The Mark Jackson Situation
Every now and then, we will tackle a topic that is largely discussed in the Warriors World Forums.
Throughout the course of the season, one topic has consistently come across in the Warriors World forums: Mark Jackson is the wrong coach for the Golden State Warriors.
This is not the case of an overzealous fan base wishing to jettison their headman simply because there is a Hall of Fame coach waiting to take the job over. Rather, Jackson has consistently made moves that have irked the Warriors faithful this season because they have affected the team’s chances at winning.
To be fair, Jackson is responsible for leading the Dubs into the 2013 postseason and getting them within striking distance of one of the top-four records in the Western Conference this season. Thus, clearly he is doing something right.
Nonetheless, some of the concerns raised about the team are warranted. For instance, in the 50th episode of the Warriors World podcast, super fan Mike McGuiness raised the issue that he despises the power play substitutions.
This criticism of Jackson is fair given that he removes all five players that have developed a feel for the rhythm of the game and replaces them by reserves who have barely gotten their legs warmed up.
What’s more, Jackson has thrust the likes of Kent Bazemore into the role of backup point guard all the while ignoring the fact that the position requires some level of expertise in dribbling the ball against pressure defense.
Grantland’s Zach Lowe offered this appraisal of the reserve’s game:
Kent Bazemore, the most famous Las Vegas Summer League star, has never proven he can shoot from deep or be trusted with the ball in the real NBA. There were times this season when he struggled just to get it over half court and/or throw a simple entry pass. He appears to be a defensive specialist capable of extended minutes when he’s rolling a bit, but not a backup point guard.
This partly explains some of the failures of Golden State’s reserves. They have been one of worst second units in the league, but an argument could be made that this is the result of their deployment.
For instance, Tim Greene already documented with great depth that the use of Toney Douglas was less than ideal when factoring in his strengths. And yet, instead of acknowledging these issues, the team simply traded him away.
As ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss put it, the transaction itself made sense, but the methodology leaves much to be desired:
Instead, Mark Jackson tapped Douglas to run a bench unit deprived of helpful offensive players. He was set up to fail and did so spectacularly. Those who watched Douglas on the New York Knicks could have confidently predicted this. To summarize, the Warriors used their new acquisition wrong, then traded his diminished value before the All-Star break.
If left unchecked, this has the potential to blow up in the coaching staff’s face. Take it from someone that has won back-to-back titles for a marquee NBA team. Dan Hyde of the Sun Sentinel relayed the thoughts of Erik Spoelstra prior to the start of the 2013-14 season:
“Building habits,” Spoelstra says, is what the endless regular season is about. Habits are key. Habits are necessary, he says. It’s trite and coachspeak, but maybe it’s really what Van Gundy was getting at in charting the Heat coach’s path.
In the case of the Warriors, Jackson has developed some questionable habits and well, the team is slowly getting adjusted to them. The line shifts are frustrating in their own right, but that is hardly the lone gripe with Jackson.
He has fallen in love with his offense to the detriment of his defense. Andrew Bogut is missing out on key fourth-quarter stretches because the coaching staff prefers to spread the court out with shooters and allow David Lee to go to work on the interior.
The strategy has its merits as far as scoring goes, but the Warriors cannot seem to stop anyone in the game’s final period. Indeed, NBA.com tells us that the fourth quarter is the frame in which the Warriors allow the most points per 100 possessions so far this season.
Not so coincidentally, the fourth quarter is also the period in which Bogut sees the least amount of minutes according to NBA.com. It’s quite possible that Jackson is merely using the regular season as his own laboratory.
Using a multitude of lineups and changing things up can certainly help in terms of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of various groups once the postseason rolls around. Still, one cannot escape the feeling that some opposing coaches offer better in-game tactical adjustments whereas Jackson relies mostly on his basketball ideology.
The perfect example of this came in a defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. With Brian Shaw instructing his team to switch on all pick-and-rolls, the Dubs attacked Ty Lawson and forced him to defend David Lee, who repeatedly manhandled him.
In the game’s most important possession (with Golden State trailing by a point), Shaw changed the assignments and had Wilson Chandler defend Stephen Curry from the outset while Lawson defended Harrison Barnes.
Instead of going to Barnes or potentially having the former North Carolina Tar Heel run the same pick-and-roll play with Lee, the Warriors chose instead to run the action with Curry and Lee.
Curry got matched up with J.J. Hickson who promptly stole the ball from the Dubs’ guard and scored a backbreaking dunk that helped close out the game.
Simply put, the Warriors are not getting the most out of their players and well, that is up to the coach. The title picture will only get cloudier from here on out unless Golden State gets better directives from its headman.
Otherwise, talent can only take you so far…
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