M.F. – The Warriors are 7-9 since the 10 game win streak ended, what has been the biggest change with the team during that span?
J.R. – Their once stout defense has disintegrated. They are still ninth in the league in points allowed (98.8) and fourth in defensive efficiency (99.4) but this stretch has been mired by huge point outputs and sluggish movement on the defensive side. Their offense hasn’t been clicking, and they’ve too often found themselves leaning on post-ups, isolations or contested jumpers instead of trying to find the best shot as a result of fluid ball movement.
A team full of willing (and capable) passers often finds themselves making one pass too many, leaving an indecisive play on that end and an ugly shot. Klay Thompson has struggled mightily since the win streak (38% from the floor, 39% from three), Harrison Barnes has continued to look flustered on both ends and Andrew Bogut has missed four games and Lee has missed three (while playing through the injury for additional games).
I know you asked for one reason, and I gave you several, but that’s usually how Mark Jackson answers his questions anyways. For a “no excuse” basketball team, he sure rattles off many when explaining an issue with the team. Regardless, their defense hasn’t looked as ferocious since the beginning of the season. This team really needed the All-Star break, and the Warriors desperately hope Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut (their three best defenders) have gotten enough rest to start their playoff push. If they haven’t, that push may come up empty.
What are your personal thoughts on Harrison Barnes? I know the franchise is high on him, but is he a building block or a possible asset?
Ah, Harrison Barnes. I was ecstatic when the Warriors nabbed him at #7 in the 2012 draft and was even more excited after seeing his performance in the last season’s playoffs. But now, after the acquisition of Iguodala and seeing how he’s performed this season, I see him more as a possible asset than a building block. Given Iguodala’s recent four-year deal and the experience, defense and ball-handling he provides, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon and has been an immediate upgrade over Barnes even through his injury struggles and lack of offense.
Barnes still holds value around the league, and being only 21 and still on his rookie deal he can nab the Warriors are pretty decent haul if they find the right partner. He clearly prefers to start, and while he’ll never say it, he doesn’t like coming off the bench. With Klay Thompson seeking an extension very soon, the Warriors can’t afford both and are seemingly making the decision to keep Thompson over Barnes long-term. It’s a tough one considering his age, money and potential, but windows are so short in the NBA (excluding the Spurs) and Lacob’s willingness to make the important moves now, Barnes is the most viable asset on the roster.
Whether the Warriors find anything worthy of dealing Barnes for at the deadline is still unclear, but it’s clear now who they have to deal to get better. Potential is great for teams willing to wait for such talent to develop, but the Warriors can’t afford to have an underperforming forward as their sixth man if they want to advance deep into the playoffs. The time may not be now for a deal, but it’s nearing inevitability.
What are your thoughts on the Steve Blake move that just went through? And, on a scale of 1-to-a-funeral, how much less exciting will every Steph Curry heat-check be without Kent Bazemore doing his thing in the background? (FYI, Rockets fans are unhappy with this move. Still bitter.)
I’ll go a 4 on the 1-to-a-funeral meter. Bazemore was a character, a fan-favorite and an expendable asset on the end of the bench. While many fans won’t like that he’s dealt (RIP Bazemoring), especially to the Lakers, Steve Blake is exactly what this team needed and what Bob Myers has been looking for since the early stages of the season. Jordan Crawford was never a pure point-guard, and the Warriors acquired him much more for his ability to score in bunches than his ball-handling and leadership.
Blake has played in only 27 games this season after battling a slew of injuries (most recently his elbow), but has posted career highs in assists (7.6) and minutes per game (33) in that span. He provides veteran leadership (11th season), a true point-guard mentality and unselfishness to a second-unit that needed all three. His presence allows Curry to play off the ball more often, spell Curry or Thompson when need be and even hit a big shot or two if the situation calls for it.
The move keeps the Warriors under the tax threshold and ship for two players that weren’t getting any time at all. This move won’t move mountains, but Bob Myers acquired a player of use for next to nothing. It’s hard to criticize the move, and I love it.