The Golden State Warriors are masters at finding peculiar and mind-boggling ways to lose. On Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, they lost despite LA shooting sub-forty percent from the floor. Generally, when there is such a dismal performance from one club, the opposing team would squander the said team. Yet, the Warriors were on the other side, losing by a total of 25 points.
The next day against the Nuggets, missed free throws prevented them from winning a game that they had in the bag. Specifically, Klay Thompson missed two free throws in the first overtime, and on the next play, Danilo Gallinari blazed through the middle of the lane to throw down a dunk to tie the game. If Thompson, a usually sure-handed player at the line, made just one shot, the Nuggets would have had to make a three to even the score, a much tougher task than an easy dunk.
Then, Carl Landry missed a pair of free throws in the second overtime that would have extended the Warriors’ lead to six, and the Nuggets capitalized by eventually winning the game.
The point here is that head coach Mark Jackson needs to shake up his lineup. The most successful lineup has been with Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack on the floor simultaneously with Thompson shifting to the small forward position. In Jackson’s defense, that is the lineup he has used when the game is on the line; the thing is, he needs to initiate that process sooner.
After playing just 19 minutes on Saturday night, Harrison Barnes has essentially proven that he’s far from ready to handle a starting role. Granted, he has been one of the few Warriors to attack the basket, but realistically the Warriors are better off without him on the floor. That is, if he isn’t making his shots, specifically three pointers.
On the other hand, if he is making his shots, he stretches the floor greatly. When Barnes is on the floor, the Warriors as a team are shooting about 43 percent compared to roughly 23 percent when he is on the bench. The wide margin is due to the fact that the North Carolina product is still a threat given his track record. However, his inconsistency continues, then teams will presumably begin to pay no respect to his jumper and lay off him more and more.
While Barnes projects to be a vital part to the Warriors’ future, Thompson would probably be a better fit at the small forward in the short-term. Jackson doesn’t necessarily have to start the game with Thompson as the small forward. Furthermore, Barnes can still retain his starting role, but he must be rotated out of the action rather quickly for the Warriors to get themselves out in front early, instead of putting themselves in a bad position for the later minutes. That string of events should sound familiar.
Until Barnes proves that he can be trusted as a consistent shooter of some sort, Thompson is about all the Warriors have. That is, if they prefer to get the most production possible out of that spot. This certainly is not counting out the possibility of Barnes bursting out of his shell, but that fantasy seems like it will remain a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The other alternative, Richard Jefferson, hasn’t been mentioned because he hasn’t been relevant. Given his 28 percent shooting percentage form the floor, his effectiveness has been minimal, to say the least. And it gets worse, as the veteran has shot just 14 percent from beyond the arc in the early stages of the season. Obviously, those two marks are bound to increase considerably in the near future, but Jefferson clearly isn’t the player he once was, which was a slasher and ferocious finisher.
Additionally, Curry’s scoring output would reap the benefits of this maneuvering. Whether you agree or not, Curry is a shooting guard. His lack of size ultimately prevents him from playing the two guard on a regular basis, but he is a shooting guard nonetheless. However, the Warriors should at least give that idea a chance to succeed.
Golden State has an alternative option in Jarrett Jack to fill Curry’s void, so that conceivably wouldn’t be an area of concern. Sure, moving Jack into the starting lineup would put a dent in Warriors’ bench production which, in fact, has been very solid so far. But it is for the better of the team’s overall production to rearrange the main lineup, which would involve putting Jack in a main role instead of a typical bench player’s role.
And when it’s all said and done, Jack fits the bill of a point guard more so than Curry. The Warriors turn the ball over less with Jack on the court, they average most assists when he’s on the floor, and they are much more under control when he’s at the helm.
While the season is still very young, the Warriors cannot afford to fall behind in the standings early and attempt to make a late season push that falls short. Instead, Jackson needs to make a few adjustments now that will hopefully benefit them in the standings.