As of Tuesday night, the Warriors have a 7-12 record, and won their last matchup against the Sacramento Kings 93-90. This season hasn’t gone exactly how Mark Jackson envisioned, but there does seem to be some significant improvement from last season. The Warriors’ bench is much stronger than last season and the overall team defense is stronger, but the Warriors still have issues with their offense and their production from the center position.
The Warriors’ second unit, now informally called the Dubstitutes, consists of Nate Robinson, Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush, Ekpe Udoh, and Jeremy Tyler (or Dominic McGuire depending on how small Mark Jackson makes the lineup). Compared to last years’ second unit of Acie Law, Reggie Williams, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lou Amundson, and Ekpe Udoh, this years’ bench is a noticeable upgrade. Nate Robinson has brought a fun, exciting energy to the second unit that not many Warriors have been able to bring since Baron Davis. Klay Thompson, after struggling mightily during the preseason and the beginning of the regular season, has bounced back nicely from a mini rookie slump and has really found his shot nicely. Brandon Rush has been consistent since the beginning of the season. He’s tied with Ray Allen for first in the league in 3-point percentage with 57.1% (as of Tuesday before the game against the Kings). Rush is also a fantastic rebounder for his size and is a great defender. Ekpe Udoh continues his growth in his sophomore season. He continues his defensive prowess, He’s added a nice hook shot to his repertoire, but he still needs to improve his rebounding. Jeremy Tyler is working hard and still learning, and Dominic McGuire is also a solid rebounder and top-notch defender.
The Warriors’ defense has also significantly improved since last season. The stats don’t suggest the Warriors are an elite defensive team, but improvement is all that matters at this point. The Warriors are playing more scrappy and aggressive defense. They trap players and double-team a good amount, which usually can throw a team off and force kick-outs. The Warriors have also played zone defense rather effectively as well. When the Warriors are able to play lock-down defense and start their transition game, they create several opportunities for themselves. In the transition, they can score with their speed (specifically, Monta Ellis’ speed), they can score by driving to the hoop and kicking the ball out to Stephen Curry, Dorell Wright, Brandon Rush, or Klay Thompson for a wide-open three pointer, and they can get it inside to David Lee. Stephen Curry is a creative passer who can make great, quick decisions in fast break opportunities.
At the beginning of the season, the offense was in total disarray because of the intense focus on defense during training camp. They’ve found a little more flow and rhythm to their offense now that the rotation is mostly set. With Stephen Curry out 9 games with a nagging ankle injury, the Warriors’ offense didn’t have its point guard and floor leader, so this is a partial explanation for the confused offense. Now that Curry is playing consistently again, the offense is starting to come together. However, Andris Biedrins is still a complete mystery. He has completely disappeared from every game, and without a competent center, the Warriors have struggled to get offensive rebounds and easy points on post-up plays. Although Kwame Brown is known more for his defense, he was becoming the aggressive center the Warriors needed, on the offensive end also. However since Brown is out with a torn pectoral injury, Mark Jackson has no offensive threat at the center position and this has definitely lead to some of the struggles on offense.
The Warriors have had a season full of ups and downs. As much as the Warriors have improved on defense and bench production, offense continues to be a weakness. The Warriors have had trouble closing out games and playing consistently for all four quarters. David Lee has had a spectacular season, Dorell Wright has finally found his shot and playing like he did last season, most of the bench players have played solid all-around games all season, and now the Warriors need more consistent play out of Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, and Andris Biedrins to make that next jump to the playoffs. No one knows if this same team will be intact after the All-Start Break, but if it is, more adjustments needs to be made. Although it seems unlikely that the Warriors will make the playoffs, they have shown significant improvement and continue to make strides toward being a playoff team.