Our panel of blog comment critics have decided on a winner. It was close. But the prize goes to …
JFish (comment #24)
He edged out Michael (Comment #74). Honorable mention: BringBackTheChrisAndTimBurger (Comment #83), Jet Set Dave (Comment #92-93), Joe Suspect (Comment #48) and JWagner (Comment #40).
Special shout out to JScrilla (Comment #37), who nearly won on humor alone. And to my friend, Haastheman (Comment #72), who is a closet Phoenix fan and, judging by his suggestions, are clearly trying to tank the Warriors to benefit the Suns!
Anyway, here is the winning post.
An attempt to answer the QUESTION…. What’s needed to make the W’s a serious contender for the title? Wow! Therein lies the problem, the question is premature. The only way for the W’s to contend quickly is for them to get VERY, VERY, LUCKY. That is NOT a strategy and may not be sufficient! Winning the Lottery would be lucky, but there does not appear to be a Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, John Wall, LeBron or Kobe in the next few draft classes, even if there were, as great as those players are, it takes a while to adjust to the NBA and make their teams contenders. Trading a Star for a different Star is not likely to happen and getting the better in a trade also requires LUCK and probably a connection (Ainge, McHale – Kevin Garnet for Al Jefferson). You might get LUCKY betting on a healthy Yao, Oden or Bynum, but looking at this chart would indicate the odd are against you. http://www.blazersedge.com/2011/2/17/1999729/simmons-oden-will-probably-never-be-healthy
To CONTEND FOR THE TITLE, The management and the W’s fans need to focus FIRST on being a competitive playoff team. They must have a game plan (see below) to become a consistent playoff team. They must manage the expectations of their long suffering and loyal fan base, so reactionary trades or coaching changes aren’t demanded/forced by disgruntled fans. If you think disgruntled fans can’t lead a revolt, you haven’t been paying attention to the Middle East lately.
The W’s must make some upgrades to their roster (step 1 below). Define their game plan internally, and to their fans. With 26 games left, it would be an aggressive statement for the W’s management to let it be known (not a formal announcement, but a “leak” to reporters) that although the W’s would have to leapfrog four teams (Utah, Memphis, Phoenix, Houston), we feel that with Memphis hurting, Utah and Denver in some disarray and New Orleans and Houston sliding a playoff spot may be possible. With our new roster (step 1 below), we will try to make the playoffs for the invaluable experience it will provide for our young players.
We will assess the likelihood of making the playoffs after our seven game road trip (several winnable games, but on the road). The assessment will be realistic, rather than hopeful. If it is determined we are not likely to make the playoffs, we will focus on evaluating our existing roster and coaching staff. Missing the playoffs is the more probable case. The W’s have more back-to-back games left than any of the teams ahead of us, and all the teams with the exception of Memphis have recent playoff experience.
Regardless of the outcome of this year, we will strive to configure our roster and game plan to be COMPETITIVE in the playoffs NEXT year, with the expectation of being in contention for a title in the NEXT THREE years. San Antonio, Dallas, Boston and the Lakers will continue to age in that time and will have to revamp their roster in those years under what is likely to be a more restrictive CBA, (the Lakers/Mavs have some large long term contracts which could greatly impact their flexibility). Miami will have six players earning $65Mil in two years, while there are three great players, filling out that roster will be difficult. Can we position ourselves to beat the future title contenders like the Bulls, OKC, Orlando.
Once W’s management sets that basic target, The following steps should be taken:
Step 1. Upgrade this year’s roster ASAP. Gadz, Bell, Radm were acquired to get out of the Maggette contract and move a disgruntled Jackson. They should not be part of our future, and are hurting our chances of success. AC Law was a “stop-gap” hire when Lin showed he wasn’t ready and Bell didn’t appear to be interested in playing. There is better, cheaper talent in the D-League, who have the potential to be part of the W’s future, (C.J Watson, R. Williams, A. Tolliver, C. Hunter). While I appreciated Law’s defensive effort against Ray Allen and Boston, his lack of shooting ability meant we were playing at best 4 offensive players against 5 very good defenders. In this league, wings and guards need to hit the open jumpers. When the ball moves crisply to the open man, but the man left open can’t hit the shot, it discourages ball movement next time.
We can talk about lack of good defense, but I think most will agree that defense is more about effort, energy and focus than it is about athletic talent. Defense is played more with the feet, i.e., position than with the hands, blocks or reach-in-steals (versus passing lane steals). When you are fatigued, your effort can be there, but energy, focus, and speed may not be. Tired players play defense with their HANDS instead of their feet, resulting in more FOULS. The Warriors have the worst “foul differential” in the league.
Look at the top 10 defensive teams in the league (points scored) they all have solid rotations and with only two of the ten teams having players averaging over 39 minutes per game (Deng 39.1, Aldridge 39.4). The Warriors have two Monta 41.1, Wright 39.2. Without the talent, rotations are a crap shoot, starters end up playing too many minutes and defense suffers. Rebounding can also be viewed as an “effort” stat, again we have one of the worst differentials in the league. Poor rebounding leads to more work on the defensive end, more fatigue, and fouls (let alone injuries).
You will NEVER have a quality defense without a DEEPER bench and better rotations.
Last year, every player on the roster had potential and was working hard to make it in the NBA, and they were hopeful their best years were AHEAD of them. Now we have players who’s best years are probably BEHIND them and are unlikely to last in the NBA much longer (Gadz, Vald, Bell, even Law). Yes, Bell’s played a little better since the DUI, hopefully it was a wakeup call to him that he’s lucky to be “playing” basketball for a living and even luckier to be owed $4Mill next year (I’d rather pay it to keep Brandon). I believe we’d be better off if we could replace those contracts with hungry D-Leaguers or trade them for low cost unused rookies/second year players at the end of someone’s bench.
Smart has been accused of having poor rotations, but what were his choices, particularly at the start of the season. Williams wasn’t hitting shots, Lin wasn’t ready, Bell wasn’t healthy and then not playing well. Udoh Amundson out, Lee injured, Radmonovic not shooting well. B.Wright not healthy or not playing. We must have players who compliment our five starters (which is not a bad starting five).
It is acceptable to have a “defensive stopper” who guards a Ray Allen, but the minutes have to be limited to “cooling off” a hot hand. Law, Udoh, Radmonovic were a combined 3 – 16. We are too limited offensively, to give big minutes to rotation players unless Rad or Williams are hot. I don’t know whye we’ve given up on Brandon Wright, he’s younger than Udoh, with NBA experience. His trade value is minmal if he’s going to get injured again the seasons almost over anyway, but I think he MIGHT be the second most offensively gifted player on our bench. I’m not sure if he’s in a dog house, or has bad practice habits, but use him or get someone you will use.
Step 2. Enter the modern age by hiring and developing a first class analytics department to evaluate talent on both the NBA, College and International level. Teams with analytics departments do better than those without. (See: http://www.red94.net/rocketscience-analytics-teams-nonanalytics-teams/5698/). Develop metrics to evaluate your talent objectively (not with emotion). Determine where the team is getting beat, and what you need to do to improve (stop guessing). Evaluate what your TALENT is worth so you don’t overpay. (see Maggette, Jackson, Dunleavy, Murphy and offers to Elton Brand, Barron Davis, Gilbert Arenas).
Step 3. Determine what you have and what type of team you’ll need to be competitive in the playoffs. Blend in a vet with playoff experience that has played in the style you wish to pursue. The quickest way to build given what we currently have is probably a speed/matchup game ala Phoenix in the D’Antoni years, Nelson We Believe. It is also very entertaining. To contend for a title you will have to develop a half court game, continue to improve your defense and run opportunistically. Don Nelson had success because he knew what he wanted and how he wanted to play, consequently he instructed Mullin to get rid of Dunleavy and Murphy after 6 months since he knew their games didn’t fit his style. These days we seem to trade and hope and guess at what we need.
Step 4. Evaluate Keith Smart carefully, he should probably have an older coach on the bench with a lot of NBA experience, the bench looks a bit young and could use a gray beard. If you decide he’s the one, commit to him. Winning teams seem to have more consistency at the coaching spot, the team needs to reflect the personality of its coach. There are only a few NBA coaches that I know I’d replace Smart with. Nate McMillan is one of the most underated coaches in the league, Popovic, Thibodeau, Dantoni maybe Brooks.
Step 5. MAXIMZIE the use of your draft, Know which players will fit with the style you play. (See San Antonio Spurs http://www.foxsportshouston.com/01/22/11/Secret-to-Spurs-success-lies-in-drafts-s/landing.html?blockID=396073&feedID=4519). Decide what you want in the Free Agent Market, and what you will pay…. Avoid crazy long term deals for middle of the road players. See STEP 2 – STOP GUESSING! Want another big man to go along with Biendrins – Which one best fits your style of play and what you give to have them? Dalembert, Speights, Thompson, Marc Gasol, Kamen, DeAndre, McGee, Blatche…
Step 6. GET LUCKY….GET VERY, VERY LUCKY! See GREG ODEN/KEVIN DURANT? David Robinson injury leads to Tim Duncan.