There has been a fair amount of discussion since preseason about the Warriors’ starting lineup, in particular the backcourt pairing of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. Most of the chatter prior to the season was about the defensive weaknesses it would present, but in the first two games of the season, the move has generated problems on offense as well, as it appears that the two are still trying to work out exactly how to play with each other.
Feltbot, who has frequented this blog and provided meaningful insight in his comments, has his own Warriors blog, feltbot.com, and it’s a good one. He wrote an article Monday presenting his prescription to help fix the Warriors, and it involves sending Curry to the second unit and moving Kelenna Azubuike into the starting lineup at the two guard. He makes several good arguments for the move, including an improved defensive starting unit, putting the ball back in Monta’s hands (he needs to control the ball to be effective) and pairing Curry with Anthony Morrow in the second unit, which could pay dividends for both players.
I think he makes a good argument. I can’t get on board with it, though, because I think that taking Curry out of the starting lineup when he’s done nothing to deserve the demotion, seems like a big mistake. I think Don Nelson needs to stick with this backcourt for at least 10-15 more games to see if Curry and Monta can figure out how to co-exist in the same lineup.
I also get the impression that Nelson loves Curry and unless the rookie point guard starts to play poorly, I can’t envision a scenario in which Nelson would take him out of the starting lineup.
The idea in feltbot’s article to get Azubuike into the starting lineup is a great one. Azubuike is a good defensive player, he has a high basketball IQ, and he can help open up the offense with his 3-point marksmanship (41.3 percent for his career). It would be a great benefit to the Warriors to put Azubuike in the starting lineup or at least find him more minutes.
It seems that Nelson agrees with this thinking, because according to a report by Geoff Lepper at 48minutes.net, the Warriors will unveil a new starting lineup Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies that includes Azubuike. It will be the third starting lineup in three games for the Warriors. The reported new starting five looks like this:
PG-Stephen Curry (13 points. 5.5 assists)
SG-Monta Ellis (22.5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists)
SF-Kelenna Azubuike (15 points, 4.5 rebounds)
PF-Stephen Jackson (15 points, 3 assists)
C-Andris Biedrins (8 points, 7.5 rebounds)
Anthony Randolph moves to the bench and will likely play a lot of minutes backing up both Jackson and Biedrins. What’s interesting about this lineup is that if you insert Randolph at power forward, you’re probably looking at the Warriors’ starting five if Jackson is traded.
I like putting Azubuike in the the starting five and I think he’ll be fine at small forward. The question mark is Jackson at power forward. Can that be effective? Looking ahead to Wednesday’s game, I think it could work. I don’t think Jackson can defend Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph, but Randolph can’t defend Jackson so it evens out.
It appears that the other defensive matchups set up well enough for the Warriors. Curry matches up with Mike Conley, Monta with O.J. Mayo (you probably have to give the edge to the Grizzlies on that one), Azubuike with Rudy Gay (Gay’s length might give Azubuike some trouble), and Biedrins with Marc Gasol. There are some matchups that Memphis could exploit there, but the Warriors have their own matchups they can exploit in return. Like with the Randolph-Jackson matchup, I think at shooting guard, Monta can match Mayo point-for-point, so it all seems to equal out. Wednesday’s game has the look of a close, high-scoring game.
The other concern I have with this lineup is lack of rebounding. This could be a problem. With that lineup, the Warriors have one good rebounder (Biedrins) and four mediocre rebounders on the court. I think this lineup could lead to a lot of offensive rebound opportunities for the Grizzlies. I could see Randolph, Gay and Mayo being able to get position for offensive rebounds against the Warriors’ smaller defenders. That could be something to watch.
Even with the 0-2 start, the Warriors’ season thus far has been very interesting. There is so much unrealized potential on this roster, and the hope is that Nelson will figure out the right combination of players that will help realize that potential. The next chance to see if the pieces fit is Wednesday.