OAKLAND -- It’s assessment time again, and the job feels trickier now than it has at any time in recent years because the Warriors remain among the elite but so often do not perform at an elite level.
They haven’t found their destruction switch, which in the recent past unleashed a lethal combination of asphyxiating defense and flamethrower offense that leaves opponents in ruins.
Which leaves us wondering: Do they still have it in them to find it?
We suspect they do, but they rarely located it in the second trimester, which covers 29 games during which they posted a 21-8 record, two games off their pace in the first trimester. At 44-14, they are five games off their pace of last season and nine games behind their clip two years ago.
Here is where we issue the second trimester report card.
Though the criteria are largely subjective, we consider statistics, impact, and current performance relative to past standards. In short: How much more could reasonably be expected?
Jordan Bell: Not long after claiming a spot in the regular rotation did the rookie land awkwardly on his left ankle, forcing him to miss 13 of the 29 games in this trimester. It wouldn’t be fair to issue a grade.
Omri Casspi: He has battled an assortment of aches and pains and illnesses, leaving him that shuttling in and out of the rotation. He’s diligent and clever but rarely produces at the level the Warriors anticipated. Here’s the problem: Casspi made one 3-pointer in the trimester. One. In 286 minutes, he took only five shots beyond the arc. Insofar as his defense is poor, he needs to make shots to stay in the rotation.
Stephen Curry: He has been spectacular. He has been mediocre. He has been both. When Curry is on his game, the Warriors zoom at the speed of sound. When he’s off, they appear to limp and stagger and sometimes fall. There are times, when opposing point guards are torching the Warriors, that it seems Curry’s wide competitive streak seems to shrink. Maybe he’s saving it for the homestretch.
Kevin Durant: Much like Curry, Durant goes through stretches when he looks like the best player on earth and also goes through stretches when it appears his mind is wandering. After putting his name in contention for the All-Defensive team, he then backed off to such a degree he was practically waving cutters to the hoop. He’s a beautiful player who doesn’t always play to his gifts.
Draymond Green: He the ultimate ignore-the-numbers guy because his best work is on defense and bringing intangibles. Except his defense has not been at his usual insanely high levels. It is for a game here and there, but more often than not he doesn’t look like the guy who last season controlled games on that end. He’s playing through challenges both mental and physical, and it shows.
Andre Iguodala: At one point during the trimester, in an interview about his shooting, he uttered the words “I suck.” It was harsh self-assessment but also brutally honest. Iguodala’s shot is a bonus, as long as he’s playing great defense and doing his part to facilitate offense. He generally succeeds at that, but when he fails he looks like a liability. He can be better, but he’s also one who picks his spots. That’s not always an asset.
Damian Jones: He’s showing progress with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors, but he has played a total of seven NBA minutes, over three games, this trimester.
Shaun Livingston: After three seasons punishing shorter defenders with his midrange jumper, it now seems just a hair off. He shot 47.1 percent during the trimester, which for him is a slump. His minutes are down, slightly, and maybe that’s part of the problem. We have seen him better, and he knows he can be better.
Kevon Looney: He’s in the rotation, which is an achievement in itself for someone who entered the season with a make-or-break scenario. He was a positive factor in the first few weeks of the trimester but lately has fallen off a bit. We suspect it’s due to the workload. Looney has logged more minutes this season than he did in his first two combined. He fairly wheezed into the All-Star break.
Pat McCaw: Before closing the trimester with an unfortunately wrist injury that will sideline him for most of the final trimester, McCaw’s second season did not live up to the promise of the first. His shot was erratic, stealing his confidence and resulting in hesitation. He requested a trip to the G-League to retool and find the rhythm so evident last season. He believes he’ll be better. Teammates believe it. Coaches too.
JaVale McGee: No player has seen his playing reduced from the previous season quite to the degree McGee has. He’s still the same guy, capable of providing vertical spacing on offense and prone to errors on defense. Most the minutes that once went to him were going to Bell. With Bell out, McGee has logged more playing time in the past two weeks than he did in the previous six.
Zaza Pachulia: He has, very quietly, been fairly effective for someone responsible for the dirty work. His passing is a plus, he scores enough to keep defenders honest and he excels at screening. His inconsistent rebounding, however, has been a factor in Warriors allowing more second-chance points than any team in the league.
Klay Thompson: He’s having his most efficient scoring season . . . and his least impressive defensive season since maybe his second year. His D is one of several reasons the team’s numbers on that end have taken a hit. Maybe he’s finding it incredibly difficult to play 34 minutes a night and be great at both ends. It would be silly, though, to give back that league-leading 45.4-percent shooting from deep.
David West: No one has any right to ask him to play at a higher level than he has. If he keeps this up, the Warriors might drop to their knees and beg him to come back. West is a leading candidate for the league’s unofficial bargain of the year award.
Nick Young: The Warriors hired him mostly to provide 3-point shooting off the bench. He has, for the most part, delivered. Part of the package, though, is poor defense. He routinely gets cooked. That’s easier to live with when he’s splashing triples. When he’s not, Young is a liability. He shot 37.4 percent from deep during the trimester. The Warriors would like to that bumped up closer to 40 percent.
The final trimester ends on April 10, with final grades due by April 13.