The Golden State Warriors are having an amazing 2012-2013 season. Their 30-18 record is currently good for fifth place in the loaded Western Conference, and all is well for Warriors fans.
Stephen Curry is playing the best basketball of his career, David Lee is an All-Star and Andrew Bogut is healthy. What more can you ask for?
But you can’t talk about the success of the Warriors without bringing up the spectacular play of their young guys, more specifically, their rookies. Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli and Kent Bazemore are all contributing in their own unique way, but all of them can do better.
Here is what each Warriors’ rookie can do better to put the Warriors in an even better position:
Harrison Barnes- Consistency, Aggressiveness
Harrison Barnes was a gift from above for the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are very fortunate that Barnes slipped down in the 2012 NBA draft, as they were able to take him with the No. 7 pick.
Barnes has been nothing but exceptional this year. He has stepped into the starting small forward role very comfortably, and has shown great strides of improvements since the beginning of the season.
He has come to be known as a high-flying dunker, and rightfully so. His dunk over Nikola Pekovic sent the world a message—Harrison Barnes is a force to be reckoned with.
For Barnes, he needs to improve on his consistency and aggressiveness. He is a very talented and skilled basketball player, and when you see him throw down such wicked dunks, you want to see more.
I believe that Barnes needs to stop settling for so many outside shots and instead, use his atletisim to draw fouls in the paint. He is a solid free throw shooter at 73 percent, so if he gets fouled on his way up, you can usually count on him still scoring. Barnes has that Monta Ellis-like offensive aggressiveness, but I just believe that he needs to play that card more often.
And speaking of attacking the basket more, Barnes needs to stay consistent with that plan. He will often string together a series of games with great contributions and numbers, but then dissappear for a while.
If Barnes can continue to make great drives to the hoop and make defenses collapse, there’s always the option of kicking it out for the open three-pointer. With the number of shooters that Golden State has, that sounds like a pretty solid plan to me.
Draymond Green- Shooting
When you think of Draymond Green, you think of some pretty good things. Defense, toughness and high-basketball IQ and 35th pick in the draft are a few words and phrases that come to mind.
But you rarely talk about his scoring abilities. Well you might say, “Of course not, he’s a defensive stopper. He’s not supposed to be scoring!”
However, you’d be wrong to say that. Draymond Green is a spectacular defensive player. He plays with a lot of toughness and emotion and he simply knows what he is doing out there. But when he is on the court, defenses sag off on him and it allows them to put more pressure on the Warriors’ more lethal players, like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson.
Plain and simple, Green needs to shoot the ball better. His current field goal percentage stands at a faint 34 percent, and he is shooting 21 percent from downtown.
Even Bruce Bowen, one of the best one-on-one defenders to ever play the game, provided an offensive spark for the Spurs occasionally. He mastered the corner three-point shot and made defenses pay if they ever left him open. On the other end, he would shut down your best player and frustrate the hell out of him.
If Draymond Green can just improve his offensive game, specifically his shooting, then I think he will start to see a lot more minutes on the court. He comes in for defensive purposes most of the time, but I’m certain that Mark Jackson will keep him in if he proves he can play both sides of the ball efficiently.
Festus Ezeli- Mental Toughness, Catching the Ball
With the return of Andrew Bogut, nobody on the Warriors has seen thier minutes shrink more than first-round draft pick Festus Ezeli. He has played only 10 minutes in the Warriors’ last three games, something that the former starting center definitely isn’t used to.
I believe that this is the time for Ezeli to really dig deep within himself, stay strong and mentally tough. Many people hang their heads down when they suddenly have to take a role off the bench (think Pau Gasol), and that is not the way it should be.
Ezeli needs to keep practicing and working hard, and know that Bogut will not be playing more than 24 minutes or on the back end of a back-to-back until after the All-Star break. That said, Ezeli definitely has something to prove to the coaching staff of the Warriors, and he knows he will get his minutes too. In a nutshell, he needs to make the most of his time on the court when he is rewarded with it, and to make sure that everyone knows that he hasn’t dissappeared.
Guys like Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobli flourish coming off the bench, and are content in doing so. Festus Ezeli will have to accept a similar role for the Warriors, and he must embrace it nicely.
Aside from staying mentally stable and keeping his motivation high, Ezeli also has something else that he really needs to work on: catching the ball.
Warriors fans have been critical of this caveat all season long, and they’re just about fed up with it at this point. Several times throughout their games, Curry or another teammate will drive and dish it to Ezeli only to have him drop the ball and have it bounce out of bounds for the turnover. At 6′ 11”, Ezeli is somebody who can slam dunk the ball with ease.
But how frustrating is it to lob it up to your big man for the slam, only to have him not able to catch the ball and ruin such a great play?
Ezeli is a great basketball player and provides the Warriors with great depth and size at the center position. He filled in for Bogut nicely while he was out, but now that Bogut is healthy, he needs to stay strong and work on his catching.
Keep working big man, keep working.
Kent Bazemore- Be Something More Than The Hype Man
Kent Bazemore, the Warriors’ undrafted rookie, was signed to the team after playing phenomenally during the NBA Summer League this past offseason. Although he doesn’t get many minutes on the court, Bazemore is very popular among the Warriors and their fans.
Bazemore has started what is now known as “Bazemoring” around the Golden State fan base. That is, dancing and going crazy after your team hits a big shot or makes a great play.
During introductions before games, Bazemore goes insane in the Warriors’ team huddle and teammates push him around the circle while screaming in joy. He brings a lot of energy to the team, and you can always see him having a good time and spreading positive energy to his team, no matter what the scenario is. Think of him like a hype man (sorry, Franco Finn).
But, what the Old Dominion standout should start to realize is that it’s more than pumping up the team and the crowd, or dancing around after big plays. The NBA is an extremely competitive league and you have to earn every single minute of action.
Bazemore is a very gifted athlete and basketball player, and he needs to showcase his skills more often. He needs to continue to practice and work his way up the depth chart, because you never know when your name will be called on.
And when he does get a good share of minutes (which he has been recently), he needs to make the absolute most of it and play his heart out. Make big plays, dish out some nice passes and hit a few jumpers. He is a great person and player, and his time to shine is now. And I believe that he is ready.
To say the least, the Golden State Warriors’ rookies are extremely valuable. If each of them can continue to improve their game and make strides as basketball players, the Warriors will be a much more dangerous basketball team.