3-on-3: Quick Season Outlook
In this installment of 3-on-3, we take a quick look at the landscape of the Golden State Warriors’ season with the Warriors World staff.
1. Who is the MVP of the Pacific Division: Blake Griffin, Goran Dragic or Stephen Curry?
Rasheed Malek: Blake Griffin. During the absence of Chris Paul, Griffin became a conqueror of men at the power forward spot. It’s gotten to the point that we can make the assertion that Griffin is perhaps the best four-man in the league.
Seriously, check his splits and focus on his February numbers: 30 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on 54.5 percent field-goal shooting. That’s the guy right there.
Danny Leroux: Stephen Curry. An argument could be made that these three should be 3, 4, and 5 in the whole league MVP race if you factor in games played and team success. One way to think about value is to replace a player with a league-average starter and imagine what happens to the team.
Curry’s unique role as both the primary distributor and primary scorer would be brutally hard to replicate in any single individual. The Golden State offense has been elite with Steph on the floor and worse than Philadelphia without him, and defense has not been a strong suit for any of these three. Since neither of the other two are putting up a meaningful advantage on the other end over the course of the season, Curry’s superior offense and greater role in his team’s success on that end due to the comparative lack of other shot creators makes him the right call.
I am a huge fan of Goran Dragic and his impact on the Suns while Blake Griffin impressed me in Chris Paul’s absence, but Curry has been the most valuable of the three over the course of the season.
Joseph Duruaku: The Pacific Division has a new look this season; it’s loaded in constants and some pleasant surprises. The Lakers’ run of dominance has come to an end, the Kings are still bad, (no surprise there) the Clippers and Warriors have risen from the depth of the Western Conference to put a vice grip on this division and lastly, the Phoenix Suns have shocked the entire NBA fan base by playing at such a high level. On paper, this roster is nothing special, but the Suns have found a formula that equates to solid basketball.
In regards to who the MVP of this division is, I find that choice an easy one to make. I give that honor to Blake Griffin. His play during the absence of All-Star point guard Chris Paul was exceptional. He reached a level that NBA fans have not seen many power forwards reach in a long time. Some might give the nod to Goran Dragic, but I look at the team’s body of work, and the Clippers impress me more. Lastly, Stephen Curry’s post All-Star break struggles are not too alarming, but they are keeping him away from being named the best player in his division.
2. In a post over at Bleacher Report, this trade was raised: Harrison Barnes to Detroit Pistons, David Lee to Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Josh Smith and Jarrett Jack. Thoughts?
Rasheed Malek: The trade ties up some of the Dubs’ projected cap space in future seasons, and I’m not sure the swap moves the needle enough for Golden State to part ways with Lee and Barnes.
Danny Leroux: While I have been one of the more ardent supporters of moving David Lee for the right fit at Power Forward, Josh Smith has not played well enough to earn that place. Changing cities, coaches, and surrounding talent has done absolutely nothing to curb his bad habits. This year in Detroit has been his worst season of his entire career in terms of rebounding (offensive and defensive), shot blocking, and scoring. Even factoring in the position change for parts of games does not fully explain this deterioration just as a player should be entering his prime.
On top of that, Smith’s contract runs one year longer than David Lee’s at slightly less money per season. That extra year means that the team would still be paying Smith $13.5 million when Klay would be in the second year on his extension and Bogut, Curry, and Iguodala would all be getting eight figures as well. Putting Jarrett Jack in the deal locks in at least two luxury tax years no matter what happens. Adding Harrison Barnes, a legitimate asset and potentially the best one the Warriors would be willing to move, locks in a flawed core that would rely heavily on Stephen Curry.
Joseph Duruaku: The idea of trading Harrison Barnes has become attractive given his disappointing production this season. I do not like the idea of trading David Lee; his importance to the Warriors is one of a kind. But for the sake of the question, lets assume that this trade happened.
David Lee is sent to Cleveland, the Cavaliers get better; Lee is a top talent in the NBA and makes any team formidable. The Pistons also become a better team, they receive Barnes… an athletic forward that can space the floor for them and post-up when needed. Now to Golden State… assuming Steve Blake does not return to the Dubs next year acquiring Jarrett Jack is a good move.
I dislike the idea of acquiring Josh Smith because he is limited offensively. He can post-up and control the glass, but he has not changed his game since he first came into the league. Losing Lee and Barnes for Jack and Smith would doom the Warriors. No team needs a player that wants to play outside the offense. Also, take a look at Smith this season. At 30, it appears that his athleticism has faded, and that was a key attribute that allowed him to be bothersome on defense. I say no to this trade.
3. Should we be worried about Stephen Curry’s production since the All-Star break?
Rasheed Malek: Should not be worried at all about Steph’s drop in production, in fact, Warriors fans should be thrilled. The acquisition of Steve Blake finally allows Steph to rest knowing there’s a legit backup behind him. Mark Jackson doesn’t have to keep Steph on the court 36+ minutes, which allows Steph to pick his spots during the game and be fresh to close out contests. It also allows Steph to play off the ball more with Steve Blake on the floor.
Danny Leroux: No, not really. Playing a series of games against the Eastern Conference can hurt a guy’s stats, especially when playing at a slower pace. His scoring has been solid and the assists have been there, and those are the centerpieces of what he provides to the team.
We also should consider the single most welcome development of the post-deadline Warriors: Curry’ reduced minute load. In the ten games since the All-Star game, Curry has played thirty or less minutes four times and thirty-two minutes twice. Reducing his insane minutes load reduces counting stats like points and assists, a trade-off every Warriors fan should be happy with in the regular season.
Another few games like the disaster in Chicago would certainly be concerning, but on the aggregate Steph has played well and been a key part in the team’s 8-2 record over that stretch.
Joseph Duruaku: Simply put, no. Curry is a shoot first guard that much is clear. At times, his stats will drop due to his shot not being “on”, but he will be ready for the playoffs.