Andris Biedrins

Golden State Warriors: Are They Championship Contenders?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

May 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30, left) and power forward David Lee (10, right) react after game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors had a breakout 2012-2013 season. The Warriors defied expectations and captivated many basketball fans around the nation with their stellar, exciting play.

After their incredible playoff run last year, are the Warriors championship contenders now? They’re certainly close to becoming one of the superior teams in the Western Conference, but they’re not quite a championship contender yet.

One of the reasons why is because of the immense amount of talent in the Western Conference. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Houston Rockets are among the elite teams in the Western Conference, and some of them could very well contend for a championship. Out of all those foes, it will be tough for the Warriors to even become one of the top-four teams in the Western Conference.

Even if the Warriors are able to become Western Conference Champions, it will still be a long road to their first championship since 1975. Outside of the Western Conference, some of the biggest championship contenders are the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls, and the Indiana Pacers.

Even though the Warriors aren’t quite as established and experienced as some of the previously mentioned teams, the Warriors could certainly become a top-four team in the Western Conference this season. Here are some reasons why the Warriors are close to becoming contenders:

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Player Breakdown: What Jermaine O’Neal Brings to the Golden State Warriors

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This article was originally published on Let’s Go Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors have agreed to a one-year contract worth around the league minimum of $2 million with 17-year NBA veteran and six-time All-Star Jermaine O’Neal.

O’Neal has experienced a lot of trouble with injuries in the past few years, but, last year with the Phoenix Suns, he was in great shape and was rarely injured. Last season, O’Neal had a resurgent year with the Suns when he averaged 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in just 18.7 minutes per game in 55 games. He claims his improved health comes from a knee treatment he received in Germany before last season and again recently. O’Neal missed most of those 27 games last season because his daughter had to have surgery to repair a leaky heart valve.

The Warriors needed to add another center that could back up Andrew Bogut while Festus Ezeli recovers from his knee surgery. O’Neal will probably only play about 18 minutes per game when Ezeli returns, but he can still provide some extra defensive help to the Warriors. Here are three things that O’Neal brings to the Warriors:

1. Size
O’Neal is 6’11” and 255 pounds. With the departure of Andris Biedrins and Ezeli’s injury, the Warriors will certainly benefit from O’Neal’s size, ability to block and alter shots, and his presence in the paint.

On offense, O’Neal can use his size and length to post up and score in many different ways in the paint. Also, given Bogut’s history with injuries, O’Neal’s size will come in handy if he needs to start in place of Bogut.

2. Defense
O’Neal was arguably one of the Suns’ best interior defenders last season. He’s clearly an excellent shot blocker, as he’s averaged 1.8 blocks per game over his career. He’s also a good rebounder, as he’s averaged 7.3 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game over his career.

He also does the little things well on defense too. He positions himself well, he contests shots aggressively, and he doesn’t foul too much.

3. Veteran Leadership
O’Neal has played in 90 postseason games in his career and has averaged 12 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in 27.7 minutes per game. He has played for six different NBA teams before the Warriors including the Portland Trailblazers, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and the Phoenix Suns.

After playing in the league for 17 seasons, O’Neal will definitely be a valuable veteran off the bench, and he can share his vast playoff experience with this young Warriors team. For example, he could provide some mentoring to Ezeli. His veteran perspective and leadership will be a great asset for this Warriors team.

Golden State Warriors: A Perfect Offseason So Far

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Make no mistake, the culture’s changing.

The Golden State Warriors made a series of moves in the past few days that have already, arguably, made them one of the best teams in the Western Conference. They traded Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, and first round picks in 2014 and 2017 to the Utah Jazz in order to clear cap space. They also received guard Kevin Murphy in the deal.

April 24, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob (right) and former general manager Larry Riley (right) motion for new general manager Bob Myers (center) to address a question from the media during a press conference before the game against the New Orleans Hornets at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With more cap room available, the Warriors were able to sign small forward Andre Iguodala to a four-year, $48 million dollar contract. The Warriors have been pursuing Iguodala for a couple years now, and their hard work has finally paid off. The best part of these corresponding moves was that the Warriors were able to keep Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andrew Bogut and reduce their payroll for this upcoming season by $11 million.

Although the Warriors weren’t able to persuade Dwight Howard to sign with them, they still have a fantastic lineup. The Warriors will start Stephen Curry, Thompson or Barnes, Iguodala, David Lee, and Bogut.

Regardless of if Thompson or Barnes will start, the Warriors have so much talent in their starting lineup, with a good mix of both young players and veterans, that they will most certainly contend for some of the top spots in the Western Conference this upcoming season.

The Warriors were not only able to shed a significant amount of cap room, but they also were able to trade two players, Jefferson and Biedrins, who didn’t contribute much of anything last season. It’s a little unfortunate for fans to see Rush leave, but they should be optimistic about the player they were able to get by shedding these contracts.

Iguodala averaged 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists with the Nuggets last season. For his career though, he’s averaged 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. His scoring has declined over the past couple years, but he’s also expanded and developed his game more.

The one-time All-Star can do a little bit of everything. He can score, he can rebound, he can pass, and he’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He’s also very active and intense on the court. He will bring lots of energy and passion to this team, because he is such a fierce competitor. He also makes big plays on both offense and defense when his team needs it the most, which the Warriors witnessed in their playoff series against the Nuggets. He’s versatile too, as he can play and guard several positions.

May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) defends Denver Nuggets shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9) on the drive during the first quarter of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors finally have someone who is strong enough and quick enough to guard players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James. He could also guard Russell Westbrook and help Thompson guard Tony Parker, if the Warriors end up facing the Spurs in the playoffs again next season.

Curry surely knows how good of a defender Iguodala is. Iguodala guarded Curry for much of the Warriors-Nuggets playoff series, and when Iguodala was defending him, Curry had a hard time establishing his rhythm and scoring. Iguodala used his length, size, and quickness to disrupt Curry.

Those two also have a history off the court. They both were on the USA men’s national basketball team that won the gold-medal in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, and they became good friends. It will be interesting to see how much of their chemistry on the court will carry over from that experience.

The addition of Iguodala will not affect the Warriors’ overall team chemistry. First of all, Iguodala’s skillset matches the other Warriors players’ skillsets very nicely. For example, he is aggressive on offense and likes to drive to the basket, which will help Thompson and Curry get open on the three-point line.

Second, his energy and enthusiasm will be great in the locker room. He’s a veteran presence who can help teach younger players such as Kent Bazemore or Nemanja Nedovic, if he is able to play for the Warriors next season. Iguodala is also a hard worker and focused on winning, which are qualities that can be contagious in a locker room.

Third, Iguodala loves playing in an up-tempo system like the Warriors play in. He loves utilizing his speed and athleticism in transition. He’s also used to playing in fast-paced games, because it’s the same style he played in on the Denver Nuggets.

Iguodala was offered a four-year, $52 million contract offer with the Sacramento Kings, but the Kings ultimately rescinded the offer. Iguodala wanted to play for a contending team, so he clearly wanted to wait and see if the Warriors were going to be able to move their large contracts and sign him.

May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9) congratulates Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 92-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

“Mainly, the coach and the culture, the environment,” Iguodala said about why he wanted to sign with the Warriors. “I feel like they have a good culture there, a lot of great guys, great locker room. The way they’ve got those guys playing with such confidence, that comes from the coach.”

The Warriors still have some areas to address though. Since Festus Ezeli is sidelined with a knee injury, Jarrett Jack signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Carl Landry signed with the Sacramento Kings, the Warriors need to acquire a backup center, a backup point guard (if Nedovic doesn’t play this upcoming season), and another big off the bench.

With the use of their traded player exceptions, the Warriors will have about $17 million to spend before they hit their hard cap. They will have to use this money to acquire players using minimum salary contracts, their full mid-level exception ($5.15 million first-year salary), or either their room exception ($2.6 million) or bi-annual exception (about $2 million).

After all of these moves, both the Warriors and Iguodala have to be extremely happy about this upcoming season. Now that a high-calibur player like Iguodala has signed with the Warriors, Golden State has become a destination where other players will want to play.

This is exactly what Joe Lacob wanted to happen. He wanted to create a winning franchise, make bold moves, and lure big-name free agents to sign with the Warriors. He certainly has done that and more so far. This offseason has been pretty close to perfect for the Warriors.

Golden State Warriors: Will Andris Biedrins Step Up Next Season?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Andris Biedrins is quite the enigma.

He went from being an intriguing young center to the last guy off the bench in a matter of a few seasons. He went through serious confidence issues, severe free throw struggles, and some nagging injuries.

Biedrins’ history with the Golden State Warriors has been rocky, but he could have an opportunity to make an impact with the Warriors next season.Festus Ezeli underwent surgery on his right knee recently, and he is expected to miss 6-9 months.

This past season, Andrew Bogut only played in 32 games during the regular season due to left ankle problems, so it’s not clear how healthy Bogut will be next season. Given these uncertainties, Biedrins could play significant minutes for the Warriors. However, it’s not clear if he’ll rise to the occasion given his history with the Warriors.

Jan. 2, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins (15) on the court against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Warriors 102-91. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports.

Biedrins started to show his potential during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons. Before the 2008-2009 season, the Warriors signed Biedrins to a six-year, $63 million contract. He had a breakout season in 2008-2009 when he averaged 11.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks on 57.8 percent shooting in 30 minutes per game.

Back then, Biedrins was confident and active both offensively and defensively. He showed off his great defense when he blocked shots, covered the whole floor, and in pick-and-roll situations. The Warriors thought they had found the center of their future.

However, Biedrins started to embark on his downward spiral during the 2009-2010 season. He shot a career-low 16 percent on free throws that season and only attempted 25 free throws.

Because of Biedrins’ lack of success at the free throw line, he appeared to not want the ball as much, because opposing teams would just foul him to prevent him from getting off a good shot. This shook Biedrins’ confidence so hard that it doesn’t like he ever recovered.

Biedrins also suffered many injuries throughout his career that slowed his progression in becoming more of a confident player again. Biedrins only played 33 games in the 2009-2010 season because of back and groin injuries.

When Keith Smart took over the head coaching job for the Warriors in the 2010-2011 season, Biedrins had another opportunity to regain some confidence and play like his old self. He started off the season well, but, unfortunately, was hit by injuries again.

Despite the potential and the talent that Biedrins showed early on his career, he has become a permanent end-of-the-bench player for the Warriors. This past season, Biedrins came into games just to provide extra fouls and to play garbage minutes in games that had already been decided. Because of his new role, it seems unlikely that Biedrins would step up next season if given the opportunity to.

Biedrins has been in similar situations before where he has had the opportunity to start or provide valuable, effective minutes off the bench. Bogut was injured at the beginning of the season, so Biedrins had the opportunity to start the season at center and ultimately become the backup center for the Warriors.

Before last season started, every player on the Warriors showed up early to Oakland, before training camp even started. Except for one. Biedrins ultimately lost the backup center job to Ezeli, not just because he was working out on his own before camp, but also because Ezeli was able to learn the system before Biedrins got there.

“At the end of the day, everybody else was here, so that was the concern–putting in principles, putting in ideas, putting in plays, competing, the comraderie. That was the issue,” Mark Jackson said about Biedrins not coming to training camp early.

Jan 18, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins (15) gets a slam dunk during the first half against the New Jersey Nets at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Biedrins also shows a tentativeness in games that he doesn’t show in practice. The pressure of an actual game and the fear of disapproval by the fans clouds Biedrins’ thought process during a game.

He often works out in the offseason with Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson, who claims that Biedrins is a completely different player during their practice sessions. He claims that Biedrins attacks the hoop more, uses spin moves, and shows his explosiveness. Jefferson has advised Biedrins to act like he is guarding him during games, which would hopefully make Biedrins more comfortable and not second guess himself.

“He always tells me to play in the game like I do in the practice,” Biedrins said. “He says, ‘C’mon, you can be so much better than that.’ And I kind of agree with him.”

The only way that Biedrins can try get back to his old self is to regain his confidence. His fear of getting fouled and having to shoot free throws changes everything about how he approaches a game.

Biedrins becomes absent on offense because he fears contact so much. Because of this, he doesn’t post up as much, he’s not as comfortable in pick-and-rolls, and the Warriors essentially end up having to play offense with just four players.

On defense, Biedrins still displays his athleticism, his ability to block shots, his footwork, his high level of activity, and his ability to help his teammates. Although he can end up fouling too much, Biedrins needs to channel that same energy he shows on defense in his entire game. He can attempt to get back to the same player he was a few seasons ago, but, as mentioned before, it all comes down to his confidence.

If Biedrins can find a way to regain some confidence and play in games with the same energy he has in practice, then he can start to get back to the player he used to be. However, it’s unlikely that he can get back there in just one offseason. It will take a couple solid seasons for him to feel like his old self.

Because of this, it’s unlikely he will step up significantly next season, but he can at least start to regain his old form and contribute to the team in any way he can, especially because his team might need him to if Ezeli and Bogut are out.

Golden State Warriors: Why Mark Jackson Will Triumph Without Top Assistant Mike Malone

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Former Golden State Warriors head assistant coach Mike Malone was recently hired as the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings. Before coming to the Warriors with Mark Jackson in 2011, Malone had 10 years of assistant coaching experience. He was previously the assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the LeBron James reign and for the New Orleans Hornets from 2010-2011.

The Warriors will be without their main X’s and O’s coach of the staff, meaning he drew up the majority of the plays for the Warriors, especially during timeouts and in close-game situations. Mark Jackson and the Warriors will have to make some significant adjustments in Malone’s absence.

Jackson finished seventh in this season’s Coach of the Year voting. Despite his accomplishments last season, the departure of Malone will certainly be a tough loss. Malone is known as a defensive guru and was the mastermind behind the Cavs’ defensive scheme from 2005-2010, which was remarkably successful. He also helped set up the Warriors’ current defensive system, which yielded the fourth best opponent field goal percentage (43.9 percent) in the NBA during the regular season.

December 12, 2011; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors assistant coach Michael Malone (center) instructs during the first quarter of the open practice at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Malone made some significant changes to how the Warriors defended the pick-and-roll, and this alone drastically improved the Warriors’ overall defense. In a high pick-and-roll situation, Malone decided to implement a system called “Ice” coverage.

In “Ice” coverage, when the pick is coming, the guard steps in front of the player they’re guarding, so their opponent can’t use the screen that’s coming for them. Meanwhile, the big man on defense stays back away from the screen in the paint and faces the direction where the opposing guard is attempting to drive.

Before Malone came to the Warriors, David Lee or Andris Biedrins, the two starting frontcourt players in 2010-2011, would attempt to stop the opposing guard at the spot of the pick, which often resulted in the Lee or Biedrins recovering late to their man. This simple adjustment allowed for more coverage of the paint and the opposing team to settle for contested jump shots.

The Warriors will need to ensure that they can consistently execute the defensive schemes that Malone implemented. Although Malone was the “defensive coordinator” of the Warriors, Jackson must have been a part of implementing this defense, so as long as his coaching staff understands the system, the Warriors should be able to continue to play the quality defense that they did last season.

Also, if Andrew Bogut can stay healthy for at least 65-70 games next season, his consistent, dominant inside presence would automatically improve the Warriors’ defense because of his ability to change and block shots.

The media has portrayed Jackson as just a motivator, but he is more than prepared to be on his own and coach without Malone. In addition to his coaching credentials from the past two seasons, Jackson was also a great leader during his 17 seasons as a point guard in the NBA. He played in the 13th-most games in NBA history, and he finished third all-time in assists. Jackson was an incredible floor general, so he clearly knows how to run a game and execute a game plan.

In addition, he can compete and hold his own against any great coach out there. In the Warriors’ playoff series against the Nuggets, Jackson outcoached former Nuggets coach George Karl. Jackson set the competitive pace when he decided to start Jarrett Jack at point guard and move Harrison Barnes to power forward in David Lee’s absence, even though the official starting lineups announced Carl Landry as the starting power forward.

Jackson always found a way to counter every move or adjustment that Karl made. Karl countered by starting Evan Fournier and going small too, but Jackson’s youngsters, Klay Thompson, Barnes, Draymond Green, and Festus Ezeli outplayed any lineup that Karl put out there.

Karl also made several mistakes in the series, such as running isolations for Andre Miller, not knowing how to effectively guard both Stephen Curry and Thompson and not attacking the paint enough. Jackson took advantage of these mistakes by utilizing an effective zone, targeting Miller defensively, and controlling the transition game. Jackson, and not the more experienced Karl, brought the intensity and competitive spirit that was needed to win the series.

Lowell Cohn of the Press Democrat claims that Malone was the main strategist for the Warriors, so his departure will impact the Warriors greatly. He discusses how Malone was the details guy, and that even though Jackson would tell Malone some general ideas for an upcoming play, Malone was the one to draw out the play and explain it to the team during timeouts.

However, Joe Lacob hired Jackson to be the head coach of this team for a reason. In fact, Malone was even up for the same head coaching position, before Lacob decided to hire Jackson to be the head coach. Jackson was chosen because he’s smart, analytical, and a confident, convincing leader.

May 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson instructs against the San Antonio Spurs during the fourth quarter in game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson will adjust to the added pressure of not having the best assistant coach in the league, because his whole team is behind him and wants to succeed as much as he does. Jackson said from Day 1 as head coach that he wanted to change the culture around the Warriors, which he has done. This Warriors team loves to play as the underdogs and to play for each other.

“The main reason why we’re here is Coach,” Bogut said about the Warriors’ success in the playoffs.

Jackson has displayed a great balance between commanding respect and authority while also maintaining his motivational and comedic personality. His energy and passion led to great team chemistry, which was a large reason why the Warriors had such a successful breakout season.

“I think we showed this year that it’s a big factor from the top down, from coach Jackson through all his staff and through our players…” Curry said when asked about the Warriors’ chemistry. “The vibe in our locker room is real energetic and fun and real personable, I think from Day 1.”

Jackson might not be a pure, fundamental coach like some others, but he has a system set in place with his team, and he is more than capable of executing it without Malone.

Also, Jackson still has a quality group of assistant coaches to help him. It’s rumored that Jackson will most likely name Pete Myers his new head assistant coach. Another possibility is to promote assistant coach Darren Erman, who has focused on developing the talent of the young players on the Warriors.

With the help of his assistants and his motivational spirit, Jackson might have to work a little harder without Malone, but he can certainly continue to build a winning culture with the Warriors.