If you had Dorell Wright pegged as a 20-point scorer or the league leader in three-pointers made a week into the season, I’d politely ask that you step toward the stake surrounded by kindling. We don’t take kindly to witches and soothsayers around here.
In retrospect, though, it makes complete sense. Maybe not Wright’s .545 mark from long range, that’s just surreal. But with the power of hindsight, we can see that Wright was already a competent three-point marksman last season (.389 on 157 attempts), and that with the handy offensive benefits that the Golden State Warriors provide, a boost in production like this should have been expected.
Last season, Wright played for the Miami Heat, who ranked 19th in offensive efficiency and 28th in pace. Miami made the playoffs on the strength of their defense and their Dwyane Wade-ness, with each offensive possession merely a phase in their slow-motion grind through 48 minutes. Wade had to create entirely too much of Miami’s offense in the half-court, and thanks to the lack of second-tier offensive talent to ease the burden, the Heat’s game plan was too easily derailed. Wright can clearly succeed as an offensive contributor, but only if he’s not asked to actually run the show. He inhabits the all too familiar space between role player and quasi-star; he can hit shots but struggles in creating them, and he can produce like a star without actually becoming one. Wright may be growing as a player — he certainly looks more fluid this season than ever before — but don’t let his remarkable per-gam production thus far fool you. He’s taking steps, but hasn’t made any leaps.
This season’s Warriors play a full 10 possessions per game faster than last season’s Heat, which means that Wright has gone from the third slowest team in the league to the third fastest. Stylistically, that suits him, but it also generates more possessions for Wright and his teammates to use. Additionally, we’ve seen Wright’s minutes almost double, his usage rate bumped, and his field goal attempts increase from 10.1 to 14.2 per 36 minutes. Compound all of that with the ability to play off of Monta Ellis, David Lee, and Stephen Curry, and it’s odd that Wright’s “breakout” wasn’t more predictable. Perhaps Keith Smart’s willingness to employ a fast-breaking style similar to his predecessor was underestimated. But for those who assumed that the Warriors would more or less stay the Warriors, Wright’s production is merely in line with what we should have expected of him in an increased role on a faster team.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.
On Friday night, the Lakers announced that they’re hiring Luke Walton as their next head coach, effective as soon as the Warriors’ playoff run is over. It’s a good hire, but it’s especially interesting given Walton’s close relationship with Phil Jackson and the rumors that never seem to go away, that Jackson might be set up to return to the Lakers to run the team alongside fiancée Jeanie Buss after next season, when he has an opt-out in his contract with the Knicks.
But that doesn’t mean Walton will be running the triangle, as he said in his first comments to reporters since the news broke.
Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:
Regardless of whether Jackson eventually gets back in the picture in Los Angeles, Walton has been a successful assistant in Golden State and has the right temperament to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era.
Stephen Curry might be back sooner than expected. It’s been one week since he suffered the sprained MCL in his right knee that led the Warriors to rule him out for at least two weeks, but head coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that there’s at least an outside chance he could play Tuesday in Game 2 of Golden State’s second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
Obviously, the smart money is on Curry not playing this early in his timetable. But the fact that it’s even on the table would seem to indicate that, barring a setback, he’ll be back for at least some of the series, which tips off Sunday.