March 4, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson talks to his players during a break in the action against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Golden State 83-75. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE
We discuss Mark Jackson's uneasy transition to becoming an NBA head coach, the future of the Steph Curry and Monta Ellis duo in Golden State and the progression of former Baylor star Ekpe Udoh in the NBA.
1. After leaving the ABC broadcasting booth, how has Mark Jackson done in his first year as a head coach?
I think there are two ways of looking at this. It's not just an excuse to say he inherited a very flawed roster with essentially no real preseason to speak of after a drawn out lockout. That's an inherently difficult situation for any new coach to step into. However, the Warriors' offensive execution has been so erratic this season - though ranked 8th in the league in efficiency - that it's also fair to say that he's struggling in his first season. As Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area pointed out after Wednesday's game against Memphis, Jackson has now called 3-4 games "embarrassing" and players are starting to show frustration.
2. Jackson talked a lot about changing the culture defensively in Golden State. How has that transition been for a roster that was developed by former Mavericks coach Don Nelson?
Early in the season, there was some debate among fans as to whether maybe the defensive effort had improved and indeed they were doing some things well or at least trying to: rotating more quickly, playing the pick and roll reasonably well, denying entry passes to the post. But ultimately, the result was the same and I think those suggesting defensive improvement eventually quieted down. The Warriors are just not going to be good defensively with this roster. They give up offensive rebounds at a higher rate than anyone in the Western Conference (30.58%), high scoring perimeter players are still going to hurt them, and they were down 21-4 to start the game against Memphis was inattentive transition defense. They have a long way to go.
3. Do you think the Warriors will break up the Ellis and Curry duo and who would you prefer to keep?
It's unclear as to what would compel the Warriors to break up this combo, but it appears they are more willing to part with Ellis than Curry based on how negotiations reportedly went for Chris Paul. That essentially matches my position on the situation: if they have to keep one, it should be Curry. If nothing else, he's younger. But Curry's 3-point shooting ability makes him a much more efficient scorer, which also makes him the easier player to build around as someone both capable of making plays for others and stretching the floor. With no slight to Ellis, there's just a wider range of players that the Warriors could pair with Curry in the backcourt to be effective on both ends of the floor. An additional factor is Curry's ankle issue: if Curry is perceived as a risk, his trade value is obviously less than it would be otherwise, making him a tough player to bargain with.
4. If Golden State doesn't have a first round pick next year (the Warriors owe a first-round pick to the Utah Jazz unless it is in the top 7), what moves can they make in the off season?
Not much. As of right now, they won't have a lot of cap flexibility for a big splash signing, but could sign another mid-range type player (e.g. Kwame Brown). Curry and Ellis have the most trade value because Biedrins and Lee have such large contracts. In other words, losses - as ugly as some of them have been to watch - are not a bad thing if this team hopes to improve.
5. I liked Ekpe Udoh at Baylor. How has his progression gone in his second year in the NBA?
Udoh has been the one consistent bright spot for this team's future this year and he's elevated himself to the level of "foundational piece" in the minds of some fans. Setting aside the outstanding plus/minus, he's becoming a much more confident shooter, which increases his value to the team dramatically. Defensively, the team is noticeably less effective with him on the sidelines. People lament his low rebounding rate, but he does so much to help this team defensively that it's hard to hold that against him.