June 10, 2011

You Talk About Mark Jackson...

So what do we know about Mark Jackson, other than that he knows how to butter up a 'cob and sweet-talk a Guber?

He probably won't get as mad as Nellie would about five-second back to the basket violations.

He's married to a none-hit wonder.

He was a damn fine player in his day, a kind of Jason Kidd without the rebounds, handed out the third-most assists in NBA history, and is generally acknowledged to have been a totally awesome floor impresario to boot. It's always a little bit fatuous to try to infer a potential coach's philosophy and his favored strategies and tactics from his playing days—baseball fans will immediately think of Joe Morgan, whose huffy, wrong normativeness stands in stark contrast to his transcendent results on the diamond—but I, at least, feel slightly if irrationally comforted knowing that Jackson was a pass-first guy.

And, uh...hmm...that's basically all I got. But as Hayes mentioned to me over dinner last night, we have hundreds of hours of footage of Jackson grunting out opinions from which to form impressionistic worries (hey, it's what we do here).

On ESPN and ABC, Jackson always struck me as primarily concerned with coming off as very loud and very certain. As I recall, he especially enjoys saying the phrase, "The game of basketball." He generally talks tough and takes the position of precedented old-school orthodoxy that doesn't really make anyone think. He's not afraid to say what he thinks, of course, but his comments are never really robustly contrarian or particularly well formulated, and his phraseology leaves a lot to be desired. With all this said, his early comments as Warriors head coach are nothing particularly inspiring, either. Am I reading too much into the light-hearted riffs of a color commentator?

This reliable traditionalism made him a fine foil for the shrewish Stan Van Gundy and his progressive twitterings, but it remains to be seen how it works in the locker room and in the huddle. I know I get rankled by the platitudinous boss, but professional sports, like AA meetings, are where slogans are at their strongest. Professional comity notwithstanding, and assuming the Warriors don't trade Ellis, I can for some reason just taste the impending rancor between Jackson and Ellis, possibly stemming from a latent and complex ontological disagreement about the point guard position.

At three years (and $6,000,000), we'll have plenty of opportunities to worry over his decisions. I know nothing about Mike Malone, but he was valued and valuable defensive guru in both Cleveland and New Orleans, a man in the mold of Tom Thibodeau, and may in the end be more important to lasting Golden State success than Jackson ever is. At the very least, we should be thankful that the Warriors didn't give the head coaching job to Mike Breen. Woof.

March 6, 2011

Lacob's Jabber

There's lots to talk about in Oaktown. In the last several days, the good guys debuted their latest no-D gunnin' swingman, gave a $54 million man's starting lineup spot to a rookie, and faced two of the other eight NBA originals, losing to both Celts and Sixers in that torturous fashion that exemplifies dem Dubs on the road. There's plenty of basketball-related business that we'd like to discuss. But we can't get to that stuff just yet, because the Warriors' new owner simply refuses to shut up.

We Worriers were heartened by the fact that Joe Lacob attended the Sloan MIT Sports Analytics Conference over the weekend, a stat-nerd summit that the Warriors eschewed last year. We were somewhat less heartened by the only news he made there, claiming that bloggers "are not real fans, because they don't have season tickets" (though to be fair, the context was and remains murky). And we were downright, well, worried by Lacob's recent interview with Tim Kawakami. The whole piece is worth reading in a "buckle your seatbelts" sort of way, but these are the five takeaways that troubled us the most:

March 4, 2011

Thornton?! Wild! Er...

The signing of Al Thornton, coming immediately on the heels of his being bought out by Washington, has been a polarizing one in the wilds of Warrior Nation. Two types of reaction have predominated:

1) "Al Thornton? Nice! He's a former lottery pick, and the dude can score. We just got an NBA starter for nothing. Great signing."

2) "Al Thornton? Gross! All he can do is score, and he can't even do that well. Why grab this clown when you can go for real upside in the D-League? Shit signing."

We Worriers place ourselves unequivocally in the latter camp. Thornton is an ineffective player, and at age 27, he's not likely to become effective all of a sudden; another offense-first player ain't exactly what the doctor ordered; a gamble on a D-Leaguer would've made far more sense. This was a poor signing.

However, comparisons to the pickups of the Azubuikes and Reggies of the world are premature, for one simple reason: those guys were brought in to play, at moments where the Warriors badly needed someone to swoop right into the rotation. In this situation, the guy Thornton will be backing up is fourth in the NBA in minutes played. The starter at the other position Thornton could conceivably fill leads the NBA in minutes played. And the main backup to those two positions is playing the best basketball of any Warrior. If you're worried about Al Thornton coming in and playing a lot of low-quality minutes, you can stop worrying... there's no room at this inn. From the looks of it, he was acquired for emergency purposes only.

That doesn't make it a defensible signing. The shiniest D-Leaguer on the tree still would've been a better choice, and Lord knows if Matt Steinmetz's theory is correct -- that the front office sees Thornton as Reggie's replacement for next season -- we'll cry bloody murder as loudly as anyone. But in all likelihood, Al Thornton won't play 150 minutes in a Warrior uniform. Unless and until he does, his acquisition is better described as "pointless" than "disastrous".

March 1, 2011

Golden Stats, 3/01/11

The Warriors have opened the season's second "half" with three straight losses, the last to a Minnesota Timberwolves team that is comprised of, well, Minnesota Timberwolves. The trade deadline has come and gone, leaving Oakland one young 'un lighter and one blooper heavier. Hope, in its many-splendored forms, has been extinguished from the hearts of all but the most crazed Dubs fans, and there's nothing left to do but take a peek at what's left in this grim cupboard. Line up, Warriors: you're getting inspected, numbers-style.

Last season, we Worriers experimented with a statistical amalgam we called SCORE. We've put that bad boy on ice, partly because BP's WARP, a tentpole metric, has not yet been published for this season, and partly because statistical amalgams are for fucking babies. This year, we're busting out a fat chart. This chart will feature

- John Hollinger's famously flawed and nevertheless useful PER;
- Justin Kubatko's readily available and plentifully plausible Win Shares per 48 minutes;

Without further ado: said chart! Above-average numbers are in green, below-average in red.

February 22, 2011

Wright To Remain Silenced

The Dubs' slaughter at the cold, unfeeling hands of the Green Machine was not actually the worst news coming out of Oakland today: the Warriors stand poised to trade Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric to the Nets for Troy Murphy and a second-round draft pick. The deal may be announced as-is on Wednesday, or may get incorporated into a larger deal that lands Devin Harris in Dallas or Portland. The Warriors are expected to buy Murphy out shortly thereafter, so at least Dubs fans will be spared a second act of one of the league's droopiest and least effective players. But whatever happens with Murphy, and even if the trade fails to happen, the message is clear: the Warriors' front office has shit in its collective head.

Imagine that your team drafted a power forward after his senior year of college, and that in the first 35 games of his career, he posted the following averages:

15.3 points on 11.6 points (.578 TS%), 8.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 2.0 blocks, 0.9 steals, 3.7 fouls, in 36.0 minutes

Moderately frequent and extremely efficient scoring, adequate rebounding, high block-shot rate, low turnover rate. This guy isn't perfect -- he's a bit of a black hole, and his defense is spotty -- but at 23, he's already playing effective, winning basketball overall. You're probably feeling pretty damn good about your new power forward, right?

Well, news flash, motherfucker: your new power forward is Brandan Wright. He's played 35 games' worth of minutes at 36 per, and has compiled those exact numbers. He is 23 years old.

The Golden State Warriors think that guy's worth less than a second-round pick. Which is to say that they think Brandan Wright's worth less than two million dollars in cash. Because, make no mistake, second-round picks are purchasable commodities (five have been sold in the last two drafts alone), and the prices rarely even get that high. If Joe Lacob loves draft picks as much as he claims, he can offer cash for some any time he likes. He's chosen not to do that. Instead, he's chosen to trade an above-average NBA power forward for a commodity that has a greater than 50% chance of being completely worthless.

Any franchise that thinks that David Lee is worth eighty million dollars but that Brandan Wright isn't worth a second-round pick has absolutely no idea what it's doing. If this is life under Joe Lacob, then life stinks. At least Cohan had the decency to drop out of sight when he started managing the team into the gutter.

A year ago, the Warriors had nine promising players who were 25 or younger. That number is now down to four.

A new day is not dawning in Alameda County. God help us all.