- HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors - http://www.hoopsworld.com -
Can the Warriors Win with Rookies?
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On May 8, 2013 @ 9:20 pm In NBA | No Comments
Lost in the rocketing stardom of point guard Stephen Curry is the emergence of the Golden State Warriors’ rookies to pivotal roles. After seven playoff games, Curry leads all point guards with 9.6 assists per game and is third in scoring at 27.1 points per game and the 24-year-old has earned a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated. However, he probably wouldn’t be here without the contributions of rookies Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and even Festus Ezeli.
Golden State’s playoff aspirations were supposed to have evaporated after All-Star forward David Lee went down with a complete tear of his right hip flexor in Game 1 against the Nuggets. The Warriors surprised everyone by actually elevating their level of play without Lee and took out Coach of the Year George Karl’s Nuggets in six games.
Barnes started 81 games for head coach Mark Jackson during the regular season and produced a respectable 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds from the small forward position in 25.4 minutes. With Lee gone, however, Barnes had to make up some of the offensive shortfall. Barnes’ minutes went from 28 in Game 1 to averaging 38 so far and his scoring and rebounding have jumped by over 50 percent from the regular season. At 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds over his first seven playoff games, Barnes has been producing like a veteran small forward. He currently has a team third best offensive rating of 120 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. This rookie is becoming a star in his own right.
Ezeli was the last player taken in the first round of the NBA draft and the 6’11.5 center made an impact in limited minutes at the defensive end of the court during the regular season with 0.9 blocks and 4.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game. Just don’t ask him to score; the 23-year-old rookie averaged less than a field goal per game. Minutes have become tougher for Ezeli to find in the playoffs, but he has continued to reject a shot per game and he is sinking 83.3 percent of his infrequent shot attempts. His efforts earned him an unexpected start against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 and has made everyone forget about backup center Andris Biedrins.
Barnes was the seventh overall pick in last year’s NBA draft and had the resume and skills that suggested this type of breakout was possible. Green, on the other hand, was the fifth pick of the second round and expecting anything from him in the playoffs was a stretch. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Green struggled finding his shot in the NBA. A good shooter in college, Green was inconsistent during the regular season and averaged just 32.7 percent from the field and a dismal 20.9 percent from three-point range. The senior star forward from Michigan State had an offensive rating of 87 during the regular season. To put that rating into context, Ezeli’s was 97.
Green only played 4.5 minutes in Game 1 of the playoffs, but with Lee out, the rookie forward got his chance to play. As Green proved himself, Jackson kept increasing his minutes and as the series against Denver progressed, Green began playing in key moments. By Game 1 against the Spurs, he was on the court for over 38 minutes. Over the past six games, Green has averaged 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in 22.5 minutes while shooting better than 50 percent from the field and hitting half of his three-point attempts. After his first seven playoff games, Green leads his team with an offensive rating of 127 points per 100 possessions, that’s five points higher than Curry.
It couldn’t have happened at a better time for the Warriors. Between Barnes and Green, the Warriors uncovered about 11 extra points per game to help replace the 18.5 points lost when Lee was injured.
Jackson found a big piece of the offense he needed to win round one of the playoffs from a couple of rookies, so the Warriors confidence in winning with these young players is high and losing in double overtime to the Spurs in Game 1 didn’t do anything to dispel it. What the Warriors lack in experience and judgment, they have been making up in effort and possibly just not knowing any better. They weren’t supposed to be able to beat Denver relying on these rookies either.
Article printed from HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors: http://www.hoopsworld.com
URL to article: http://www.hoopsworld.com/can-warriors-win-with-rookies
Copyright © 2013 HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.