I’m sorry for the long delay between blog entries. I took some time off for Christmas and spent the holidays in Oregon with a lot of family. I’ve been keeping an eye on the Warriors, though and wanted to give a belated review of the Warriors’ recent play.
You might remember that I wrote a blog entry about how the injuries the Warriors were experiencing this season were a legitimate excuse/reason for their mediocre play. Read that entry here. As Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf have since returned to the lineup, I’m feeling a little (just a little) vindicated by the way the Warriors have been playing since they got a couple healthy bodies back in the rotation. Since Turiaf returned, the Warriors are 2-1, with wins against the Suns and Celtics. With Biedrins and Turiaf both back, they’re 1-1. Not a large sample size, but it’s all we have to work with right now so we’ll take it.
If you look at the stats of Biedrins and Turiaf for proof that their presence has aided the Warriors’ improved play, you’ll probably be left wanting something more. The stats haven’t been impressive thus far. In two games, Biedrins has averaged only three points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. He did play much better in his second game back, with six points and eight rebounds in 26 effective minutes. That game was, unfortunately, a loss in which Kobe Bryant ripped the Warriors’ hearts out and showed Monta Ellis what it means to be an All-Star (hint: you make plays in the fourth quarter! More on that in a later post). Turiaf has played three games since his return and is averaging 4.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21.7 minutes. Like Biedrins, he has shown improvement in each game and had seven points and five blocks in 23 minutes against the Lakers.
The thing about stats, though, is they lie. Beyond the stats, the impact of having two healthy, legitimate big men to play a combined 40+ minutes per game has been huge for the Warriors. There’s so much more to it than how many points they’re scoring, how many rebounds they’re ripping down or how many shots they’re blocking. Biedrins is a good center, a legitimate five who would start for most teams in the NBA. He should help the Warriors most of all. I expect his stats to improve as he gets back into game shape and starts playing more minutes. But even now, after just a couple games, it has been evident that just the luxury of having more healthy players available has made the Warriors better.
With their top two centers back, the Warriors might actually be able to establish some realistic rotations since there are enough players now to spread the minutes around. Maybe Ellis can go back to playing 41 or 42 minutes per game instead of all 48.
Maybe the presence of a legitimate big man on the pick and roll will help the Warriors’ offense improve in efficiency. That has been evidenced already in games since Biedrins and Turiaf returned. Neither are offensive dynamoes, but they can both catch a pass on a roll to the basket and dunk. At the very least, they are so much more capable than Mikki Moore and Chris Hunter ever were.
Forty combined minutes (or more) from Biedrins and Turiaf won’t change the Warriors into a good defensive team (they’ve given up 112.5 points per game since both players returned), but I expect to see improvement. Biedrins is a good help defender and Turiaf is a blur of defensive energy. Again, they are more capable than Moore and Hunter.
As a disclaimer to those who choose to be a little more pessimistic about the Warriors (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), I want to be clear that I’m not expecting a big second-half rally. I’m not expecting a playoff push. The Warriors are too far gone right now to dream of anything that drastic. I do think the Warriors will be better, though. At the beginning of the season, I wrote that the Warriors would flirt with a .500 record if they stayed healthy. Read that entry here. Now that they’re relatively healthy (they still miss Kelenna Azubuike and Raja Bell), I expect to see Golden State play .500 ball most of the rest of the season, barring any more injuries. The Warriors are 9-22 right now, with 51 games left to play. If they split wins and losses the rest of the season, they’ll probably finish with 34 or 35 wins. I don’t think a 35-47 record is anything to be excited about, but it’s better than last season and that’s a start.
Plus, there’s always the trade deadline to look forward to. Chris Bosh, anyone?