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Midseason Report Card: You Know Who Has the Lowest Grade, But Guess Who Has the Highest?

I’ll kill the surprise for you. I gave out four As. Three of them were to bench players. The other one: David Lee.

I’ll wait while you finish your rant/laughter.

You done? Good.

Yes, I gave David Lee an A. The explanation is below, but before you indulge, I must point out that context is critical. History is factored in. Salary. Injury. All that. But a key ingredient is expectation. I don’t believe in penalizing a guy for not doing something he shouldn’t be expected to do. With that said, have at me. And, please, post your grades.

STARTERS

SG Monta Ellis – C+

Comment: His play is down, which is evident in his numbers. He just isn’t quite as dominant as he was last year. He’s still great at what he does, but not as great this year. Remember last season when you felt like he did everything he could. Not so much this year. But the bottom line is, he’s the best player on a team that’s been below mediocre. The whole system is geared around him, and the result is four games under .500. Plus, he has not come through on a handful of game-winning situations. That doesn’t mean he won’t play lights out the rest of the way. But he has another level to his game. We’ve seen it.
PG Stephen Curry – C

Comment: Injuries aside, he’s vacillated between great and average. Part of that can be attributed to his vacillating role. Sometimes he seems to have the freedom, to be in control, others he’s stuck in a corner as a decoy. For the second consecutive year, Curry is the victim of his development being impeded by his coach’s infatuation with Ellis. Certainly, Curry needs to avoid those bad games he’s prone to have here and there. He’s got to figure out how to stop the spiral. But mostly, he probably needs to be a little bit more selfish. Not in terms of looking for his shot, but by not allowing himself to be diminished when things aren’t going well. You get the sense Mark Jackson is waiting for that.

 

Dorell Wright – D

Comment: Save for a few blips on the radar, Wright has been relatively non-existent. His numbers are down across the board. He’s had nine games where’s played at least 17 minutes and failed to get at least 10 points or five rebounds. Considering he was expected to at least match last year’s breakout performance, his down year has really hurt Golden State. It’s left a huge whole in the offense, it’s hobbled their transition game (which he was a big part of) and forced them to NEED guards to rebound.

 

David Lee – A

Comment: At times, he’s been the most reliable Warrior. And unlike in the past, he’s making some winning plays. Even when his stats aren’t great, he is still contributing, even on the defensive end. He’s not a closer, but you’d like to see more take-over from him down the stretch. But he rarely has the opportunity because Ellis dominates the ball. And I know, his contract is $80 million. But even those who thinks that’s too much (my hand is raised) can see Lee’s impact on games, especially the last month or so. Lee’s PER is 40th in the league (19.75). Last season, he finished (17.86). That’s noteworthy improvement.

 

Andris Biedrins – F
Comment: His numbers are down across the board and the expected come back season isn’t happening. To his credit, Mark Jackson doesn’t give Biedrins much of a chance. But Biedrins hasn’t done much to force Jackson’s hand. You would think Biedrins, with his career nearly in the tank, would show more fight. So far, he seems content with being a ceremonial starter and not causing any problems.

 

THE BENCH

Ekpe Udoh – B
Comment: After a slow start, he has become the one reserve to get Jackson to consider changing his starting rotation. You could even argue Jackson was holding him back during the “slow start,” sitting Ekpe instead of allowing him to play through his struggles. Nonetheless, Ekpe is establishing himself as a reliable player for the Warriors, especially on the defensive end. You can question the plus/minus stat, but the fact that he has the best on the team means something. If somehow they can get him to rebound …

 

Klay Thompson – B
Comment: Once a questionable No. 11 pick, Thompson has emerged as one of the few definite keepers on the roster. His assuredly a lights out shooter. And he isn’t scared to shoot it. The most impressive part is that even when he was struggling, he kept playing his game. Instead of spiraling, he worked his way out of it. That’s maturity unbecoming. He needs to add to his game, though. And you can already see him attacking the basket more. It’s early, but he just may wind up good enough to convince the Warriors to trade Monta for less than an All-Star.

 

Brandon Rush – A
Comment: Rush has been nothing short of a great acquisition. He defends well. He’s shooting the ball spectacularly. Perhaps most impressive is he stays in his lane. You don’t see crazy heat check shots from him. Don’t see him doing too much. He probably should be starting, but that might put too much on him. It’s unlikely he’ll keep shooting threes at this pace. But he has been terrific considering the struggles of Wright.

 

Dominic McGuire – A
Comment:  You can’t ask for more from a guy signed at the last-minute on a non-guaranteed contract. You could argue the defensive specialist should play more. McGuire certainly has established himself as the Warriors’ best perimeter defender. I personally think he’s underrated in transition. He can handle the rock a bit and knows how to get to the cup. Unlike Rush, McGuire has a tendency to do too much. But for a guy picked up off the street, that’s OK. His biggest attribute may be unseen. He is tough minded. Never scared. And next to him, he can make those who are scared stand out. He sets a tone for that second unit that the Warriors hope carries over to the starters.

 

Nate Robinson – B-
Comment: He’s been exactly what the Warriors needed – a spark plug off the bench. Brought some heart and moxie to the team. The problem is he’s hot or cold, not the consistent presence they really need. I think Jackson sometimes does Robinson a disservice by putting him in position to be a playmaker. Robinson is much more a finisher than a creator. With that said, he often creates the tempo the Warriors need and he’s another one of those tough guys willing to battle. The more he’s under control, the better. That hasn’t been often enough, but you can live with it because of what he brings.

 

Kwame Brown – A
Comment: Was really a huge plus before tearing a chest muscle. So good, Golden State is hoping to sign him for next season, too. At first, I was sold on Kwame just because Jackson seemed so sold on him. He definitely was good. But I do wonder if he was really as good as they say, or were they just ready to call him the an All-Star caliber center because he was a big man with a pulse. I think if they lose perspective, they may end up heaping too much on him. His play definitely made such tempting.

 

Jeremy Tyler – C-
Comment: You would think he would play more, considering the Warriors’ one true center averages below 20 minutes. With his size and athleticism, it stands to reason he could give something now. But he is super raw and apparently has maturity issues. Jackson would sometimes rather go with McGuire out of position than go with Tyler. Hard to tell yet whether Jackson is being too strict, protecting Tyler from himself, or if Tyler really isn’t ready. I’m going to go with the last because Jackson has no problem playing other rookies. That means Tyler is pretty behind. And I’ve been told he’s “got a lot to learn” about what it means to be a pro.

 

Charles Jenkins – B
Comment: It’s not his fault he’ll be linked to Jeremy Lin, since Jackson preferred to keep Jenkins. He was solid when he started for the injured Curry. Haven’t seen much from him, but he does what he’s asked. When he does get a chance, would like to see him do more than just make the third of six passes. I think he can do more.

 

Chris Wright – I
Comment: Doesn’t play much. But he’s a special athlete with the right mindset and work ethic. I can’t wait to see him get some real time. He might be a sleeper.

 

Mark Jackson – D
Comment: I admit, this grade is a bit harsh. He hasn’t done a bad job. He hasn’t been great, but he has hardly been terrible. However, he’s the one who set the bar so high, so his team’s shortcomings seem even worse. It’s his expectations, so he has to live by them. He called this a playoff team. Well, right now, they are the 12th best team in the Western Conference. Very little has changed tangibly – still poor defensively, still not a good rebounding team, still come up short at the end. However, they do play hard for him and some evidence of progress is starting to show. His juggling of the rotation has smoothed out and he has proved to be right about how he was handling Ekpe (I thought he should have been playing more despite his struggles). Still, it will take the improbable for his playoff prediction to come true. Certainly will take better late-game execution, which hasn’t been a strength of Jackson’s team yet.

Front office – C
Comment: Part of me wants to go F. The way they got dissed by Tyson Chandler, who chose the Knicks (I’ve heard from several he just used the Warriors to draw out an offer). They way they made a play for DeAndre Jordan, for the sake of saying they tried, even though everyone suspected the Clippers would match. Not to mention that decision caused them to give away this year’s biggest star in Jeremy Lin, though that was a mistake that perhaps looks worst than it was. What’s more, they had a chance to get Chris Paul and couldn’t close the deal, a minor thing but a thing nonetheless on top of everything else. But reality says the front office has done some good things. Rush was a great trade. The signing of McGuire is looking brilliant. Throw in Robinson as a good move. Golden State was able to add three good players for dirt cheap. Because of that, they could likely keep those players for a good price, too. Also, Klay Thompson is looking like a really good pick. And, in the end, the Warriors didn’t compound their futility by locking up some scrub. So they are still in position to do somethings at the deadline and next offseason. Not big things (no, I am not buying Dwight Howard talk), but things.

Marcus Thompson