Ognjen Kuzmic

Golden State Warriors: Evaluating the Bench Play So Far

Oct 30, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Draymond Green (23) celebrates with center Jermaine O

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The Golden State Warriors are expected to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference this season. They have six proven starters and have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. Despite all these impressive qualities, the Warriors’ bench has been disappointing so far this season.

Even though the Warriors have a deep roster and have such a powerful starting lineup, the bench hasn’t come together as a cohesive unit yet. To be fair, there are many new faces coming off of that bench this year, such as Toney Douglas, Marreese Speights, Ognjen Kuzmic, Jermaine O’Neal and Nemanja Nedovic.

In addition to these newcomers, the Warriors’ reserves also include Kent Bazemore and Draymond Green. They will also have Harrison Barnes coming off the bench soon and once Festus Ezeli returns from injury, he will come off the bench as well. The Warriors certainly have talent coming off the bench, but the reserves haven’t shown yet that they can play cohesively together.

“I’ve been very disappointed in the way that those guys have closed out ballgames,” Mark Jackson said about his bench. “They’ve had opportunities to play extended minutes and they haven’t made statements with their play.”

The bench has really struggled in a few specific areas. Generally, the reserves have struggled on the offensive side. Defensively, they are actually quite impressive.

The first thing the bench is lacking is someone who can create their own shot. This is the area where the Warriors miss Jarrett Jack the most. With the shot clock winding down and a broken play, Jack was able to make something out of nothing and create his own shot. No one on the Warriors’ bench has shown they can do that this season. Once Barnes comes back though, he will most likely help in that category.

Second, the bench needs a proven floor general. They need another ball handler and someone who can initiate the offense. Douglas, Nedovic and Bazemore haven’t proven that they can run the offense smoothly and create opportunities for their teammates if a play breaks down. Unless one of those players proves that they can consistently do that, Jackson might have to keep one of the starters in with the reserves at all times. To ensure the offense continues to run smoothly, Jackson would have to leave in a playmaker like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala.

Lastly, the Warriors’ bench is lacking a serious low-post threat. This is the area that the Warriors miss Carl Landry the most. Landry was a threat from mid-range and on the low block. He could back down his opponent and attack the rim. The Warriors have tried to run plays with O’Neal and Speights on the low block, but they haven’t been successful. O’Neal is not quick enough anymore to be a consistent low-post threat, and Speights is more successful as a mid-range jump shooter off of a pick-and-pop, for example.

It’s hard not to speculate how successful this Warriors bench would be if they had been able to keep both Jack and Landry and have Barnes as a reserve too. However bad the Warriors’ bench can look at times, there are several reasons why it’s too early to panic about the bench play so far.

Mar 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes (40) drives in against the New York Knicks during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the New York Knicks 92-63. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, this Warriors team and the bench, specifically, need some time to adjust. There are so many new players and they’ve only been playing together for a couple months now. They’re just now getting a sense of what the rotation will be like throughout the season. Soon the reserves will have a better idea about when they will usually come into a game and who they will be playing with. This comfort will certainly help them play more cohesively.

Second, Barnes hasn’t played yet in the regular season. His presence and his play will significantly improve the Warriors’ bench. He can create his own shot, as mentioned before, and he can provide that much-needed spark off the bench. He will be the offensive focal point for the Warriors’ second unit, which will allow the bench to thrive and will help Barnes’ development as a player.

Even if the bench still struggles once Barnes is back, Jackson can continue to play one of his starters with the reserves. So far, he’s played Thompson and Iguodala with the reserves, which has usually produced better results since it gives the bench that much-needed playmaker. With Barnes and another starter playing with the reserves, the offense would flow much more smoothly.

Also, Ezeli’s return will greatly help the bench too. His presence won’t necessarily have the same impact that Barnes’ presence will have, but Ezeli allows Jackson to rest Kuzmic and O’Neal more. It also will give the Warriors another big man off the bench who can rebound and defend.

The Warriors’ bench has clearly struggled so far this season. Having Barnes play with the reserves will vastly improve the Warriors’ bench, especially on offense where the bench has struggled the most. Although the bench has been disappointing so far compared to last season’s dynamic duo off the bench, Jack and Landry, there is no need for concern just yet. The Warriors will find a way to adjust, and the bench will continue to evolve into a useful weapon for this young, contending team.

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How the Warriors’ Young Players Will Benefit from Summer League

Apr 20, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Kent Bazemore (20) before game one of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 20, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Kent Bazemore (20) before game one of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Golden State Warriors have not released their roster yet for the 2013 Las Vegas NBA Summer League, but it has been confirmed that Draymond Green, Kent Bazemore, Scott Machado, and Ognjen Kuzmic will play on the team. Festus Ezeli was supposed to play, but he is out for 6-9 months after having knee surgery recently. Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes will most likely not participate, because they are participating in USA Basketball’s Men’s National Team mini-camp in Las Vegas from July 22-25.

Summer League is a great opportunity for up-and-coming, young players to develop their games more, learn more about a team’s system, try to make a team, or prove why they deserve a bigger role or more playing time. Thompson and Barnes have already proven themselves and have shown why they deserve to have significant roles on the team. The other young players on this team will each benefit from Summer League in a different way.

Green played in the five Summer League games for the Warriors last year and averaged 6.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.4 steals on 27.8 percent shooting from the field, 20 percent shooting from three, and 90 percent shooting from the free-throw line in 26 minutes per game. Just as the numbers indicate, Green struggled with his shot, much like he did during the regular season, but he rebounded extremely well and shot well from the free throw line. During this year’s Summer League, Green needs to work on hitting his shots more consistently and not shooting too many threes, if they’re not falling. If he works on shooting more efficiently and performs well in Summer League, he could be a valuable asset for the Warriors off the bench, given his superb defense.

Bazemore played in four Summer League games for the Warriors last year and averaged 8.5 points, 1.5 steals, and 1.8 blocks on 46.7 percent shooting from the field and 66.7 percent shooting from the free-throw line in 20.5 minutes per game. Bazemore showed off his athleticism and his stellar defense in Summer League, which ultimately earned him a roster spot with the Warriors. Bazemore has a huge opportunity in Summer League this year, since he doesn’t have to share minutes with Thompson and Barnes like last season. If Bazemore can work on handling the ball more, running an offense, and becoming more of a consistent mid-range shooter, then he could potentially have a more consistent role in the regular rotation for the Warriors next season.

Machado played in five Summer League games for the Houston Rockets last year and averaged 8.0 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.2 steals on 38.9 percent shooting from the field, 28.6 percent shooting from three, and 50 percent shooting from the free-throw line in 25.4 minutes per game. Machado signed a non-guaranteed $789,000 contract earlier this summer with the Warriors. If Jarrett Jack doesn’t re-sign with the Warriors and they don’t sign another point guard, Machado will have an opportunity to earn minutes at the backup point guard position, even though he might share those minutes with Kent Bazmore. Machado’s more of a traditional point guard than Bazemore and is a great passer, but he needs to showcase more of his skills beyond that in Summer League in order to earn his minutes next season.

The Warriors selected Kuzmic with the 52nd overall pick in last year’s draft. He is 7’1″ and is very athletic and mobile, given his size. While playing with Clinicas Rincon in 2011-2012, Kuzmic averaged 10.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in 24.5 minutes per game. Kuzmic is clearly very strong defensively, is an excellent rebounder, and can block shots at an astounding rate. If he can bulk up, work on his post game, and work on a perimeter jumper, he could help the Warriors add depth to the center position that they need with Ezeli out and Andrew Bogut recovering from injuries.