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Friday, August 15, 2008
WARRIORS TEAM DEFENSE
Most people around the league not familiar with the Warriors think they are a team incapable of playing good solid defense. This couldn't be further from the truth. It may not be the traditional defense predicated on solid man-to-man defense or a team anchored with a defensive stopper and big shot blockers, but at their best, the Warriors play a different brand of defense that can be just as effective as the traditional styles. The Warriors live off of deflections and thrive on the chaos created by the speed and relentless pursuit of the ball which in turn leads to easier transition buckets. This defensive style allowed them to rally late in the 2006-07 season to clinch their first playoff berth in 13 seasons. It also allowed them to achieve the biggest upset in Playoff history by defeating the Dallas Mavericks. We saw it at times last season, but depth, trust, and rotation issues diminished the Warriors ability to play effective team defense down the stretch.
If you look at this roster, you will see that they ARE capable of playing great defense. Mullin has added some personnel that should improve team defense overall, but in order to be successful the entire season and to repeat the magical performance in 2007, they need to play with the same intensity and be held accountable for their play throughout the entire season.
Aspects of Good Warriors Defense
1. Playing the passing lanes
2. Swarming help defense in the low post
3. Addition of bruising bigs
4. Mastering rotations
5. Improved man defense
6. Depth to sustain intense defensive pressure
7. Shot blockers as last line of defense
8. Rebounding to limit second chance points
Warriors Roundtable: On Style of Play and Team Defense
Monta Ellis has the quickness to play good defense with his feet. He was adept at drawing charges so the potential to be a good man-to-man defender on the perimeter is there. He has great anticipation skills that allow him to wreak havoc in the passing lanes, but his lack of size and wingspan limit his ability to bother bigger guards. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8)
Marcus Williams worries me. He does not seem like the player that could help in any of the seven aspects of Warriors Team Defense. Although he has the size to match up with bigger guards, he does not have the athleticism, quickness, or track record to be much help on the defensive end. His contributions to the team will be mainly as a playmaker and 3 point threat but perhaps better conditioning and his overall court awareness will help him become a better defender in time. (Aspects of good defense: 4, 6)
If C.J. Watson sticks around, he could be a better option defensively than Williams. Like Ellis, he plays the passing lanes well. His long arms and quick hands will continue to serve him well in the Warriors style of defense. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6)
We have no defensive specialist in the PG ranks, so upgrading Watson to acquire such a player is an option for Chris Mullin. Although Livingston is months away from seeing playing time in an actual NBA game, he could be worth the gamble.
Stephen Jackson is the Warriors best defender and will likely see a large chunk of his playing time in the backcourt alongside Ellis because of his playmaking abilities. His size will allow him to float between positions, but in order to be effective, he needs to keep his minutes down to avoid a late season sputter like last year. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6)
Azubuike has the potential to be a lock down defender due to his athleticism, strength, and desire. He was able to limit Kobe Brant's production during crutch time of a big road win in LA, so if he can continue to improve, he can be a crucial part of the success of Warriors team defense. He can play both the SG and SF positions. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8)
Belinelli is awful on the defensive end, routinely trailing his man and swiping at the ball instead of moving his feet or playing intelligent defense to slow down his man. His lack of defense can limit his playing time, but if he can become the offensive wizard he is in Summer League play and contribute as a playmaker, Don Nelson may be forced to play him more. If this is the case, the Warriors would be wise to match him up against a non-scorer or to be sure shot blockers are lurking in the paint to clean up his mistakes on the defensive end. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 4, 6)
If Corey Maggette is ever going to live up to his contract value, he must make a commitment to become the defensive player he can be. He has the strength, athleticism, and lateral quickness to pull it off - but like all great defensive players, he needs to put in the effort and play with more pride when it comes to shutting his man down. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8)
Anthony Randolph's unique combination of size, ball handling, rebounding, and shot blocking could lead to meaningful minutes from Nelson sooner, rather than later. His physical attributes are ideal for disrupting passes and shot attempts. He has the potential be be a star on both ends of the floor if his confident play in Summer League can carry over into the next level. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Anthony Morrow isn't spectacular, but he looks like an adequate defender. He was able to stay in front of his man for the most part and even showed that he can rebound and block shots as well. His length, better defense, and ability to stretch the defense with his dead-eye shooting can bump him ahead of Belinelli. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 4, 5?, 6, 7?, 8?)
Al Harrington played a big part in the great 2007 push for the playoffs by playing tough defense as an undersized center. He used his quickness and low center of gravity to limit many centers he faced, most notably, the towering Yao Ming. With others entrenched at the center position, he won't have the quickness advantage vs many of the PF's of the league. (Aspects of good defense: 2, 4, 6)
Brandan Wright has the potential to be one of the better shot blockers in the NBA. He has freakishly long arms and athletic ability that will allow him to be a disruptive force as his body matures and his game develops. He managed to rebound at a high rate, but it remains to be seen if he can sustain the productivity with more playing time and the somewhat passive mentality he plays with at times. Wright's ability to make shots tougher and to rebound missed ones will be one of the keys to a successful defensive scheme for the Warriors. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Richard Hendrix was a beast in the SEC. He looks like he will be able to help the Warriors when the regulars are having a tough time standing up to the bigger and talented PF's of the league. He rebounds at a terrific rate and can block some shots as well. He plays aggressively and although Hendrix is a little under-sized, he knows how to use his bulk to get his way. (Aspects of good defense: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7?, 8)
Andris Biedrins is the defensive anchor for the Warriors even though he is only 22 years old. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but he has demonstrated that he can hold his own against some of the best in the NBA. His quickness, length, timing, excellent hands, and court awareness allow him to compensate for his lack of bulk. As he gains more respect around the league and with NBA referee's, he won't have the worry about staying out of foul trouble and will be able to play more aggressive defense as a result. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Ronny Turiaf is the biggest addition to the Warrior defense. He could end up being the Warriors best defensive player. He plays with incredible energy, fights for position, hustles for every loose ball, and is relentless on the glass. Turiaf has a great motor and is the Warriors won't lose anything defensively whenever Biedrins needs to sit on the bench - yet another reason Biedrins can play without worrying about his foul status. (Aspects of good defense: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Kosta Perovic is absolutely huge at 7'-2" tall. We haven't had a chance to see much of him last year and we might not see much of him at all. He's strongly considering returning to Europe where he could most likely get a bigger paycheck and more playing time. Perovic naturally alters shots because of his length, but his lack of strength, agility, quickness, and explosiveness limit his contributions on the defensive end. Even with his size, he is known more for his offensive potential rather than his defense. Like many of the young bigs on the Warriors, as his body and game matures, he will be able to help more on the defensive end. (Aspects of good defense: 4, 6, 7, 8)
Filling the Holes
The Warriors only have two good perimeter defenders in Jackson and Azubuike. The loss of Baron Davis (lighting fast hands), Mickael Pietrus (lockdown defense), and Matt Barnes (enforcer mentality) is the primary cause, but perhaps the backcourt of Ellis, Jackson, and Azubuike can ratchet up their games in order to fill the void. Ultimately, the Warriors need to acquire a lockdown defensive backcourt player in the near future, if they want to be able to get back into the playoffs and advance. Whether it be by trade (Chalmers, Weaver, Lowry, etc.), free agency (Livingston), or draft (Rubio, DeRozan, Harden, Evans, Tyler Smith, etc.), Mullin needs to keep his eyes, ears, and mind open and work to get that missing piece that could fill as many holes on the Warriors team defense as possible. The Warriors should also consider bringing in an assistant coach that specializes in defense.
Take a look at one of the Warriors' best games last season. Unfortunately, there aren't many defensive highlights captured, but this game was a perfect example of how Warriors Team Defense can help them beat any team on any given night.
Warriors vs Hornets, January 30, 2008