During the Golden State Warriors recent losing skid I have questioned every aspect of their team. What on earth is wrong with them? What happened to the once so hot, up and coming young squad lead by then Coach of the Year candidate Mark Jackson? Their defense has fallen apart. Their offense is stagnant. And worst of all, they are playing dumb basketball. Bad turnover after bad turnover followed up by terrible fouls and horrible late game situation awareness. All of this got me thinking that it could be time for change in the lineup late in games.
Since you aren’t going to bench Steph Curry, David Lee or Jarret Jack, and must have either Carl Landry or Andrew Bogut on the floor, it leaves only one expendable piece: Klay Thompson. This is a coincidence because when I think of bad defense, stagnant offense, turnovers and bad fouls, I think of Klay “Zero Hoop IQ” Thompson. He is the poster child for soft play. His big scoring nights are spoken highly of but no one ever seems to consider taking a look at his other stats.
While averaging 16.3 points per game, he only averages 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists to go along with two turnovers over 35.5 minutes per game. Nothing special. And with a field goal percentage of 41.7 percent that ranks 20th and a three-point percentage of 38.3 percent that ranks 17th among other qualifying shooting guards in the league, he isn’t exactly shooting lights out night after night. While I do agree that Klay can be a great shooter at times, he doesn’t have a good enough all around game to be in late game situations night after night.
One reason why Thompson struggles late in games could be partially Mark Jackson’s fault. When Jarrett Jack and Steph Curry make up the Warriors crunch time backcourt, Klay slides over to the small forward position. With his slim 6-7 frame, he has the height advantage over the average shooting guard, but when he is forced to defend the small forward position he is physically overmatched time and time again, cannot create his own shot and tends to force the ball and turn it over in critical situations. When Curry, Jack and Lee play their pick and roll game, Thompson tends to stand around in the corner waiting for his shot, not setting screens, not running off screens and not crashing the boards. Over his 35.5 minutes per game, Thompson only averages 1.9 free throw attempts. This is dead last in the NBA among qualified shooting guards.
So why does Mark Jackson continue to go with this look time after time? Well, the first reason is because what the Warriors need most is exactly what they lost when Brandon Rush blew his knee out in the opening month of the season. Rush brought a tough, physical defensive presence to the team and had the ability to knock down big shots. The only other physical exterior defender is Draymond Green, but he is an offensive liability. Your only other options are Kent Bazemore who is still far too raw, Richard Jefferson and lastly, the man who starts every game but seems to be forgotten by the second half, Harrison Barnes.
Barnes is a tremendous athlete that has an extremely high potential, however, he is much too hesitant. It’s as if he is afraid to make a mistake. But as the season has gone on I have noticed him starting to grow into a man. With every thunderous dunk that he throws down, it gives me hope that one day he could explode for 30 and knock down a game winner. But Mark Jackson won’t ever allow that to happen.
Instead we have to watch Klay Thompson explode for 20 points on 20 shots, three rebounds, two assists and four turnovers while giving up easy layup after layup. With Harrison Barnes in the game, you can at least match the athleticism of damn near anyone else on the floor. Barnes averages only nine points over 25.8 minutes per game, that’s 10 minutes less than Thompson, but nearly matches him in rebounds and assists (4.0, 1.4), while having less turnovers (1.2). And with a 43.5 field goal percentage, Barnes is also out shooting Thompson. Granted he shoots a lot less, he also doesn’t fire up poor shots every time he touches the ball. Casting up brick after brick is quite unnecessary when you have Steph Curry, who is now considered by some to be the best shooter in the game.
While I do agree that Thompson has been a large part of the Warriors’ success this season, he has also been a large part of their recent inconsistency. It’s time for Mark Jackson to go try something new because what he has been doing isn’t working anymore. Maybe Barnes isn’t the answer, but how will we ever know?
You can follow Rich Peters on twitter @Tricky_Roma.