Sometime soon, we may remember last night as Andris Biedrins’ last start in the NBA. In a game marked by defensive indifference, shoddy rebounding and yet another start to a game that would lead one to wonder if the Warriors take their pregame naps too late in the day, Biedrins was the target both during and after the game.
Warriorsworld, a force on Twitter during Warriors games, especially losses like last night, came up with a hashtag that may soon join #MatLatosComplaints in the regional Twitter lexicon: #betteroptionthanBiedrins.
For hours, an increasingly frustrated fanbase came up with options including Franco Finn, Pat Summit, Todd Wellemeyer, Kwame Harris and a wide variety of fictional characters. All better options than Biedrins, whose stat lines have gone from consistently productive to a stark wasteland of empty minutes. Last night’s line for Biedrins, who couldn’t have been more ineffectual if he’d turned into a mannequin upon arriving in Sacramento:
15 min; 0-for-3 FG; 0-for-0 FT; (-9) +/-; 0 Reb; 0 Ast; 0 TO; 2 Stl; 0 Blk; 4 PF
Now if we’re being fair, Ekpe Udoh only grabbed one rebound in his 13 minutes on the floor (6 of those minutes during the Warriors’ pseudo-comeback at the end of the game). But at least Udoh blocked a shot and scored 10 points, even if they were in garbage time.
Adam Lauridsen wrote a great post about the Warriors and how their entire strategy on the defensive end is counter to Stan Van Gundy’s defensive philosophy: stay in front of your man, don’t gamble for steals, do everything possible to grab defensive rebounds and avoid aggressive double-teaming … pretty much the exact opposite of everything the Warriors do. A running theme this season has been all the outstanding shooting performances by opposing teams, which get blamed by certain announcers on some sort of unfortunate, unavoidable twist of fate. In fact, it’s the reaching in and unnecessary doubling that leads to a ridiculous amount of layups and dunks behind the defense, as well as slow rotations which lead to open shots (and those unfortunate but all-too-common amazing shooting nights by the opposition).
Here’s the difference between Udoh and Biedrins when they get their 5-to-20 minutes on the court, even when they both put up meager rebounding numbers: Udoh is proactive. He forces the action. Instead of fouls caused by clumsily flailing around that lead to an indefensible amount of three-point-plays like Biedrins, most of Udoh’s fouls are off substantial contact and/or block attempts (usually helping protect the rim after a teammate’s missed assignment). Biedrins produces absolutely nothing now, which means any option would be better (which explains the previously mentioned hashtag). A lineup with Udoh at center better protects David Lee, and if the guards don’t spend all day reaching in and jumping passing lanes, the Warriors would be much, much better off.
Smart, who has a much better chance of getting let go than getting an extension at this point, has to read the room here. It’s time to stop with the nonsense of starting Biedrins, now and for good (and end to playing Acie Law so many minutes over Curry AND shoot threes while he’s out there wouldn’t hurt, either). The start of games (usually featuring a 20-second timeout a minute into the game or less) have been dreadful this year, and except for a few cases Biedrins has always been a big part of the lethargy so often seen from the Warriors before the clock strikes 8 o’clock. Biedrins gets pushed out of the lane with regularity, and it appears that he hardly cares anymore.
Plus, the season’s over. It’s time to get Udoh on the court for as many minutes as foul trouble will allow, to see what they have, what he should be working on during the off-season. If Udoh came to camp next year (whenever that happens) with a reliable jumper out to 15 feet and game experience to make those jump-hooks that have been off-target too often this season, he suddenly goes from cult hero to a top-10 center in the Western Conference, if not top-5.
I don’t know how much you’ve been checking the mock drafts, but that’s not where the Warriors are going to get better. (Kawhi Leonard? Terrence Jones? Alec Burks? John Henson?). They’re stuck with David Lee, so their only chances to become a better team next year lie in their ability to make the best of it — which means protecting the interior (and Lee’s subpar defensive abilities), and figuring out what they’re going to do with Curry and Monta Ellis, both of whom were probably ready to see the season end last night after sitting and watching Law play the entire fourth quarter.
The good news is that Udoh seems to be a hard worker, the opposite of a black hole on offense (sometimes to the team’s detriment), a decent free throw shooter for his size and as talented a shot blocker as Ronny Turiaf. If the Warriors can help him develop by playing him in the role he’s already better suited for than Biedrins (starting center) the Warriors will be much better off.