As the Nuggets get set to battle the Warriors in the first round of the Western Conference finals some Nuggets fans may be trying to get more familiar with the opponent. In an effort to help I put together some quick scouting reports on each player on the Warriors roster, from superstar Stephen Curry to superstar celebrator Kent Bazemore. Each report includes the player’s role, where they are the most dangerous offensively, and a ranking on how much Nuggets fans should be worried about a particular player, where a 1 being someone they can basically ignore up all the way to 5 who they should fear could swing a few games almost single handedly.
Role: Defensive Anchor. Bogut is the key to the Warriors defense as he is one of the top defensive centers in all of basketball. He understands the offense of opponents almost as well as they do themselves and often he can be seen pointing his teammates to exactly the spot they need to be in to cut off a play right in the middle. If the Nuggets are able to get into the middle of the paint, Bogut is a great rim protector, as he blocked 55 shots in just 32 games and he does a fantastic job of challenging shots without fouling. Offensively Bogut is a gifted passer but has struggled to be an above average threat to score since the horrific arm injury he suffered in Milwaukee years ago. Bogut has been injured much of the year and lately has only played about 25 minutes at the most in the games he appeared in. How many minutes he will be able to play is a big question mark.
Danger Zones: If Bogut is going to score it will be from in the lane. 74 of his 83 made field goals this season came from in front of the rim. Bogut will try to utilize some hook shots in the post but the majority of his baskets are layups and dunks as he is the fourth offensive option for the Warriors most of the time.
Fear Factor: 2.5. If Bogut is healthy and can play heavy minutes he can make life tough in the paint for the Nuggets. When the Warriors have the ball the Nuggets should be able to play Bogut straight up with Kosta Koufos and not have to worry about being beaten to badly in the post. If Bogut’s recent ankle injury isn’t completely healed and slows his rotations down at all then this number is probably too big.
Role: End of the bench big. If Biedrins sees the floor in the series it is probably good news for the Nuggets. The Latvian big man is known for his defense but is an absolutely brutal offensive player. Biedrins had 16 games this season in which he saw more than ten minutes and did not take a shot. He is also probably the worst free throw shooter in basketball; this year he shot 30.8 percent, only the fourth worst total for his career. He is a decent rebounder but unless injuries hit the Warriors hard he will be stuck to the bench all series.
Danger Zones: There are none. Biedrins just simply isn’t a factor offensively. If he catches the ball in the paint he may shoot. In 53 games Biedrins took 21 shots and 20 of them were from right in front of the rim. He isn’t a great finisher either as despite that shot distribution he made only 10 shots.
Fear Factor: 1. If Biedrins gets in the game it means it is a blowout one way or the other.
Role: Efficient scoring bench big. Landry started just two games for the Warriors but scored 10.8 points per game and 16.8 per 36 minutes. While he is undersized Landry has a nice post game and can shoot the ball from mid-range pretty effectively. Landry scored .88 points per possession in post-up chances and .98 points per possession as the roll man on a pick-and-roll, showing his comfort in all areas of the Warrior offense. Defensively, the undersized Landry struggles to contain his foes as he also lacks athleticism. He will see most of his time at power forward, pushing David Lee to center when they play together in a lineup that is able to space the floor very well.
Danger Zones: Landry will do his damage from two primary spots, the restricted area and mid-range particularly from the elbows and straight on. Landry shot 65 percent from the restricted area, where he took 303 shots, and 43.6 percent from outside of the lane and inside of the three point line, where he took 202 shots. If the Nuggets lose track of Landry in their rotations or do not have pick-and-pop coverage down Landry can really hurt them.
Fear Factor: 3. Landry is the type of player that gives Kenneth Faried problems. He is strong and skilled enough to score on Faried in the post and can make the Nuggets pay if he is left alone for too long. This season against Denver, Landry averaged 13 points on 52.8 percent shooting from the field, 2.8 assists and 6.5 rebounds. Expect to see a good dose of Landry/Lee lineups in this series.
Role: Score and Rebound. David Lee is on the roster to do two things. Score the basketball and grab rebounds before turning and finding his guards to get the Warriors on the break. And Lee does both things very well averaging 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds a game this season. Lee is able to take many forwards off the dribble, is a good midrange shooter and is a pretty good player in the post. Defensively Lee is awful. He does essentially the same things that Andre Miller has gotten criticism for except on the interior, so it is even worse. Check out this Kirk Goldsberry article on Grantland for more details, including video.
Danger Zones: Like Landry, Lee is dangerous both from midrange and at the rim. The majority of his shots came in the restricted area where he shot 61.7 percent and outside of the lane where he took 378 shots and made 162, a 42.9 percent clip. The majority of those midrange jumpers come from elbow to elbow and Lee is especially dangerous from just above the foul line and the right elbow where he shot above league average from both spots.
Fear Factor: 5. The Nuggets haven’t yet found a way to handle Lee this season with the closest they came being an 18 point, 9 rebound, 5 assist effort he put together in the final regular season meeting between the two teams. Lee is exactly the type of player who gives Kenneth Faried problems, with his ability to shoot from 18 feet and also put the ball on the floor. Lee also will be able to use his size to give Wilson Chandler problems in the post if the Nuggets decide to go small. He will also battle Faried on the glass and could really limit the amount of garbage points the Manimal normally gets. This looks like the worst matchup the Nuggets will have in the non-Andre Miller division.
Role: Bench Do-It All, just not very well. Green’s minutes have dwindled as the regular season went on thanks in part to his inability to simply make shots. Green shot just 32.7 percent from the field and 20.9 percent from behind the arc in his rookie season. While Green is a smart, versatile player the inability to make shots really made him hard to play in the Warriors spacing based offense. He has played over twenty minutes just once since February ended so he probably won’t see much time in the series. When he does play Green is a pretty good defensive player for someone with his lack of athleticism as he really understands angles and concepts, he actually finished first on the Warriors in defensive rating of players who played more than 1000 minutes. Green isn’t a terrible rebounder either, though his playing on the perimeter limits some of those chances.
Danger Zones: The shot chart for Green is just full of red, expected for someone who shot 32 percent from the field. Green isn’t a bad passer but the Nuggets will have done their job if Green is taking shots during meaningful minutes.
Fear Factor: 1. Green doesn’t figure to be a factor in the series because of his shooting and lack of athleticism that won’t play well in the up and down game the series is sure to feature.
Role: Space Eating Big. Ezeli started 41 games for the Warriors this year when Bogut missed time due to injury. He is a big body that will protect the rim a bit; he averaged about a block a game while only playing 14.4 minutes per game and just takes up space in general. He actually finished just below Green for the team lead in defensive rating of players who played more than 1000 minutes. Offensively there is not much there. Ezeli doesn’t have great hands and no real NBA caliber post moves. He is going to score on offensive rebounds and feeds from teammates and that is about it. In most ways he is actually similar to Kosta Koufos with a bit less refinement.
Danger Zones: There really are none. Like all NBA players Ezeli will score if left wide open in front of the rim but that is about it. The Nuggets don’t have to worry about him beating them in any game.
Fear Factor: 2. Ezeli will bang in the paint when he is in the game but he isn’t any type of game changer on the offensive end. If Bogut is healthy enough Ezeli won’t see a lot of minutes anyway as the Warriors tend to employ smaller lineups with Lee and Landry when Bogut needs a rest.
Role: 3 and D wing. As a rookie Barnes has had an ok season but nothing spectacular. He does what he is asked, making 36 percent of his threes and playing pretty good defense on good perimeter players. As with most of the Warriors wing players the Nuggets have to know where Barnes is at all times. He also is an underrated athlete and will unleash some nasty dunks if the Nuggets let him get free on either the offensive glass or in transition. Barnes has been shooting well lately to the tune of 41.7 percent from behind the arc in April.
Danger Zones: Barnes is most dangerous from behind the arc on the left side of the floor where he shot 34.9 percent from the wing and 42.9 percent from the corner. His best spot though, is the right corner where he hit 10 of the 22 shots he took. Barnes is an ok finisher at the rim to the tune of 57.6 percent and outside of the right corner long two, he is below league average at all but one mid-range zone.
Fear Factor: 3. Barnes can get hot from the outside and really burn a Nuggets team that struggles to defend spot up shooters. If he does get hot from outside it will make life really difficult for a Nuggets team that already may be struggling to defend David Lee.
Role: Sixth Man/Clutch ball handler. Jack will do a lot of things for the Warriors throughout the series. He comes off the bench but plays the fourth most minutes on the team, so expect to see a lot of him. When he comes into the game he takes over most of the Warriors ball handling duties which allows Stephen Curry to run around screens and spot up. Jack is very effective as a pick-and-roll ball handler where he scored .86 points per possession, a number that ranked him 41st in the league. In late game situations Jack tends to dominate most of the possessions turning the game into what many Warriors followers have dubbed “Jarrett Jack God Mode.” It isn’t always pretty or effective but Jack has won the Warriors a few games with it this season.
Danger Zones: Jack will take the majority of his shots from wing to wing above the foul line. He shoots 42.9 percent from the left wing, the same number from straight on just inside the arc, and 44.7 percent from the right wing. But the two most dangerous spots are from the foul line area, where he shot 54.2 percent for the year and the right wing three which he hit at a 44.9 percent clip. Jack took almost as many shots from the area between the foul line and the middle of the paint as he did at the rim (118 to 182) so expect a ton of pull up jumpers and floaters.
Fear Factor: 3.5. Jack is a very important piece to the Warriors puzzle but I tend to think if he has to go into “God mode” the Nuggets will be happy. Expect to see Andre Iguodala matched up with him plenty as an attempt to slow the Warriors offense down and not allow Jack to get to the spots on the floor he wants too.
Role: Watch the guy on the end of the bench in this video. That is Bazemore. He probably won’t see a single minute in the series but he still will probably end up being one of the more entertaining parts of a very entertaining looking series.
Danger Zones: Bazemore isn’t much of a shooter but he did hit 6 of 14 threes that he took from the right wing.
Fear Factor: 1.5. This fear factor has nothing to do with what Bazemore will do on the court. As I said he probably won’t see a single minute. But be careful, because there is always the chance he will do something so funny after a big play from the Warriors it will make you laugh so hard you miss the next Nuggets possession.
Role: Complementary scorer and deadly spot up shooter. Thompson has the potential to be a big time mismatch for the Nuggets if they let him get comfortable early in games. He isn’t incredibly athletic but he is a massive guard at 6-7 and is comfortable posting up smaller players if the mismatch arises. Thompson will run off screens as well but he is most dangerous as a spot up shooter where he scored 1.26 points per possession, good for 19th in the league. Thompson is the key to the Warriors being able to go small as his size allows him to defend bigger players.
Danger Zones: Thompson takes the majority of his threes from the wings ranking at above league average from both spots. But the true danger zone with Thompson is the right corner three where he made half of the 86 shots he took this season. The Nuggets will have to figure out if they should gamble on helping off Thompson in that corner as the series goes along, because it could spell trouble if they do.
Fear Factor: 3.5. The biggest problem Thompson presents for the Nuggets is that he doesn’t really allow them to hide Andre Miller anywhere. If Karl tries his two point guard lineup and puts Miller on Thompson and Dre plays some of the lazy defense he has a tendency to do, Thompson will catch fire and it could very well cost the Nuggets a game or two.
Role: End of bench veteran. Jefferson didn’t see the floor for the final two games against Denver this season and that trend will probably continue in any meaningful minutes during this series. If he does get it his role will be simple. Make threes and don’t get killed on defense. Jefferson hasn’t made those threes this year which has eliminated any slim chance he had to see meaningful minutes.
Danger Zones: Jefferson made 6 of the 10 threes he took from the right corner but there are no real meaningful numbers from any spots that would make anyone worry about Jefferson affecting a game.
Fear Factor: 1. Jefferson won’t see any important minutes so there is nothing for anyone to be worried about.
Role: Star. It is no coincidence that Curry was finally able to stay healthy (he missed just four games) and the Warriors finally made the playoffs for the first time since the magical 2007 season. The incredibly accurate shooting of Curry, who set the NBA record for threes made in a season, makes the Warriors offense go as he is able to score off virtually any type of play. Curry ranked 41st in points per possession off isolations, 35 as a pick-and-roll ball handler, 12th off spot ups, 18th off screens, and 15th off handoffs. Basically, if he gets an inch to breathe expect him to capitalize on it. As a spot up shooter Curry knocked in over 50 percent of the threes he took making it almost impossible to help off him on other drives from other players. Curry is also underrated as a passer where he actually has a better assist percentage than Ty Lawson. Curry will struggle a bit defensively but he more than makes up for it as an elite offensive force.
Danger Zones: Anywhere in the gym really. Curry is as good a shooter as the league has ever seen so he only needs a half step to get free and knock down a shot. This season Curry joined the elite 180 club (FG/3PT/FT% added together equals 180) but did it a different way than the normal 50/40/90. Curry went 45/45/90 this season which is just incredible. He is most dangerous from behind the arc where he is above league average at every single zone. The most dangerous spot though is very clear; the right wing. Curry took 194 attempts from that spot and made a mind blowing 102 of them for a 52.6 percent mark. Look for Curry to run to those spots in transition and to spot up in those areas when the Warriors run other plays for players like Jack and Thompson.
Fear Factor: 5. There isn’t a player the Nuggets should fear more this series than the explosive Curry. Unlike some superstars who need to dominate the ball to put up gaudy point totals, Curry can explode for huge numbers in an instant without having the ball in his hands for that long. He is especially deadly in transition where he will spot up for threes without the ball and pull up for threes when he has it. Curry will make life especially tough for the Nuggets when he is paired with Jack, as it will mean either Ty Lawson or Andre Iguodala will be asked to run around screens to keep Curry under control, wearing them out for late in the game. Curry will get his points but if the Nuggets want to have success they need to limit his teammates and make him work for every one that he scores.
Stats from NBA Media Central, 82games,com, mysynergysports, basketball-reference, and ESPN.com player cards.