Steve Kerr turning Warriors' talent into title contenders
Jackson took over a team that had only made the playoffs once in 17 years, and turned them into a 47-win team in just his second season. And in his third year, the Warriors won 51 games. After that 51-win season ended with a first round loss to the Clippers in seven games, Golden State promptly fired Jackson. But after owner Joe Lacob explained the firing, it made much more sense. Winning in the playoffs was the public assumption at first, but in early December, Lacob told venture capitalists at a luncheon there was much more to the story.
"Part of it was that he couldn't get along with anybody else in the organization. And look, he did a great job, and I'll always compliment him in many respects, but you can't have 200 people in the organization not like you."
When Lacob said this, it explained so much and confused us more at the same time. It explained why Jackson was excused, but the fact that he couldn't get along with anyone in the organization didn't seem right. Sure, he did assign assistant coach Brian Scalabrine to the D-League for "a difference in philosophy" and fired assistant coach Darren Erman, but he got along so well with his players. Especially franchise star Stephen Curry, who is in the MVP conversation this season.
But when you look back at why Erman was fired, it starts to make a little bit more sense. Erman secretly recorded coaches' meetings to share the tapes with front office personnel. Maybe Jackson said things in those meetings that needed to be heard by the guys upstairs? Maybe Jackson was mistreating his coaching staff? Erman must have had a reason to be recording those meetings.
To replace Jackson, the Warriors decided to hire Steve Kerr away from his broadcasting job with TNT. Kerr had never coached prior to the Golden State job, but did have duties with the Suns as their President and General Manager after his playing career and first broadcasting stint with TNT. While he had no coaching experience, Kerr has looked like a veteran this season, beginning the year with the best record ever for a rookie head coach. At 26-5, the Warriors have the best record in the NBA.
While the Warriors were able to win 51 games last season under Jackson, they had issues that held them back from making a deeper postseason run. They ranked 9th in the league in assists at 17.5 per game, but lack of passing still held back their offensive potential immensely. With shooters all across the perimeter, the ball stuck, leading them to an offensive efficiency of 105.3.
That may seem pretty good, but with the shooting arsenal Golden State had, a 12th ranked offense didn't seem good enough. And it wasn't, as they showed in the playoffs.
Think defense may have been the problem? They were ranked 3rd in defensive efficiency at 99.9.
Under Kerr, the Warriors are the only team in the league to be ranked top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. And the best part: they are actually ranked top five in both. To be more specific, top four.
At 108.6 points per 100 possessions, Kerr and the Warriors finally seem to be taking advantage of their offensive weaponry. On defense, with a defensive efficiency rating of 99.9 under Jackson last season, it seemed hard to get much better. But still, Kerr has gotten the best out of his players with a defensive efficiency rating of 96.5 thus far in 2014-15.
Because of this genius from Kerr, his team not only has a .839 winning percentage, but is 13-1 at home and 16-5 against the ever so deadly Western Conference.
At this point, even so early in the season, Steve Kerr may seem like a coaching God to some. While you can't rank him a top coach yet as he still has little to put on his resume and no postseason experience, what he's done with a team that could have gone much further in the playoffs over the past couple years this season cannot be ignored.
It's impossible to say if Curry and Kerr have a better relationship than Curry and Jackson did, but he is a better player this season. While he is still just a tad under his career-high scoring and assists numbers from last season, Curry is more active on the defensive end with a career-high 2.1 steals per game, along with a defensive rating of 99 (also a career-high).
You can't compare numbers 31 games in, but if Curry's numbers are the same at the end of the season, I'd personally be happy with one less point and assist per game if it meant more defense on the other end. And thus far, the more two-way player Curry has played himself into second place on the MVP Ladder.
Another player Kerr has seemingly improve this season is Harrison Barnes. Realizing Barnes is more effective as a starter, Kerr started him over veteran Andre Iguodala, who has helped Golden State own the 9th best bench in the NBA. Barnes started every one of the 81 games he played in 2012-13, but came off the bench for all but 24 games last season. In 31 starts this season, Barnes has career-highs in points (10.5), rebounds (6.5), assists (1.5, actually tied with last season), field goal percentage (.496), and three-point percentage (.400), with a career-low in turnovers (0.9).
What is also incredible is the fact that the Warriors have maintained the league's best defense with Andrew Bogut only playing 20 games. It is good Kerr has taught the rest of the team to play defense, as he can't rely on Bogut to stay healthy and anchor down low. With Bogut healthy, however, the Warriors become that much scarier.
Steve Kerr has done something Mark Jackson never could do, and that's bring the best out of every single player on his roster. I never even talked about the unexpected leap in the games of Marreese Speights and Draymond Green. While we are still in the regular season of Kerr's rookie season, all we can expect after this start is at least an appearance in the Western Conference Finals. In doing that, Kerr would do another thing Jackson never did, which is get out of the second round.
Making predictions at this point is foolish, but expecting greatness out of any Kerr-coached team is surely not. A team enduring injuries or any other tragedies can hold a team back from a championship, but with Steve Kerr roaming the sidelines, you can expect a winning product on the court.
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