NBA AM: Too Much Pressure In Golden State?

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Mark Jackson And The Warriors:  A few days ago Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports chronicled some of the dysfunction brewing inside the Golden State Warriors that culminated this week in the re-assignment of assistant coach Brian Scalabrine to the team’s D-League affiliate. As Woj explains, there has been a lot of inside turmoil around the team over the last few years, especially between head coach Mark Jackson and his assistant coaches.

Since the report, former Warriors assistant coach and current Sacramento Kings coach Mike Malone downplayed the rifts as reported between he and Jackson, however players that were on that roster last year when told about the situation simply smiled at the notion that the two men had a great relationship.

Before we get too far down the road on this, there is an important concept to keep in mind: Warriors’ ownership isn’t overly patient. They promised fans a winner and they want it yesterday. Internally the management team is facing a lot of pressure for success and that might not necessarily create the best conditions for a coaching staff. Add in a layer of inexperience from Jackson and you are bound to get some level of dysfunction.

»In Related: Jabari Davis Takes A Look At Fixing The Sacramento Kings.

Sources close to the process say that it is not at all uncommon for ownership to push for roster change when things don’t seem to be going where they expect it. During March’s MIT Sloan Analytics conference, Warriors General Manager Bob Myers sat on a panel with Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey and told the crowd the story of how the team obtained Andre Iguodala during free agency. The story was filled with comments about his owner wanting it to get done, despite how massively difficult it was to actually accomplish. The way the story played out it seemed ownership wanted it to happen and Myers had to spend hours upon hours figuring out how to do it.

Around the trade deadline, there was talk that the Warriors would have traded forward Harrison Barnes. Again, sources say that was driven more by ownership wanting to cash in some youth in exchange for a veteran big to bolster a championship run today.

In Woj’s report, there was mention of the fact that Jackson and the team had not talked about a contract extension despite there only being one more season on his deal with the club. The report suggested there was more doubt about Jackson’s future with the team than security. This is true. Ownership wants to win and while the team has had some success, they have not achieved what they set out to achieve and everyone is on notice.

»In Related: More Golden State Warriors News.

So when you look in on the Warriors understand that while Jackson may very well be part of the problem, there is a sense of urgency that’s driving a lot of the pressure. The Warriors want to win and they want to win big. Ownership seems committed to doing whatever it takes to get there, and that could be fostering a culture that’s creating the problems.

Jackson’s future with the team is very much connected to the results he produces in the win-loss column and more importantly in the postseason. The Warriors took the leap of faith that Jackson could lead them to the Promised Land at a time when the franchise wasn’t winning. They gambled that Jackson could be the out-of-the-box hire that brings the roster and the team together. With the Warriors having tasted a little success, they obviously want more and if Jackson cannot deliver, he’ll be replaced. That’s how it’s going to be for the Warriors. That’s why there hasn’t been a lot of talk of extensions and that’s why there is uncertainty regarding his future.

So when you scratch your head and wonder why things are a little dysfunctional in Golden State, it’s because they are a team that desperately wants to win and seem willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even if that means replacing one of the franchise’s more successful coaches in the modern era.

Being in the playoffs is not enough and maybe that’s not such a bad goal to have as a franchise – it certainly puts everyone on the hot seat and could create rifts when there are problems, but winners thrive under pressure right?

If You Are Big, You Better Declare:  Reports are surfacing that Kansas big man Joel Embiid is indeed leaving Kansas and is in the process of selecting an agent in advance of the 2014 NBA Draft. International big man Mouhammadou Jaiteh has also indicated he’ll enter the 2014 NBA Draft after pulling out of the 2013 draft last year. Indiana big man Noah Vonleh has also declared that he’ll enter the 2014 NBA Draft and he is expected to be joined by Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein.

»In Related: NBA PM: Another Look At The 2014 NBA Draft

Top Big Men Prospects In 2015

Jahlil Okafor  C  18 yrs; 6’10"
Myles Turner  C  18 yrs; 6’10"
Cliff Alexander  PF/C  18 yrs; 6’9"
Karl Towns  PF/C  18 yrs; 7’0"
*Ilimane Diop  C  18 yrs; 6’11
Dakari Johnson  C  18 yrs; 6’11
Kaleb Tarczewski  C  21 yrs; 7’0
Nikola Milutinov  C  19 yrs; 6’11
Frank Kaminsky  C  20 yrs; 7’0"
Przemek Karnowski  C  20 yrs; 7’1"
Guillermo Hernangomez  C  19 yrs; 6’11

*Could enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

There had been talk that maybe some of these guys would stay in school for another year, however looking at what’s on the NBA radar for the 2015 NBA Draft class, all of these guys were smart in opting for the draft this year, even if they might go four to six spots lower than they’d like.

A quick glance at the possible stars of the 2015 NBA Draft class (assuming they declare) shows there are more than 11 significant center prospects that could be on the board in 2015, and there are at least three that could go in the top eight selections, if not the top three overall.

The two stars of the 2015 Draft class look to be Duke commit Jahil Okafor and Myles Turner from Trinity High School.

Okafor is arguably the most skilled low-post prospect the NBA as seen in some time, with scouts comparing his skills on the block to Charlotte big man Al Jefferson. Okafor isn’t a dominating physical specimen like a Dwight Howard or Shaquille O’Neal, but his ability to score the ball down low is uncanny for a high school player. Assuming he progresses at Duke, he could be the top overall pick in 2015.

Turner has yet to select a college, narrowing his list down to what appears to be Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Texas. His game is mesmerizing, mainly because he is long, super athletic and aggressive around the rim. Not nearly the polished low post player of an Okafor, he does possess a great frame, a relentless motor and a lot of potential at the next level. Add in his ability to shoot the ball from the outside, and Turner is a compelling prospect in the mold of maybe a poor man’s Kevin Garnett.

While Okafor and Turner may go number one and number two overall, Chicago big man and Kansas commit Cliff Alexander, who projects to be more of a power forward at the next level, could see time as a center for the Jayhawks. Like Okafor and Turner, he is a mesmerizing big man with all kind of power and bounce. Scouts love his toughness around the basket and his size and physical presence might be among the best in the class.

With so many big guys on the radar for 2015, it’s no wonder the bigs that are eligible for the 2014 NBA Draft are coming out now. If they stayed for another year they might get lost in the shuffle, especially with NBA teams placing such a premium on potential upside.

As much as players like Embiid or Vonleh might have benefited from another year of development, both would find themselves significantly lower on the 2015 Draft board than they would in this year’s draft where there are not nearly as many elite level bigs.

»In Related: The Top 100 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

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