Author: Kurt Helin

Golden State Warriors v Portland Trail Blazers

How Steve Kerr brought about Harrison Barnes’ resurgence, a window into Warriors success


What the best coaches do well is understand a player’s game then put them in a position to play to their strengths, not ask them to do too much. It’s what Gregg Popovich does very well, it’s why guys like Boris Diaw struggle at one stop then thrive in San Antonio. It’s what Bill Belichick does in New England.

It’s what Steve Kerr is doing in Golden State.

And it’s the reason the Warriors are the best team in the NBA right now, have won 11 straight, and have moved into legit title contender status (as much as you want to say that about a team less than 20 games into the season). Kerr has the Warriors playing the best defense in the NBA, but he also has improved their offense by smarter use of the massive talent at his disposal.

Guys like Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry have talked about the offensive changes, but it may be no more clear than what has happened with Harrison Barnes. The breakout star of the 2013 playoffs who seemed to take a step back last season but has become a key starter for the Warriors averaging 11.6 points on 51 percent shooting plus is grabbing 6.7 rebounds a game. The Warriors are 15 points per 100 possessions better when Barnes is on the court, both their offensive and defensive numbers improve.

What is Kerr doing differently with Barnes? Marcus Thompson II laid it out beautifully at the Mercury News.

Under Mark Jackson, Barnes was asked to be a scorer. Especially last year, when Barnes was moved to the Sixth Man role after the signing of Andre Iguodala, Barnes’ role was to carry the offense for the second unit. But most of his action was isolations. That just didn’t fit his game.

Before the season began, Kerr sat down with Barnes and went over film with him. Kerr explained where Barnes’ best spots were on the floor, where he should drift, where he should cut and how he wants him to exist in the Warriors’ potent starting lineup. Plus, Kerr started Barnes with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. That opens the floor for Barnes to cut and find creases to offensive rebound….

“It’s hard when you get the ball in an iso situation and you have a set defense in front of you,” Barnes said. “Very few players in the league can do that. You look at the best – Durant, Melo, those guys — look at what percentage they shoot. And that’s the best of the best, so you can imagine where I’m at. I’m like at 15, 20 percent on isos. To get me with the ball moving, getting me in different spots, playing off other people, that’s more of a strength for me right now. Going straight isos, that wasn’t a strength for me.”

That’s where Barnes gets the ball now, cutting and moving more, both in the half court and in transition. Barnes has the athleticism but not the handles, so when he gets the ball on the move he can get to the rim (where he is getting more often) or to his spots and finish.

Kerr also asked Barnes to be the glue guy among the starters — they’ve got plenty of fire power to score, they needed an athlete to defend and rebound. To play with a little edge. Barnes has loved that role and thrived in it.

Barnes is at home in a starting lineup — with Curry, Thompson, Bogut and Draymond Green — that is +27.8 points per 100 possessions together. That is ridiculous. When David Lee does come back from injury Kerr can’t break this unit up, he’ll have to bring Lee (with Iguodala) off the bench.

And it will probably work, because Kerr will get Lee to play to his strengths, he will get Lee the ball in the spots he can do the most damage. Then the Warriors will be just that much stronger.

Kevin Durant remains on minutes restriction. Not that it will matter vs. Sixers.

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans

The Philadelphia 76ers are playing their best basketball and with that are on the current longest winning streak of the season.

That Oklahoma City Thunder seem unconcerned.

Kevin Durant will remain on his minutes restriction of 30 in his second game back from foot surgery when the Thunder take on the 1-17 Sixers Friday night, reports Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman.

That shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, if he needs to play the full 30 I’d be more concerned. And the Thunder are right to not push too hard on the reigning MVP and the guy they need to be right for the long haul.

That said, Thunder need wins. Now. They need to go 44-20 the rest of the way to get to the 49 wins that was the playoff cutoff in the West last season (and it likely will be in that ballpark again this season). They can’t go out and not care against the Sixers, no matter how bad they are.

The Thunder enter a 10 game stretch now where they can make up ground facing teams such as lowly Philadelphia, as well as Detroit, Milwaukee (not a pushover), Minnesota, and the LA Lakers. There are some challenging games in that stretch — Cleveland, Golden State — and one game they should real circle on the calendar: Phoenix. That is the current eight seed and the team they need to catch in the Western Conference.

Like Durant said, they can’t look past anybody right now, they need to win about 70 percent of their games the rest of the way.

Joakim Noah, Kenneth Faried in latest NBA “swingman jersey” ads

Kenneth Faried, Joakim Noah
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The NBA’ swingman jersey ads — where we meet the “body doubles” of top NBA players — have been pretty classic.

But I think this latest one with the Bulls’ Joakim Noah may be the best. It was just released by Adidas and the NBA.

They also sent out this new one with Kenneth Faried. Enjoy.

Potential top pick Emmanuel Mudiay out in China with sprained ankle, future there in question

World Select Team v USA Junior National Select Team

When Emmanuel Mudiay decided not to play his college ball at SMU for Larry Brown (he didn’t meet the academeic requirements) and instead decided to go play in China there were risks — scouts wondered if Mudiay would play a full season in a place with a radically different culture than he was used to. If so, his game would benefit from playing against men not boys, and he would show a level of maturity to deal with the culture shock. On the court Mudiay has done well, averaging better than 17.7 points a game, plus six assists and six rebounds a night, and he even had a triple double.

But he has sat out the last four games with an ankle sprain and now his team, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, is brining in Will Bynum to play for them at a cost of $1 million.

That has led to questions about Mudiay’s future in China, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Chinese teams are allowed only two American players on the roster, but Bynum can replace Mudiay as the teenage American star is rehabbing his injury, sources said….

It is possible that Guangdong could release Mudiay and pay him the balance of his contract, or hold onto the teenager and watch how Bynum impacts the team until Mudiay’s ankle allows him to return to the lineup. Eventually, Guangdong could make a decision on which guard to keep – and release the other. Nevertheless, it would be an immense investment to bring Bynum over on a guaranteed $1 million-plus agreement – only to use him for one or two weeks….

Mudiay has to protect his draft value, and his representatives will be exceedingly careful to make sure he doesn’t risk further injury or poor performance in China. If released, Mudiay could simply return to the United States and train in preparation to begin predraft workouts with NBA teams prior to the June draft.

Mudiay is in the top three of pretty much everybody’s draft board (DraftExpress currently has him at No. 2, behind Jahlil Okafor of Duke and ahead of Karl Towns of Kentucky). Mudiay is a 6’5” point guard who has great atheticism, has shooting range, and good court vision. The NBA has become a point guard’s league and Mudiay could set a team up for a decade or more at that position.

Because of that potential coming back to the states likely wouldn’t hurt his draft stock much if any. Still, you would think that playing games and playing well in China would enhance them more than workouts against a chair in some Florida gym.

PBT’s Thursday Night NBA Winners/Losers: Kyrie Irving is the Cavalier you can’t stop

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks

Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while sleeping on your bacon-scented pillow case

source:  Kyrie Irving. He was the best player on the court in the Cavaliers win in Madison Square Garden. Not only did he score 37 points on 12-of-18 shooting, but he also he hit the dagger shot late in the fourth. The Cavs were up one with coming out of a timeout with 16 seconds left in the game, Irving had the ball out top isolated on Iman Shumpert. Irving drove left and got around Shumpert, Amare Stoudemire rotated over to help and Irving shot over both and went high off the glass — with an impressive degree of difficulty — to hit the shot. It was that way all night for Irving, who got to the rim whenever he wanted and also was 3-of-6 from three.

source:  Carmelo Anthony. He was just ice cold against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, shooting 4-of-19 from the floor. From our “a shot chart is worth 1,000 words” file, we bring you ‘Melo’s against the Cavaliers.


source:  Klay Thompson. Yes he scored 23 points in the Warriors comfortable win over the Pelicans (who had 30 points from Anthony Davis while the rest of the team shot 32.9 percent). However why he’s here is this amazing note from Sam Amick of the USA Today: