October 21, 2009
SI.com's NBA Enemy Lines
Golden State Warriors
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Warriors

I don't see how this roster can succeed. It's a guard-heavy team with quite a bit of redundancy. It's an incredibly dangerous team offensively, but I don't know if there's any cohesiveness or chemistry. They were the No. 2 scoring team in the league last year and they might be even more explosive now, but I can't imagine how they're going to defend. They gave up 112.3 points per game last year, with a negative differential of 3.7 points, and I don't see how they can stop people enough to improve.

Who is their leader? It should be Stephen Jackson, but I don't see that happening after he was mouthing off this summer about wanting to be traded. I don't think Monta Ellis or Andris Biedrins has the makeup to be leader, and it's definitely not going to be Corey Maggette. The young guys -- led by Stephen Curry -- are going to wind up running that team, but it's going to take time.

There is a lot to like about Jackson's versatility. He gets to the free-throw line, he shoots threes, he rebounds, he assists. Look at his stats and you'll see he was among the team leaders in a bunch of categories. But I've always been leery of him, and you saw another example of it last year. At one time he's saying, I want to be part of this team, I want to lead this team, and then he's saying, I want to be traded. He's not dependable. You can't get consistency from him, and that scares me. If he is your best player, I don't think you can win. Your best player has to be dependable, on and off the floor. This guy is dangerous not only to the opponent but also to his own team. He's got four more years left on his contract and I don't see anyone taking on that commitment.

Ellis was affected not only by his injury last year but also by the way the Warriors handled it. He was 100 percent in the wrong, but the fact is that thing got dragged out in the papers and he took great insult in the way it was handled -- even though the team was correct. He was insulted that it was handled in such a public way and that he lost a lot of money from his suspension. That is bound to affect the way he plays. If you don't like your employer, are you always going to put out your best effort and make a total commitment? The players will see it. It's not hard for them to find out who isn't committed.

Ellis can really score, but that hurts him as a point guard. When your small forward, Jackson, is your leading scorer as well as your top assist man, that says something about a problem at point guard. They need a point guard to bring the ball down and get the team organized by knowing who needs to get the next shot and where he needs to get it. But that isn't Ellis' game. Ellis knows how to get himself going, and because of his speed and ability to get to the paint and the rim, he is going to create stuff when the defense collapses on him. But there is a big difference between dropping the ball off on a drive and creating for others.

The No. 1 goal defensively with Ellis is to keep him away from the paint, which means you play off him. Then you have to have some help behind you, especially with the league becoming so pick-and-roll dominant. Last year in 25 games he averaged one attempt from the three-point line, so you can afford to play off him and try to cut off his drive. His shooting is going to get better over the years; you see that with all of the drivers -- especially a guy like him with pre-existing knee issues. He'll realize he can't drive all of the time, and he'll further develop that jumper. In the meantime, he is one of the fastest players in the league and extremely clever with the ball, and his handle is good enough that he loves to cross you up to create a lot of separation for himself. The best way to use him would be in the Allen Iverson role as an undersized scoring guard, which isn't the taboo it used to be now that so many teams are playing small.

I'm interested to see how their young kids do. I feel badly for Curry that his first exposure in the league is going to be with Don Nelson. He can be a hard guy to play for, and he can be especially hard on young guys. Curry is a kid from a very comfortable background who went to a small school and became a star, and I wonder how a nice kid like him is going to handle the abuse if that's what it turns into from Nellie. On the other hand, Nellie is going to exploit his offensive talent. One thing Curry needs to develop is his defense. That was a question he faced coming out of the draft, but now he's on a team that doesn't give a crap about defense, so that might affect his career over the long term if he develops bad habits defensively with the Warriors.

I know Ellis came out and said he didn't think he and Curry could play together, but they should. Curry is an excellent passer, and he could enable Ellis to play off the ball. Curry draws a lot of enjoyment from making plays for others, and he is a much more willing passer and a smarter player than Ellis. So I won't be surprised if Curry becomes their point guard. A lot of times when they're on the floor together you won't know who the point guard is anyway, because Ellis' speed enables him to be better at bringing the ball up against pressure and traps. Curry's speed is adequate, but once they get into their offense, everything he does is designed to manufacture space because he can't simply turn on the jets and beat you physically. He puts the ball on the floor for one dribble and steps back for the jumper, whereas Ellis creates space by blowing past you.

It's been more than a year now, and I still can't believe they signed Maggette as a free agent. How asinine was that? Didn't everyone know he was one of the most selfish players in the league? He can always get to the free throw line, but he does so at the expense of his teammates not wanting to play with him. It had to be a reactionary thing after Baron Davis left to sign as a free agent with the Clippers. Now that they're paying him all of that money [$8.9 million this season] they've got to play him, but he plays like he's on an island all by himself. He's one of those guys who is counting down until he gets his numbers: I have 10 points, now I have 14, these free throws give me 18 -- OK, I'm done for the night, I did my job. It's hard to win with a guy like that.

Anthony Randolph has incredible upside, but he's too young [at 20] to be a difference-maker right now and who knows if he'll ever reach that potential -- there have been a million young disappointments in this league. I'm most intrigued by how easily he scores, how easily it comes to him. At 6-10, he can do lot of things: He can score in the post with a turnaround jumper, on the drive, he's an athlete who runs the floor. And defensively -- even though he's up in the air almost every play, which is not a good thing -- he's going to block a few shots. The biggest problem for him is that he's so young and thin. But it's interesting to watch a guy who is so young and so expressionless on the floor, because you can't tell if he just scored his 30th point or missed his sixth shot in a row. This kid doesn't change his expression on the floor, which tells me he has a certain inner strength that is appealing. The fact that he got through his rookie year despite some run-ins with Nellie was impressive.

Brandan Wright [who could miss four to six months after shoulder surgery] is another immensely talented young guy at 6-10, but it is offset by a softness, a non-aggressive tentativeness that I think bothers their coaches. Wright and Randolph have some finesse to their games, but the difference is that Randolph can go out on the perimeter and create off the dribble; Wright can't do that. Wright is a baseline guy, while Randolph can start the play at the top of the key and get to where he needs to go. As much as I like Randolph, I also know that finesse big men have the biggest leeway to fail. If you're a finesse big man, that often means you're less aggressive than the guys who usually make it as big men in the league.

I like Biedrins' game a lot. He's a double-double guy even though he can score only in transition or when he gets the ball near the basket on drop-offs to put-backs. But he gives you consistency from game to game, which makes him a top-10 center in the league. He has really good hands, and they run pick-and-rolls with him and have him roll to the basket. He's a big who doesn't need the ball and he doesn't clog things up, and he's a strong rebounder. He is adequate as a defender, and what I like about him is that he always contests his man with two hands up, so he doesn't play out of control. A lot of guys defensively -- big men especially -- are always trying to get the block, so they're willing to commit the foul and play themselves out of position, which in turn can throw the entire defense out of whack.

Ronny Turiaf is one of those guys every team would like to bring off the bench. He is an energy guy with some toughness who brings emotion, and generally it's good emotion. He's positive and upbeat, and he'll cheer on his teammates after good plays.


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