In Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Lakers, Warriors coach Don Nelson threw out a “big” lineup, with Anthony Randolph at small forward, Ronny Turiaf at PF, and Andris Biedrins at C.
The biggest reveal of this new lineup was Turiaf at PF, a move that more than a few Warriors fans would like to see become a permanent fixture in Golden State’s starting lineup. Turiaf made the move look good, with 12 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in 32 minutes. He also had four turnovers.
At first glance, Turiaf in the starting lineup looks really good. He’s the kind of player fans love, because he does all the dirty work. He’s a tough defender, he will almost certainly always outwork his opponent, and he’s a heck of a shot blocker. In only 21.5 minutes per game last season, Turiaf blocked 2.13 shots per game! That’s pretty impressive.
When you look at Turiaf’s numbers on a 36-minutes-per-game adjustment (starter’s minutes), it looks great. Per 36 minutes, Turiaf averaged 9.6 points, 7.7 rebounds (I actually thought he’d be a little better on the boards), 3.5 assists and 3.56 blocks last season. Put him next to Biedrins in the starting lineup and the Warriors finally have a defensive frontcourt that can slow down the big lineups in the West.
It makes sense, right?
So why is Don Nelson saying his starting power forward will be small forward Corey Maggette?
I can’t answer that one, but I can tell you why Turiaf as starting power forward won’t work. When asked about the possibility, Don Nelson has talked about how Turiaf can’t play that many minutes. I wasn’t sure why at first. Was it conditioning? It didn’t seem like it to me; Turiaf seems to be in good shape and able to play more minutes.
It wasn’t until I looked at all of Turiaf’s 36-minute averages that I understood where Nelson was coming from. Per 36 minutes, Turiaf averaged 5.2 fouls per game. That is a significant number. Unless Turiaf can learn to control his tendency to foul, there’s no way Nelson can give him starter’s minutes. He simply wouldn’t be able to keep him on the court for that amount of time.
That being said, in 32 minutes Tuesday against the Lakers, Turiaf only committed three fouls. So maybe he can reverse the trend, pick his spots on defense and stay out of foul trouble. If he can do this, it would give the Warriors a much-needed defensive boost to their starting lineup.