Bench Warfare: Golden State Warriors’ Reinforcements


Nov 30, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Boston Celtics guard MarShon Brooks (12) and guard Jordan Crawford (27) tries to steal the ball from Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo (00) in the 4th quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Jackson is not a terrible coach, but he has some terrible habits. Watch any Golden State Warriors game or just follow along on Twitter and you’ll find that every enlightened observer is seeing the precise unbelievable things you are. What seems to drive most spectators furthest up the wall is Jackson’s penchant for playing an all bench unit for extended periods of time. This is a group of players that have trouble doing anything as a unit besides defending. It’s ugly basketball, made all the more deplorable by how simple it would be to pull the plug on the whole “bench mob” (or Stench Mob, as some have dubbed it) experiment.

It’s maddening and borderline pathological. Jackson has a bit of a stubborn streak when it comes to his coaching and a Mike Malone sized chip on his shoulder. He’s the quintessential beat a square peg into a round hole kind of guy. As a pastor he believes in the power of inspiration and positive reinforcement. That is, until he threw them under the bus and disparaged them to the press. The conventional wisdom was thus: the Warriors would not be true contenders until they upgraded their bench. In recent days they were linked to several names: Kyle Lowry, Kirk Hinrich, Andre Miller, and even the comedian J.R. Smith. The Warriors chose to go a different route. They went young and they went low-risk and high reward.

Reinforcements are coming! As reported on Wednesday, Boston will be sending Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to the Warriors in a three-team trade that will also send incumbent back-up point guard Toney Douglas to Miami and former rotation player Joel Anthony to Boston. It’s a very neat trade for the Warriors. Golden State gets two youngish gunners that can conceivably help the moribund bench offense (mostly Crawford, Brooks is the wild-card!) while giving up only Toney Douglas, who was having an underwhelming season (not entirely his fault, obviously) and wasn’t exactly what management would consider a member of the core. They dodge the luxury tax, don’t shake up chemistry with known cancerous types (a certain shooting guard based out of New York, for instance), and get a reboot of the great bench experiment (a bench I once claimed would be among the best in the NBA…well, uh…look over there!).

But it can’t be a simple swap of Crawford for Douglas. Crawford is having a good year, having been forced to become a distributor for a frankly strange Boston Celtics team. He’s got a bit of that Nick Young/Jamal Crawford streaky danger to him, and that could serve the Warriors well when their main weapons are clanking or the bench is yet again failing to be something that its not.

With such a talented starting lineup, there’s no reason not to really embrace the simplicity of mixing and matching and to completely jettison the stubborn hockey line change trend. That kind of tactic can work. The Clippers really nailed it for about half of last season. But it really only works in specific situations and with specific personnel and the Warriors bench players are simply not built for that kind of two-way cohesion. It only makes them look much worse than they actually are and as complimentary parts subsumed into the whole they are pretty damn good! Sweet shooting big man, defensive minded jack of all trades, a six foot four dude with a seven foot wingspan, a much lauded athletic sophomore with something to prove, and now two possible powder kegs fresh from Beantown.When the injured Festus Ezeli and Jermaine O’Neil return to action, the center position gets a lot stouter, but until then the Warriors will have to figure out ways to keep Andrew Bogut fresh each game and here are a few scenarios to help exorcise #FullStench:

Jordan Crawford/Thompson/Andre Iguodala/Barnes/Speights/

Thompson is in many ways the perfect 6th man. Instant offense, can handle the ball, create a little bit (though he doesn’t particularly seem to want to) and yeah, that sleepy looking dude has ice in his veins. Or maybe nothing at all. If not for the nightmare that the Warriors “pick your poison” starting lineup gives every team in the league, I believe he’d be at home in the Manu Ginobli role.

Crawford/Iggy/Green/Lee/Speights

The Lee/Speights tandem is defensive trouble, as any wit would tell you, but as I said, they are holding down the fort for Festus and Jermaine.

Crawford/Bazemore/Brooks/Barnes/Bogut

Kent Bazemore and Harrison Barnes could be huge beneficiaries if Jordan Crawford continues his newfound love of this “passing” thing. Coming into the season we just assumed that Barnes we’d be seeing was the guy that buried the Nuggets and scared the hell out of the Spurs. He’ll be perfect as a 6th man! Well, as it turns out, Barnes isn’t quite that dude. And that’s fine. The media and the hype machine created a monster out of a man, but that man is still capable in certain lineups. Let Barnes flourish as one of many shooters, as a stretch 4 that can also slash your throat and posterize you. It’s his only shot at a return to form. Sorry Bogut, you have to get up for this one, I don’t trust Lee or Speights in this lineup.

Curry/Bazemore/Green/Barnes/Lee

And yes, sometimes there’s a yearning to return to a simpler time. Simply put, sometimes the Warriors should just run. Golden State isn’t really as fast paced a team as most people assume. And yet…they might be pretty good at it if they ever decide to play the nostalgia (or the coldly calculating) card. They have athletic freaks like Bazemore and Barnes, an opportunistic big man with a good handle in Lee, and a lovable defense and clutch three-point killer in Draymond. Sub Iggy in for Bazemore as you please, and let the ghost of Don Nelson push you towards the promised land…This team was meant to run.

Tags: Andre Igoudala Andrew Bogut Boston Celtics David Lee Golden State Warriors Harrison Barnes Jordan Crawford Kent Bazemore Mark Jackson MarShon Brooks Stephen Curry