Robinson. Thompson. Rush. McGuire. Udoh.

Like the snobbiest of Bulls fans, the “bench mob” is my favorite part of the game. You see, the GSW Russian Matryoshka doll has a soft Ellis-Curry-Wright-Lee-Biedrins exterior that hides this scrappy, hardened second unit. It’s always a fun, shocking contrast, to behold the secret defensive layer.

After so many years of seeing absolutely no defensive facet from Golden State teams, I savor this morsel of staunch like it’s my death row meal. The Warriors are still subpar defensively, but at least the subs aren’t.

The backups are killing plus-minus to the degree that it’s become a running Kawakami trope. While it is easy to dismiss their effectiveness as, “it’s against the second string offense,” I’ve seen Scott Skiles make the playoffs with similarly ugly lineups. The current bench mob will make 10.3 million dollars this year and David Lee will make 11 million. With that in mind, I’m not even sure the Warriors want to consider a possibility that this crew can out-perform expensive first string talent–especially since this is such an ugly band of ducklings.

Some benches are blessed with, “Man, they could start for so many NBA teams.” Not this one. These guys lack the offensive skill to start for even mediocre NBA squads. They are flawed players who don’t compensate for each others’ weaknesses so much as they amplify each others’ defensive strength in the aggregate. And a chid-sized man shall lead them.

Nate Robinson, reckless game manager

Ironically, the defensive bench mob is commanded by a defensive liability. Nate Robinson isn’t even a perfect one-way offensive force, as his heedless gunning can destroy the flow of an offensively able unit. Thankfully for him, the other four guys just aren’t so able. Rush and Thompson can hit threes, but they can’t reliably create shots anymore than I could turn my fingers into oragami cranes. If Nate can find them on a drive and kick, great. If not, Robinson is blessed to take whatever dumb shot he desires, as such an option is certainly preferable to whatever mischief Udoh and McGuire might get themselves into with a basketball.

In football, a defensive minded team will often employ a mediocre “game manager” quarterback whose raison d’etre is risk aversion. Alex Smith is free to throw 3rd down bounce passes, so long as he doesn’t toss interceptions. It’s okay, if he can just manage a field goal or two, the defense has Smith’s back (bizarre special teams turnovers not withstanding).

Basketball is apparently different, because “Better Judgment” is terrible at guarding Nate. The little man chucks more than woodchucks who work under the paradigm of chucking wood. There is risk aversion in his strategy though, because Nate only averages 1.6 turnovers–as though Robinson’s tunnel vision allows him to paradoxically, recklessly play within himself. Take a dumb shot before it becomes a dumber turnover, I suppose. Right now Nate has a better turnover rate than any GSW starter save for Dorell Wright.

Of course, the unit’s strength is defined by the defensive prowess of Udoh, Rush, and McGuire, probably in that order. But they would have a hard time outscoring opposition without their volume scorer. Nate is just enough individual offense to allow collective defensive triumph.

3 Responses

  1. Pinto

    This is some rare outstanding sportswriting with a great sense of humor and solid, interesting observations to read and discuss. Mark Jackson has made this club more interesting to watch and so has Nate Robinson and crew.

  2. Ethan Sherwood Strauss

    @Bobby G

    A time will come for that. Right now, I need to figure out Klay Thompson.

  3. Bobby G

    Aww you were on a roll ESS, I thought you were gonna profile all 5 of them.