Whether the Golden State Warriors begin the season with Klay Thompson, Kevin Love or perhaps both, expect many changes with the recent hiring of first-time NBA coach Steve Kerr. For a Golden State team filled with offensive weapons–including two of the best three point shooters in today’s NBA–it’s safe to say offensive production was somewhat of a disappointment under Mark Jackson.
When paired with the right coaching staff, there is no reason the Warriors–with or without Kevin Love–shouldn’t be a top-five offense in the NBA. As we all know, however, it’s always easier said than done. So how will the additions of Steve Kerr, along with former Clippers’ “offensive coordinator” Alvin Gentry, transform the stagnant offense of a year ago to one capable of scoring with the best?
Know Your Personnel
For an offense to really work well together, everyone involved must know exactly what the other players can do–and what they can’t. Although beneficial to player confidence and morale, Mark Jackson’s habit to always pat his players on the back despite struggles drastically hurt the offense.
It’s safe to say that Warriors fans were disappointed by Harrison Barnes’ second campaign, but perhaps his struggles were partly related to Jackson’s willingness to put him in bad positions. Jackson would often employ hockey shifts by taking out all five starters at once, replacing them with all bench players.
Normally, Barnes was the leader of that second unit, as many players and fans looked to him to carry his own while surrounded by drastically worse players than the starters (with whom he played most of his minutes with during his rookie season). Besides being relied on as “the guy” in the second unit, Barnes wasn’t able to put his skills to the test as too often would he force isolation basketball–a type of basketball that doesn’t suit his skill set.
With his athleticism, Steve Kerr should encourage Barnes to get out in the open floor and use his strength and quickness to his advantage. He should not be forcing isolation because at this point in his career, he is not skilled enough to beat the likes of Kevin Durant and LeBron James off the dribble. He is the second or third option while on the court, meaning Kerr should avoid Jackson-like hockey shifts whenever possible.
Along with Barnes, Kerr also needs to focus on another wing player, all-star Andre Iguodala. It is common knowledge that Iguodala is one of the most athletic players in the NBA, but he wasn’t able to showcase his athleticism as much as he would have liked last season. Similar to Barnes, Kerr needs to ensure than Iguodala gets out in transition because that’s where his skills are used to the highest potential.
In the half-court, however, Iguodala needs to rely less on his jumper, and instead force the issue more by driving and dishing to the Warriors’ array of three point shooters, or driving and finishing at the rim via his supreme athleticism. When without the ball, Iguodala needs to slash to the rim as much as possible, not only making himself difficult to defend, but also creating space for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (or possibly Kevin Love).
Another player Mark Jackson misused is Andrew Bogut. The Australian big man missed the playoff series versus the Clippers, making his impact very noticeable. Bogut could, however, have even more of an impact if put in the right position to succeed.
With Bogut’s passing skills, there is no excuse for why he was only used 12.5% of Warriors’ possessions. When the offense is struggling and Curry’s threes simply aren’t falling, Bogut should be fed the ball. With a true shooting percentage of 61%, Bogut is capable of scoring in a multitude of ways, but doesn’t get too high on himself as passing to an open teammate is always Bogut’s priority.
Kerr must use him more than Jackson did because when healthy (which is always a question with Bogut), he is a dynamic weapon on both sides of the floor.
Run the Ball
This one’s pretty obvious. But after last season’s offense stagnant offense, this is really key. With shooters like Curry and Thompson, and athletic wings like the aforementioned Barnes and Iguodala, the Warriors should excel in transition.
Although the Warriors should not have much problem scoring in the half-court with their talent, it’s always good to get quick and easy buckets as much as possible, stressing the importance of a solid transition game.
Implement a Coherent Offense
Too often, it seemed as if the Warriors’ offense was running in place last season. There was not enough movement, all players tended to favor isolation basketball, and it seemed as if Mark Jackson did little to change it as many of the problems persisted.
During his playing days, Kerr was coached by two of the best coaches in NBA history: Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. He knows what the responsibilities of a great coach are, and I’m sure he will use many ideas and principles Jackson and Popovich used while coaching Kerr.
Jackson innovated the famous triangle offense while Popovich implemented one of the most efficient offenses in history relying solely on incredible amounts of ball movement. I doubt Kerr will create a Jackson-like triangle offense, but he will take from both experiences and create a new system he can call his own.
Although it’s hard to believe the Warriors fired a coach that had just won 51 games, the Mark Jackson firing followed by the Steve Kerr hiring make plenty of sense. Many are applauding the Warriors front office for making the right moves despite being heavily scrutinized including Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes, who stated “Kerr givers the Warriors the chance to move into the next (and perhaps final) phase of their organizational development.”