Warriors

Why NBA All-Star Game rosters should be more than only 12 players

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USATSI

Why NBA All-Star Game rosters should be more than only 12 players

OAKLAND – No fewer than 20 NBA players, including Klay Thompson and Draymond Green of the Warriors, have spent the past seven days wondering where they will be on Valentine’s Day. They’ll have a much better idea in a few hours.

Will it be Charlotte, N.C. for the NBA All-Star game?

Or might it be someplace with fresh air, clean water and warm beaches?

There are 14 vacancies on the All-Star Game rosters, with each side allowed to add seven reserves that will be announced Thursday. The roster limit is 12 – for no good or rational reason.

That number should be increased to 13 or 14 or maybe 15. And we say this not only because Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who has been a head coach in two of the past four All-Star games, believes the rosters are too small.

“(Adding) three might be a pretty dramatic difference,” says Kerr, who is in line to make his third appearance as a coach next month. “One or two would be fine. I think 13 makes the most sense. We have 13 suited up every night. It seems like we should have 13 in the All-Star Game.”

Well, yes, you should have 13, at the least.

Even when NBA teams voted unanimously, in 2012, to increase team rosters from 12 to 13 active players, the All-Star Game roster remained at 12.

There were 14 players on each aside in the 1972 All-Star game before the limit was trimmed to 12 in 1974. It further trimmed to 11 in 1978 before going back to 12 in ’82 – when there were 23 teams.

Thirty-seven years and seven additional teams later, it’s still 12.

Though NBA commissioner Adam Silver has spoken out in favor of expansion, discussions with the NBA Players Association have not reached a consensus.

Silver vividly recalls one of his least enjoyable moments in his first season, back in 2014-15, when Kobe Bryant was injured and he had to choose a replacement between Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and DeMarcus Cousins, then with the Kings.

“I didn't like having to make that choice,” he said at the time. “I wish I had another slot for Damian because I think he's deserving of being an All-Star as well.

“From his standpoint, he did everything that was necessary. So maybe we have to find a way to expand the slots we have for the All-Star team."

There have been tweaks to the All-Star voting process, most recently (last season) when players receiving the most votes in each conference were designated team captains, while the other eight starters were placed in a pool from which they could be drafted by either captain, regardless of conference affiliation.

The NBA has grown and generally done a remarkable job of keeping pace in ancillary areas. All-Star Game rosters remain stuck in 1982, as it was before any of the current All-Star starters were born.

It’s most un-NBA of the NBA.

Meanwhile, we media types continue the debate over which players are deserving of being in the game and which players are legitimate snubs.

My seven reserves from the Western Conference, in alphabetical order, are: LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Buddy Hield, Nikola Jokic, Lillard, Thompson and Russell Westbrook. Toughest calls were Westbrook over Jimmy Butler in the backcourt and Ibaka over Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt.

The 13th man would be, for sentimental reasons, Dirk Nowitzki.

[RELATED: Lillard vows to beat Curry brothers in 3-Point Contest]

The Eastern Conference wasn’t nearly as deep, but here goes: Bradley Beal, Eric Bledsoe, Danny Green, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, Ben Simmons and Nikola Vucevic. Toughest call was Griffin over Andre Drummond, Al Horford and Pascal Siakam.

The 13th man would be, for sentimental reasons, Dwyane Wade.

There should be, in a league of 30 teams, at least eight reserves, maybe nine, per team. The commissioner likes the idea. The coach of the team that has won three of the last four NBA Finals also is ready to roll with it.

Bring it on, folks, sooner rather than later. It’s way overdue.

Andre Iguodala voted first VP of National Basketball Players Association

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Andre Iguodala voted first VP of National Basketball Players Association

Warriors veteran forward Andre Iguodala was elected as the first vice president of National Basketball Players Association during its Board of Player Representatives meeting on Monday.

Iguodala has served as VP of the Executive Committee since 2013. He replaces LeBron James after his four-year term expired. 

"I am honored to be chosen by my peers to step into this position and take on a larger responsibility within the NBPA," Iguodala said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing my work with (NBPA executive director) Michele (Roberts), Chris Paul and the Executive Committee to accomplish the best possible outcomes for the union and our future members."

[RELATED: Outsider Observations: Warriors have 25 games to answer these three questions]

Iguodala, 35, has spent the past six seasons as a member of the Warriors. He's a three-time NBA champion, two-time All-Defense selection, and the 2015 NBA Finals MVP.

Outsider Observations: Warriors have 25 games to answer these three questions

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Outsider Observations: Warriors have 25 games to answer these three questions

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.
 
We have already talked about the first "half" of the season, and to quickly recap this break, three of the Warriors' stars had quite an eventful All-Star Weekend.

Steph Curry pretty much played host to the event in Charlotte, Klay Thompson provided his usual entertainment and Kevin Durant won himself his second All-Star Game MVP award. The rest of the team and coaches were either out vacationing or working hard on their game in the gym to stay ready for when the season resumes on Thursday. They couldn't ask for a better situation heading into the second "half".

[RELATED: Durant joins exclusive club with second All-Star Game MVP]
 
The Warriors (41-16) are sitting in first place in the West by two games over the Denver Nuggets. They are currently riding a streak in which they have won 16 of 18 games, and are as healthy as they have been all season (sans Damian Jones). And yet, even with all the good vibes and great results surrounding the team, there are still some questions to be answered over the final 25 regular season games before the playoffs begin:

1) Who will close out games for the team?

This was the question that was asked quite frequently once the Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins.

The Warriors had found most of their best success over the last few years running the "Hamptons Five" lineup to close out games. By putting Draymond Green at center and adding Andre Iguodala onto the wing, the team was able to play suffocating switching defense, forcing turnovers and pushing the ball into transition and fast breaks.

With Boogie's return, the Warriors have been regulating his minutes to about 24 per game, staggering him in a manner that's prevented him from being available to finish the games. However, as he has improved his conditioning, Boogie is starting to voice his desire to be one of the players to close out the games. So how will Steve Kerr decide the lineup to close a game once Cousins is no longer limited?

[RELATED: Klay knows how Steph's opponents feel after guarding him]
 
It is fair to assume that this issue is something that the coaching staff has already discussed with the players, probably since summer. Balancing egos can be tricky of course, but the Warriors should feel fortunate to have so much talent that they cannot fit all of them on the court at once.

The most likely scenario is that the Warriors will mostly employ DeMarcus Cousins in the final five when the opposing team uses a large center in their closing lineup (i.e. Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert) or if the Warriors are in a tight game and are having difficulties rebounding.

Otherwise, I think it is safe to assume that Kerr feels most comfortable running the Hamptons Five lineup out there when the team is trailing by a medium to large size deficit, or if the opposing team uses a wing-heavy or three-point specialized lineup. In fact, some may argue that it is even better to run the Hamptons Five lineup against teams with a bruising center, as it could create more transition and 3-point opportunities to capitalize on. 
 
Either way, the Warriors will most likely tinker with the final unit to see what works best. Hopefully for the team's sake, they will find a good strategy and chemistry heading into the postseason.

2) Jerebko or McKinnie?

While the Warriors and Steve Kerr are passionate about their "Strength in Numbers" motto, when it comes to the playoffs, the team definitely plays a much tighter rotation.

During the postseason, it is assumed that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins will start the games, Andre Iguodala will be the first man off the bench, Shaun Livingston will run with the second unit, Kevon Looney will relieve DeMarcus Cousins and one more spot will be available to provide about 10 minutes a game.

[RELATED: Check out what Iverson told Curry at the All-Star Game]

The most likely candidates for that spot: Jonas Jerebko and Alfonzo McKinnie. 
 
Both Jerebko and McKinnie had noteworthy starts to the season, playing high level basketball off the bench and helping a Warriors team that was depleted due to injuries. McKinnie's play took a bit of a nosedive after an injury sidelined him, though he's worked to regain his 3-point stroke and overall confidence. Jerebko's play and playing time, on the other hand, were fairly consistent throughout the season, until Cousins returned. 
 
From the start of the season through January 15th, Jerebko played in all 44 games and averaged almost 20 minutes per game. The stretch of eight games that followed, beginning just before Cousins returned, tells a different story. Over this period, Jerebko was inactive for four games, receiving a "DNP - Coach's Decision" in two of them, and missing the other two for the birth of his child. In the four games he did play, Jerebko averaged six minutes per contest, usually only coming in during fourth-quarter garbage time.

[RELATED: Bay Area Unite: Jerebko visits Sharks on Warriors Night]

Steve Kerr let it be known to the media that he had a discussion with Jerebko during the offseason, explaining that his role would suffer with the return of Cousins. Meanwhile, McKinnie, during that same stretch, averaged 15 minutes per game and was one of the first substitutes off the bench -- which led many to assume that it was Zo's spot to run with the rest of the season. 
 
But that was not so, as the two players have practically swapped roles. Over the last five games heading into the break, Jerebko not only saw action in the first quarter, but his playing time had increased to 15 minutes per game. Simultaneously, McKinnie's playing time dipped to under nine minutes per game, relegated to quick stints and garbage time.  
 
Over the final 25 games, I'd expect to see some more flip-flopping of playing time for McKinnie and Jerebko, mostly due to matchups. If the opposing team plays more wing-heavy lineups, you can expect to see McKinnie. If the Warriors are in need of some floor spacing to move the opposing bigs away from the rim, then Jerebko will get that time.

If the Warriors need a jolt of energy and scrapping off the bench, well, then just maybe you'll see them both on the court doing what they do best.

3) Will the Warriors fill the 15th roster spot?

At this point, I would be surprised if they did not fill that spot. Yes, there are tax implications that come with adding another salary to the roster, but the Warriors would be foolish to neglect adding some injury insurance just to save a few dollars heading into the playoffs.

Most of the bigger name players that have been bought out of their contracts have already signed with new teams that guaranteed them more playing time. But there are a few names that are still floating around and the Warriors are monitoring the market closely.

The clock is ticking, however, because a player must be bought out or waived no later than March 1st in order to be playoff-eligible for their new team. 
 
Some of the players the Warriors could have been interested in, but that have already signed with another team include: Jeremy Lin, Wesley Matthews, Wayne Ellington and Markieff Morris. 

[RELATED: Kirk Lacob talks Warriors' strategy for open roster spot]

But at this point, I think it is fair to assume the front office is mostly focused on adding a big man to the mix. If Cousins were to re-injure himself or get into foul trouble in a game, the Warriors would be without a "true" center that can pound down low with the big bodies. That is why names like Robin Lopez or Marcin Gortat have been linked to the team.

Lopez is a strong presence down low with a fiery passion for the game. He may not be the best rebounder or rim defender, but he boxes out and is not afraid to get dirty. He is not an offensive-minded player, but he can hit a mid-range shot and is not afraid to try to finish at the rim.  If Lopez were to be bought out, I think the Warriors would be the first in line to try to sign him. 
 
Gortat, on the other hand, is already available and apparently has made it known he would like to join Golden State. But the Warriors are going to wait longer to find a center that fits their needs a little more than him. Gortat is a great pick and roll center on offense, but is a bit stiff on defense, especially when switched onto smaller guards. He is not a great rebounder or rim defender either, and also can be taken advantage of defensively in pick and roll situations.

Yes, the Warriors might be interested in him as a last resort, but until March 1st, I do not expect them to pass up other opportunities for him. It is unknown if other players will be waived or bought out, but the Warriors will be watching very closely.