Warriors

Why Steve Kerr deserves a lot more credit than he has been given

Why Steve Kerr deserves a lot more credit than he has been given

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) 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.

So far this postseason, the Warriors storylines have read that the team has won on the backs of Kevin Durant's early explosion, Steph Curry and Draymond Green's brilliance when Durant went down, the defensive masterpieces of Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson, and the unexpected rise of a much-maligned bench. But now it is time to give Steve Kerr some credit. 

You could argue that this postseason has been Kerr's most impressive coaching job yet. After dealing with his most dramatic and tumultuous regular season since taking over the team, Kerr was forced to rethink the Warriors strategy after they were dealt a blow very early in the playoffs with the loss of DeMarcus Cousins. Turning back the clock to what made the Warriors so successful before Cousins arrived was not overly challenging, but dealing with the loss of Durant amidst a series against one of the toughest opponents the Warriors have faced in Houston could have been catastrophic.  The bench had been under-performing throughout the playoffs and had to rely upon all of the sudden. This is exactly where Kerr's coaching shined. 

Often the biggest criticism of Kerr's coaching style is his insistence on getting the ball into the hands of every player on the roster, sometimes at the expense of production from the stars. He had been a role-player for most of his career, knowing full well how important it is for all players to feel involved and important. The insistence paid off in a time of need. The depth of the team was comfortable and ready when called upon. Throughout the season they had been used in stressful situations, much to the chagrin of couch coaches. Kerr pushed all the right buttons, leading the team to a six-game winning streak since Durant went down. 

Just the other day, Paul Pierce on ESPN was saying that he considered Kerr a top-five coach of all-time. While I do believe it is too early to make such a declaration, considering this is only Kerr's fifth season as a head coach, I do think it is reasonable to say he is on the path to that recognition. The big picture look at Kerr's career is historically impressive.

The Warriors have made the finals in five consecutive seasons since Kerr became the Head Coach. That in itself can tell the whole story. But now add in that the Warriors have a 78.5 winning percentage in the regular season under Kerr, and even more incredibly, a 75.7 percentage in the postseason. The team has lost one playoff series in five years under Kerr (albeit a pretty big one). The push back that Pierce received, and many others give, when deciding Kerr's greatness in history seems to always point to the notion that he inherited a team with Hall of Fame talent, and that any good coach could make them champions. This notion is simply naive.

When Kerr took over the Warriors, they were on the path to being a great team. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had become household names, but nowhere near their current star power. Andre Iguodala was no longer the star he once was in his Sixers years, and David Lee, alongside Andrew Bogut and a young Harrison Barnes were the other most notable Warriors. The team had made some noise in the playoffs but were not ready to be a real contender. Once Kerr became head coach, it all changed. Curry and Thompson had their skills fully realized under Kerr's strategy and leadership, and Draymond Green emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

The Warriors immediately jumped from a good team to a historic team, revolutionizing the game to what the NBA looks like today across the league. Sure, Steve Kerr inherited the parts, but he assembled the pieces into something invaluable. Let's also not forget that Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Greg Popovich and other all-time great coaches inherited and developed talent like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, etc. 

Since taking over, Kerr's system has become ingrained into the way Curry, Klay, Draymond, and Iguodala play the game. When Luke Walton and Mike Brown manned the ship during the stints in which Kerr dealt with a debilitating back injury, the team rolled along through Kerr's already adopted strategy and infrastructure. It is not a detractor against Kerr that his assistant coaches were able to maintain the incredible success of the team while he was out, in fact, it should further his great reputation. The best leader creates a system that can survive and run seamlessly through the subjects he or she enables, with or without constant guidance.

And he did exactly that.  

[RELATED: Curry named All-NBA First Team, KD makes Second Team]

Bringing in Durant to the Warriors was not only a credit to the character of the team's top stars and their unselfish motivations but also the welcoming and fun environment created by Steve Kerr and the front office. Players wanted to come to Oakland to win and to truly enjoy themselves while doing it. The Warriors did not have that same glow before Kerr. While the Warriors stars are well-known for their unselfishness, it would be ignorant to assume that Kerr has not had to manage ego's and confrontational, fiery personalities. And he has managed them to three, possibly four titles.

It is yet to be seen how the Warriors will fare in the Finals and what the team will look like next season. But with Steve Kerr in command, they are in historically good hands.

Steph Curry shares his thoughts on Allen Iverson's 'top five' comment

Steph Curry shares his thoughts on Allen Iverson's 'top five' comment

At NBA All-Star weekend last year, Allen Iverson told Steph Curry that he's in his "top five all day long."

Since then, Iverson repeatedly has said that the Warriors' superstar would be his point guard if he was assembling an all-time starting five.

"You know what's funny -- I have that saved on my phone," Curry told Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes on the latest episode of "All the Smoke" on Showtime (the full show will air this Thursday). "It's crazy. It's crazy, right?

"I ain't never had a big head. That dude who I picked up a lot of game and inspiration from -- he's now looking at my game ...

"Some OGs, they don't want to relinquish the praise. Same way we respect the OGs, we want it both ways. So when you do hear that, that means something."

As Steph said after Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals: "Low-key, I've always wanted to be like Allen Iverson."

It must be killing the three-time NBA champion to be sidelined with the broken left hand, especially on nights like Monday in Portland when he sat on the Warriors' bench while Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard dropped 61 points in an overtime win over the Dubs.

[RELATED: What names did Charles Barkley just call Steph and Klay?]

Now is the perfect time to remind everybody that the two-time NBA MVP averaged 36.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists against the Blazers in the 2019 Western Conference Finals, all while shooting 47 percent overall and nearly 43 percent from deep.

It's safe to assume that Iverson doesn't forget about that, and neither should you.

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Why comparing Warriors' Eric Paschall to Draymond Green should stop

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Why comparing Warriors' Eric Paschall to Draymond Green should stop

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The offseason comparisons between Warriors rookie Eric Paschall and star forward Draymond Green made sense. Both were highly successful four-year college basketball players from big-time programs that were taken in the second round of the NBA draft due to concerns of their overall athleticism and their inability to fit in to a traditional position.

Both players supposedly were too undersized to play the power forward position in the NBA, but also not quick or polished enough to be small forwards. Even their physiques had similar builds. So with all of that, comparing the two players before the season began was logical.

But it is not anymore.

The most important caveat is that Green is a three-time All-Star, a Defensive Player of the Year, three-time NBA champion and at one point, was widely considered a top-20 player in the league. Conversely, Paschall is a rookie who has not had a chance to accomplish an NBA resume yet.

Comparing both players seems silly already, and it is unfair to Paschall for creating expectations for that type of success. And yet if the side-by-side comparison is simply regarding how they play, Paschall and Green are completely different in their skillsets and approach to the game. 

On the defensive end, Draymond is one of the best help-side defenders in the modern NBA. He plays a "free safety" type role, using his unique ability to read the opponent's every move while also having the quickness and strength to counter them. Despite being just 6-foot-6, Green is elite at guarding big men in the NBA, while also having the unique ability to defend every position on the court.

Paschall, on the other hand, still is learning to play defense at the NBA level, and even with that, has shown to be more of a one-on-one defender so far. While he is more accustomed to guarding the power forward position, he has had impressive defensive moments defending "straight up" against wings, sliding his feet and using his strength to force them into tough shots.

It will take time for Paschall to develop from a good defender into the great one that many think he is capable of becoming. Regardless, his current projection does not have him playing the same defensive style as Green.

On offense, the contrast between the two is even greater. Green became one of the most unique offensive threats in the game as a great playmaker in transition and out of the pick-and-roll. His ability to push the ball full speed in the fast break and expose slow opposing big men helped pave the way for the Warriors' "Death Lineup" that revolutionized small-ball.

At his peak, Green was a 39 percent 3-point shooter, but scored most of his points on the break attacking the hoop. His elite passing ability helped him rack up assists, where he could spread the ball around to the greatest shooters of all-time surrounding him. 

[RELATED: Why Dubs are in power position with Burks at trade deadline]

While Paschall has shown glimpses of impressive playmaking talent, his real bread and butter so far in the NBA has been dominating opponents one-on-one. He is remarkably explosive jumping off two feet, and he is able to combine his great strength with unique finesse when finishing over defenders at the rim. His shooting is very inconsistent from deep, just like Draymond, but he still is refining a mid-range pull-up that keeps defenders honest.

For being only a few months into this NBA career, Paschall already has become a "throw the ball to him and clear out of the way" type talent on offense. While Paschall might never be the type of offensive quarterback like Green, he already is on his way to becoming a more dynamic scoring threat.

Draymond will continue to take Paschall under his wing and teach him the nuances of the game. But when all is said and done, the two Warriors will complement each other very nicely on the court with their own personal skills and differentiated abilities, rather than repetitive and possibly gratuitous similarities.