Sunday, November 25, 2012

Warriors Hanging in Without The Big Man

Since the consensus towards the Warriors' seasons was that they'd go as their new fragile center Andrew Bogut goes, I'm sure I'm with anyone when I say this has been much better than expected.

Now, the Dubs couldn't pull off their 3rd straight in Denver on Friday night, thanks mostly to early foul trouble to their key outside threats, Steph Curry and Harrison Barnes, they still have to feel pretty good about where they are. Especially considering they've now played the better part of the season without their top defender and anchor in the middle, Andrew Bogut. It's still not clear when exactly Bogut will be back, but I was guessing mid-December when they sat him down and I'm sticking with that guess, just hoping I'm not coming up short. However, in Boguts absence the guy who has pretty much saved the W's season thus far has been Carl Landry. I know we've mentioned him here and there before at the Rundown, but this guy just continues to produce with the minutes he's being granted. I know the Warriors would like to have a beefier front line than Barnes-Lee-Landry, but until Bogut returns, that's probably what we're going to be seeing more often than not. That said, I can't finish out this segment without giving props to Festus Ezieli. Not only has he outplayed Andris Biedrins and given the W's a solid effort on the court, he actually looks like he's developing before our eyes and I very much see the comparison with Epke Udoh, though Ezieli looks to have more talent,

Out on the perimeter, Steph Curry has been all the Warriors were hoping for to start 2012, and some. The 4th year point guard has averaged 19.3 points per night to lead the Warriors and what's impressed me as much as his quickness and efficiency on the court, has been his actual minute total. He was instrumental in the overtime victory over Dallas a few nights back in which he logged 44+ minutes. Honestly, he looks like a totally different player than the guy we saw limp and ease his way through those few games in January. He's got his swagger back, and it's rubbing off on Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. We've talked much about Barnes here lately, so you can just scroll on down for our thoughts on him, but he just continues to play better than we were hoping, faster than we were hoping (minus that foul-out game vs. Denver). Then Klay Thompson hasn't quite taken that big leap we were hoping for from year 1 to 2 yet, but I think it's only a matter of time. Thompson averaged just 8.2 ppg over a four game stretch leading up to his last two, in which he's gone off with a 23 point night vs. Brooklyn, then a 16-point effort in the loss vs. the Nuggets. Thompson needs to go to the rim more (he's better at it than he shows) and it'll create more FT opportunity and open looks for teammates. He could average 17 PPG and 5 APG easy with his skill-set. Right now everyone seems to be doing their job. Just would like to see some better shooting out of KT and better decisions from Curry (shot selection).

As for the other rookie, Draymond Green, I'll just say this; Green's particular stat sheet doesn't stand out, but the Warriors aren't 7-6 through 13 games without their rookies. Barnes had has had some huge contributions as the starting small forward. Ezieli has filled in admirably (for a rook) for Bogut vs. some of the better big men in the league. As for Green, he's held his own playing both the 3 and 4 spots on occasion and is showing to be a consistent rebounder. His shot should come., but until then, the W's should be looking at wing players to maybe replace Brandon Rush as snipers off the bench for quick scoring. One name that comes to mind is Michael Redd. Not sure of his health, but the 32 year-old finished off nicely in Phoenix last season and could be used for points.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Harrison Barnes Arrives

He showed flashes through the first few games of the season, but over his last two games, Harrison Barnes has shown exactly why the Warriors were so stoked when the forward fell to them at 7 last June.

After Brandon Rush went down with his season ending injury in the 2nd game of the season, Mark Jackson knew he was going to need someone to step up and help take some minutes at the three spot to help Harrison Barnes. However, as it turns out, the rookie has appeared up to the task of taking on the extra minutes and has actually thrived doing so. Barnes has absolutely come alive in the Warriors last two games, both victories, and he was instrumental in both. Not only have the Dubs been without Rush, but we all know about the Andrew Bogut saga (more on that in a bit), so the Warriors have needed a shot in the arm and Barnes is providing it. He had his coming out party vs. the Hawks at Oracle on Wednesday night, scoring 19 and reeling in 13 boards to help the Warriors to the 92-87 victory. Then, he followed it up with another beauty against perhaps the best defending small forward in the NBA in Andre Kirilinko and the T-Wolves. Barnes scored 18 and had 9 boards in Friday's game, and he was active and all over the floor all night. The way he's exploding to the rim know just shows you the confidence he's building and you can really start to see a star blossoming. Nobody wanted to lose Rush for the year, but if Barnes keeps playing the way he has, it'll make it a much easier pill to swallow.

Now, onto the Warriors injury watch, which has been sort of good news/bad news early on. We knew Andrew Bogut's time early on this season would be limited, but it looks like he was used too much, too early, and it's forced him to the sidelines indefinitely. He had to make a trip to the doctor that did his surgery the other day, which tells you things are not going as planned, and now what looked to be a 1-2 week break to build strength and stamina, could turn into a much longer absence. However, with the way the team is playing right now, currently 5-4 and getting decent production out of the duo of Carl Landry and Festus Ezieli at the 5, I wouldn't rush the big Aussie along too quickly. I'd like to see him able to play 30+ minutes a night by mid-December, and if that becomes the case, the Dubs should be fine. If they try to rush him back, and he ends up sitting the year, than they won't. We've seen how good even an injured Bogut can be in limited minutes, so imagine what they can do with a healthy one. Now on the positive, the other set of fragile ankles, Steph Curry's, look to be in great shape and he's showing no ill-effects at all so far. His shot has been a bit hit-or-miss, but Steph looks like he's regaining form as evident of his 17 ppg, 5.5 apg average so far.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bogut's Health Key Early On

Through the first four games of this NBA season, the Dubs have had their star center Andrew Bogut on a time limit, typically allowing him no more than 20 minutes on the floor per game.

Obviously, the Warriors are trying to keep their big man as fresh and healthy as possible as he gets his game legs back under him. You could see him coming up winded after running the floor for a few minutes at a time because he just didn't get a chance to do much conditioning throughout the summer. They're still taking it easy on that repaired left ankle, but right now, Bogut's ankle seems to be holding up just fine, but his conditioning is keeping him from staying on the floor more than 5 minutes at a time. The difference in the team's play with Bogut on the floor and him on the bench is night and day. Look no further than Monday night's tilt in Sacramento where DeMarcus Cousins just had his way with the Warriors front line when the big Aussie was catching his breath. Not to take anything away from Festus Ezieli, cause he's done more than I was anticipating in his first four games as a pro, and he looks like he's going to develop into a fine caddy for Bogut, but I just hope we start to see Bogut's minutes hike up over the next few weeks. I know the plan was to keep him on a 20-25 minute limit through the first month, but with the way he's played, that may increase sooner than later.

As per the other Warrior nursing his surgically repaired ankle, Stephen Curry has showed absolutely no ill-effects in terms of getting up and down the floor. His shooting stroke has been a bit hit or miss this first week, but at least he's playing with confidence and looks like the quick and spry Curry we all remember from his rookie season. Other than Curry and Bogut, the Warrior I've been keeping a close eye on is rookie Harrison Barnes. With Brandon Rush now down for the season with his torn knee ligament, it makes Barnes that much more crucial to the team this season, and I really liked what I saw out of him vs. Sac on Monday. He didn't hit all his shots and didn't have a great night offensively, but I finally saw some of those attributes that made him such a dominant force at UNC. He's got the breakaway speed of a point guard on the fast break and he has no trouble attacking the rim, which was a knock on him coming in. It's only a matter of time before his shot starts to fall with more consistency, and that's going to open up his penetration game. I like Richard Jefferson off the bench and all, and don't mind using the 3-guard lineup with Curry, Jack and Thompson from time to time, but Barnes needs to be getting 25+ minutes a night!

Note: Again, due to the Giants World Series run and all the time we spent covering that for various sources, we didn't get a chance to do our annual NBA Preview here at WRD. I know the season is well underway, but we still had some awards and playoff predictions we wanted to get out there and will do so in our next post!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Warriors Tip Off Season, Start 1-1

Well, first off, I'd like to apologize for the lack of posting here at The Warriors Rundown over the last month or so. We've been so wrapped up with our other Bay Area sites with the Giants pennant race and eventual World Championship as well as the 49ers brilliant start to their season. However, the NBA season has officially begun, and 'The Rundown' is officially back!

So, the Dubs are two games into this 2012-13 campaign, and so far I haven't seen much that I wasn't expecting. They went into Phoenix on openeing night and knocked off an improving Suns team, though it was hardly a textbook victory and the Warriors have much higher expectations than Phoenix for this season, a win's a win. The Warriors got nice outputs from the bench, namely the newcomers Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, to help overcome horrendous nights from Steph Curry and David Lee to help the Warriors pull out the narrow victory in the desert. After inking his 4 year, $44M extension to stay with Golden State, Curry went out and laid an egg on opening night, shooting just 2-14 from the field and finishing with nearly as many turnovers as points. Lee just had a bad shooting night (2-16) but did help in other areas with 9 boards and 3 assists. The guy I was most curious to watch in this one though was Andrew Bogut, who suited up for the first time as a Warrior, and contributed plenty in his 18 minutes on the floor. He had 8 points, 6 boards, an assist and a block. All in all, it wasn't as crisp a showing that Mark Jackson was hoping for, but again, a win on the road on opening night is tough to complain about.

The Warriors home opener at The Oracle Friday night didn't go quite as well. Right off the bat, they lost one of their star bench players, and a guy that's supposed to help out at SF with the rookie Harrison Barnes, as Brandon Rush tore his MCL and was ruled out for the season Saturday. It was an awkward landing for Rush after Zack Randolph made contact with him in the air, and the first thought I just knew it was serious after the way Rush was reacting. I was hoping for maybe a sever sprain, but the MRI showed ligament damage, and so goes B-Rush for the season. After Rush went down, the Dubs were just never able to quite keep up with Memphis, who has rounded into one of the better teams in the West. Golden State did get a great bounce back performance out of Steph Curry, who scored 26 points and dished out 7 assists, but the Warriors had trouble with turnovers and had no answer for Marc Gasol in the middle. Bogut had a nice start to the game, blocking a shot and drawing a few charges early, but again, his time constraints prevented him from contributing on a higher scale. Until Bogut is ready to play his 30+ minutes a night, the Warriors need to have Festus Ezieli and Andris Biedrins provide quality minutes, at least on defense, but they just didn't get that Friday.

The Dubs have the quick turnaround with a big game vs. the impressive LA Clippers Saturday night, which should provide even a tougher challenge than Memphis did. And with Brandon Rush done, it may be time to throw Barnes into the fire and give him 25-30 minutes Saturday. We haven't seen him do too much yet, as his time has been limited, but he has shown flashes of being a potent scorer and this could be a perfect time to unleash the talented rook. This will also be a big test for Steph Curry and his ankles as he goes up against the most shifty point guard in the NBA. I know it's tremendously early, but this game could tell us a lot about what to expect from the Warriors this season and whether or not they're ready to take that next step.