut in fourth quarters due to his inability to score, so to say his unwillingness or hesitancy to score isn’t hurting the team in some way would be short-sided. With that said, the Warriors aren’t expecting him to get 18 points a night.
Most of his points come off bunnies, putbacks and lobs, but if the Aussie stays healthy that’s all the Warriors could ask for. He’s looked surprisingly quick and carries a higher vertical than I can remember, and this has easily been the healthiest he’s ever been with the team. Curry is undoubtedly the team’s best and most important player, but Bogut isn’t far behind.
Vytis Lasaitis: I’m going to have to say Andre Iguodala. Sure his numbers might not warrant the $12 million a year he is being paid, but I am a huge Iguodala fan and the intangibles he brings to the table are more than worth the money. He has embraced his role in the offense, both as a secondary ball handler and playing off the ball. He doesn’t have many plays called for him and only takes 7.9 shots a game, but he is putting up career-high numbers shooting from the field and from beyond the three-point line. During the 12 games he missed with a hamstring injury, the Warriors went 5-7 and beat just one team with a winning record. His stellar defense, efficiency and unselfish play are huge for this team.
J.M. Poulard: It’s a tough choice, but Andrew Bogut wins out by virtue of his superior games played. The Aussie has been sensational in his role as the team’s defensive anchor. He cleans up the boards and changes shots at the basket, which in turn allows the Dubs to get out on the break.
Andre Iguodala’s name warrants a mention here given how important he has been to the team’s success. Still, health counts as a skill and Bogut has surprisingly been better on this front than the highflyer.
2. Who has been the Warriors’ best second-unit player this season?
Jordan Ramirez: Draymond Green and it hasn’t been close. It’s amazing how important the 35th pick of the 2012 draft has become to a team with championship aspirations, but he’s quickly become a favorite from fans and analytics people alike. Many clamor for more playing time — at the expense of David Lee — from Green, and there’s been a continual increase as the season has progresses.
His three-point shot has improved since last season — 21% last season to 38% this season — and as long as defenses continue to leave him wide open on the perimeter I have no problem with him taking that shot. But the most important part of Green’s game is on the defensive end, and the second-year forward is often seen guarding the team’s most proficient scorer when on the floor.
The beauty of that: he loves the challenge. Green is an incredible competitor and is never afraid to show emotion when on the floor, a key component to any successful second-unit player. The Warriors are still looking for a particular ruggedness, an edge of sorts as they continue to find out who they are.
Green has already established himself as the emotional leader of the team and if he ever gets some help from the second-unit, the team will finally play like how we thought they would to begin the season.
Vytis Lasaitis: Harrison Barnes has started 15 games this year but Iggy is back which sends Barnes back to the bench. So I’m going to cheat and say Barnes. In all honesty, the Warriors’ bench is pretty mediocre. Pretty much all starters are playing major minutes and the only bench guy who sees a lot of consistent playing time is Barnes. Draymond Green would be another candidate, as he has improved his three-point percentage by quite a lot.
J.M. Poulard: Draymond Green. Although Harrison Barnes technically fits here, the fact he has appeared in more games as a starter than reserve going into Christmas forces me to consider him as more of a starter.
Green on the other hand always comes in a relief role and provides terrific defense to go along with his improved jumper. The Michigan State product is no longer a liability on the floor and that allows him to go work and defend the best player on the opposing team. He has executed that task with great success and allows Golden State to shut teams down. Per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, when Green is on the floor, the Dubs defend better than every team in the league save for the Indiana Pacers.
3. What should we make of the struggles of Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes?
Jordan Ramirez: I’m more concerned with Barnes’ struggles than Thompson’s. Even though Thompson has shown significant improvements to his post-game, he’s still primarily a jump shooter on the offensive end. I’ve come to the realization that he’ll be a streaky player on that side of the floor for the immediate future. His man-to-man defense is still impressive, and while he gets burned on a backdoor cut or gets caught for a ludicrous reach-in once in a while, that’s tolerable if he continues his impressive shadowing on that edge of the floor.
Barnes, on the other hand, as struggled ever since Andre Iguodala has returned to the team. The second-year forward just doesn’t seem comfortable coming out with the second-unit and his nonchalantness about his play has become more apparent with fans and critics alike. Like Thompson, his post-game has improved and it’s a thing of beauty when executed to perfection.
But for a player with such potential as Barnes he still is a lost player way too often when on the floor. A prototypical NBA Sixth Man is someone that comes in, provides an emotional spark and is ready to take over a game (if need be) when necessary: Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith, Nate Robinson and Nick Young come to mind. Yes, I know that these players’ ceiling as far lower than Barnes, but any of those above names mentioned can contribute the same or even more than what Barnes is giving the team right now.
He’s not a force on the defensive end like Draymond Green is, but he’s not a poor defender either. To his defense, a lot of his inconsistency has to do with how the team is built — the shuffling lineups and other scorers on the team don’t really give Barnes’ the best situation to dominate. But it’s become increasingly clear that he’ll never reach this supposed “superstar” potential with this team. He’s an integral part of team, whether he plays like it or not. The Warriors better hope their crown jewel of the 2012 draft picks up his play or this will be an even shorter season than last.
Vytis Lasaitis: I’m honestly not one of those people who buys into the notion that Thompson and Barnes are struggling mightily. Thompson is averaging career-high numbers from the field and from beyond the arc, despite taking more shots. Obviously he doesn’t produce quite as well as you’d expect from a guy who plays over 38 minutes per game and is so heavily featured in your team’s offense. He hasn’t really developed much since last year and he is going through a bit of a tough stretch right now, but so is the whole team. Barnes is pretty much on the same boat. He is putting up career-high numbers as far as efficiency goes, but he hasn’t really improved all that much. That can partially be attributed to the fact that his role as a starter was better defined last year. This year he has had to adjust to a bench role and I think his excellent play in last year’s playoffs might have had people expecting a little too much out of him.
J.M. Poulard: The tandem’s struggles are product of a combination of things that will probably organically work themselves out. Klay Thompson struggled mightily in the absence of Andre Iguodala because that meant he had to create more shots on his own. Per NBA.com, only Stephen Curry assisted on more shots to Thompson than Iggy.
Furthermore, if we dig deeper, we will find that the 2-guard’s true shooting percentage is a mere 51.7 percent without Iguodala, but that it climbs to 61.1 percent when he shares the floor with him per NBAWowy.
Harrison Barnes actually has the exact same problem. His shooting drastically plummets from every area on the floor when he plays without Iggy. This one might be tougher to fix given that Barnes typically enters the game to allow Iguodala to rest. Indeed, the Warriors’ athletic marvel cannot always be on the floor.
Still, Mark Jackson might want to make an adjustment on this front given that Barnes has been excellent alongside Iggy in the mere 14.9 minutes per game they have shared together.