Trail Blazers Warriors BasketballThe only gripe I have about Friday’s uber-impressive win against the Blazers is that Don Nelson continues to start Mikki Moore. To be fair to Nelson, he gave Anthony Randolph a lot of minutes off the bench, but why isn’t Randolph part of the starting five? Randolph has earned the right with his play on the court to start for the Warriors.

Does Randolph play out of control sometimes? Yes. Does he forget plays on offense sometimes? Sure. Does he foul too much? Yep. Is he a perfect player? Not by a long stretch. But, on this team right now, there is no power forward or center, save a healthy Andris Biedrins, who is more talented and deserving of minutes than Randolph. So, Randolph should start.

In Friday’s game, Randolph played 29 minutes off the bench, and had 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks and the nastiest dunk I’ve seen this season. He also had six turnovers and four fouls, but who cares? With Randolph, especially at this stage in his very young career, you take the good with the bad because the good far outweighs the bad.

ESPN’s John Thorpe agrees. He answered several questions about Randolph in a chat this week on espn.com:

Orin (Oakland, CA): I wonder how Anthony Randolph feels about lazy journeyman Vlad Rad starting over him immediately.

David Thorpe: The latest in a long line of sleights.

Disco Stu (Chicago): Why does Nelson play Moore over Randolph?

David Thorpe: Disco, I wish I knew.

Tim (Dallas): Do you think if a rookie coach opted to trot Vlad Rad and Mikki Moore out as his starting PF/C, that management would just burn his contract as the halftime show??? … what a complete (and terrible) joke … I’m at a loss … can you help?

David Thorpe: I can not, other than to recommend the season DVDs of “The Office.”

Jordan (Transylvania): This isn’t LOVELINE! Prescribe a cure for the Warriors PLEASE!?!

David Thorpe: All I can say is, if the NBA had a “Gong Show” format, the Warriors would be gonged.

Miguel (State of Golden-ness): Shouldn’t Randolph have to earn his minutes? He is talented, but raw and makes a lot of mistakes?

David Thorpe: Check out his production.

Thorpe was asked if Randolph should have to earn his minutes, and he responded by saying that Randolph has earned his minutes, to check his production. So I will.

Anthony Randolph per-game stats 2009-10 season
Minutes:
21.6
FG%: 41.9
FT%: 83.6
Points: 12.1
Rebounds: 7.3
Steals: 0.9
Blocks: 0.9
Turnovers: 1.8
Fouls: 3.2

Randolph’s per-36-minute averages (starter’s minutes)
Points:
20.5
Rebounds: 12.2
Steals: 1.5
Blocks: 1.5
Turnovers: 2.9
Fouls: 5.3

Obviously, the fouls stick out as a detriment to Randolph playing that many more minutes. If he starts, because of his tendency to foul and because he’s a young player who won’t get the benefit of the doubt from the NBA referees, Randolph might be especially prone to pick a couple quick fouls, go to the bench and then have a hard time finding his rhythm when he comes back in (see Greg Oden). Randolph will need to cut down on the silly fouls so he can stay on the court.

But if Randolph can minimize the fouls, the Warriors have a young, talented player who has the potential to put up the kind of numbers we saw above. How can Nelson (or anybody) justify not giving Randolph as many minutes as he can handle? Is Mikki Moore or Vladimir Radmanovich really a better option? It’s not even close. Even when Turiaf comes back from injury, Randolph should still start over Turiaf, who will get plenty of deserved minutes backing up both power forward and center. Biedrins should start at center when he’s healthy, no matter what.

Nelson should start the following lineup (when everybody’s healthy) the rest of the season:

PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Anthony Morrow or Corey Maggette (I’m undecided between the young up-and-coming player and Maggette, who is playing spectacular basketball right now)
PF: Anthony Randolph
C: Andris Biedrins

When Biedrins is injured (not a perfect lineup, but the best option):

PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Anthony Morrow
PF: Corey Maggette
C: Anthony Randolph