|Cameron Purn: Is Mark Jackson Getting The Most Out Of The Warriors?
There have been recent whispers about Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson
occupying the hot seat.
Mama, there goes that man?
Looking on from afar, it may be tough to determine whether his job is truly in jeopardy.
But here’s what we do know — Golden State’s record at 32-22 is very real, and for a
team many thought could win the West, they have underachieved this season.
To unequivocally blame Mark Jackson for the Warriors’ unimpressive record is unfair.
Coaches, for one, don’t have total control of players and their output. Also uncontrollable
are player injuries, the strength of one’s schedule, and the ever-present aspect of luck
that plays a key role in close games. Some of these things haven’t exactly been on Mark
At the same time, a head coach in the NBA has his fingerprint on just about everything
in management, and Jackson needs to accept a good amount of responsibility. To find
out if Jackson is deserving of the hot seat, we’ll need to take a closer look at what he’s
bringing to the table.
The Warriors are blessed with talent on defense: they enjoy what is perhaps the best
defensive 2-3 duo in the league Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, a top-notch paint
protector in Andrew Bogut, and a versatile stalwart in Draymond Green (note: IPVd
puts Green’s defense as the 17th highest amongst qualified players). But the impact of
Mark Jackson’s instilled principles, injected discipline, should not be overlooked — he
immediately expressed interest in reworking the defensive framework of the team,
and used his pastorly self to motivate players to buy into the system. He carefully
monitored their pick-and-roll defense and adjusted accordingly — initially asking for
frequent hedges by Warriors bigs, he has moved to a more conservative approach:
This tactical adjustment negated the sluggish, often ill-timed tendencies by Warriors bigs,
and placed more responsibility on paint protection — a welcome change for Festus Ezeli,
Andrew Bogut, and now, Jermaine O’Neal.
Coach Jackson seems to have a good sense for managing a defense. He gives freedom
to his peskier help defenders by allowing for roaming, and he will make small tactical
adjustments from game to game — throwing double teams or hedges at deserving
players. A couple of Warriors on his squad have far surpassed defensive expectations
— O’Neal and Green in particular — which Jackson does well to recognize and allots
them ample minutes.
Mark Jackson, a pastor and great player in his own right, has no issue in holding the
attention of his players and getting through to them. With Jackson more than any other
coach, being a motivator — one who instills proper values, teamwork, diligence —
comes before anything else.
But from a basketball standpoint, how important is this quality, really?
The accomplishments of Gregg Popovich, Jeff Hornacek, Frank Vogel, Eric Spoelstra, and
Rick Carlisle — widely deemed as some of the greatest coaches of today — suggest that
this quality may not be so important. While it is necessary for coaches to have a blend
of experience, knowledge, intuition, and motivational techniques, the nature of these
men is different from that of Jackson. They are tactical experts.
The Warriors sets, highly exploitative of the team’s slick outside shooting ability, can be
surprisingly innovative and often times impossible to stop:
It is these characteristics of Jackson’s offense, though, that fool people into falling in
love with a system that is flawed.
Offensively, the Warriors survive — and sometimes, thrive — on the following:
1) Favorable spacing
2) Nifty one-and-done half-court sets (as above)
3) The pick-and-roll
4) Individual talent
Despite an absence of one-on-one players (outside of Stephen Curry) the Warriors have
used the second-most isolation possessions in the entire NBA (11.1% of possessions
according to mySynergySports). High number of isolations is generally indicative of a
lack of an underlying offensive structure and in the Warriors’ case, this is the reality.
They don’t resort to a specific type of coordinated actions when transition play is a no-
go, or the initial action fails; they tend to force an attack via one-on-one in the way of
posting up, isolating, or a simple pick-and-roll. Teams with a deeply embedded
offensive philosophy — e.g. Motion, Flex, the Triangle, Princeton, Octopus, or Flow —
are much less inclined to go down this path. Below, we can refer to mySynergySports
data to get an idea of Golden State’s efficiency (PPP) vs. tendencies (percentage of total
plays) and compare it to the league’s average team (click to enlarge):
The above shows that despite Golden State’s infatuation with isolations, they’re merely
average at carrying them out. There’s something funky going on with spot-ups, too.
Golden State is great at them — to nobody’s surprise given the ability of Thompson,
Curry, Barnes, and Iguodala — but they shoot them infrequently.
There can be several contributing factors...CONTINUE READING AT HICKORY-HIGH