The Golden State Warriors in 2005-06

In 1993 the Golden State Warriors acquired Chris Webber the night of the NBA draft. In his rookie season Webber justified this decision. He produced 11.8 wins and was also named NBA Rookie of the Year.

After his rookie campaign, though, Webber – and then-coach Don Nelson – had a falling out. Soon after the start of the 1994-95 season Webber was traded to the Washington Bullets for Tom Gugliotta.

Like the Red Sox sending Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, the departure of C-Webb has apparently left Golden State cursed. In the twelve seasons since Webber left the Warriors have yet to post a winning record. The team has changed general managers, coaches, and players. But the results have been consistently bad. Of course, some – who dislike the metaphysical nature of curses — might blame Chris Cohan, who became sole owner of the team during the time of the Webber-Nelson spat.

Soon after that spat and the departure of Webber, Nelson also departed Golden State. Now Cohan and the Warriors have returned to Don Nelson. What kind of team will Nelson have in 2006-07?

Well, Chris Webber is still gone. And as noted in the review of the Philadelphia 76ers, it is not clear Webber can help this team now.

Much of what Nelson inherits can be seen in the review of the Warriors in 2005-06. Although Golden State missed the playoffs (once again) the team did have some above average performances. Baron Davis and Jason Richardson comprised the team’s backcourt. Each player posted a Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] in excess of the average mark of 0.100. Davis, though, has trouble staying on the court, missing 64 games over the past two seasons. And if you are not on the court you cannot be helping. (That is not an absolute rules. Some players do help by not playing).

Richardson only missed seven games. He also finished second on the team in Wins Produced with 9.4 wins, a result that indicates Richardson is a very good player. In fact, only Troy Murphy, who produced 9.7 wins, was a more productive Warrior last season. Although both Richardson and Murphy were productive players, I am going to return to the observation I made in my discussion of the Wizards and Gilbert Arenas. It simply is not a good sign when your best players produce so few wins. For a team to join the NBA elite it needs an elite NBA player. Although Richardson and Murphy are very good, neither has yet to produce at the level we see from the NBA’s best.

Unfortunately, Davis, Richardson, and Murphy are the best the Warriors employ. Once we move past these three the roster leaves a bit to be desired. Andris Biedrins – the team’s top pick in 2004 – has been above average in each of his first two seasons. But all of the remaining players who received significant minutes last season were below average in 2005-06.

Despite a lack of productive performers, the Warriors are keeping their line-up basically the same. Derek Fisher is the only significant defection from this team. The only major addition was draft pick Patrick O’Bryant, and he is already hurt.

So Nelson is going to play the same hand the Warriors played last year. And that is probably not good news. Relative to baseball and football players, basketball players tend to be fairly consistent from season to season. This means that what you have seen in the past is generally what you will see in the future.

Of course, this doesn’t mean coaches cannot change player performance. Coaches can have an impact. But as Larry Brown found out last year, sometimes the lack of talent on the roster overwhelms the talent of the coach. And if that happens in Golden State this year, the curse of C-Webb – or Cohan — will continue for season thirteen.

– DJ

Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

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