Wiggins cleared for action as Warriors open preseason in Portland
The preseason launches with at least one major question resolved
The Golden State Warriors are back in action today. Sure, it’s only preseason, but these upcoming five games will be far from meaningless. Though the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger and brighter as Klay Thompson’s return gets nearer, that’s not until December at best. In the interim, there’s a Splash-Brother-sized hole in the roster that needs filling.
Will it be the electric Jordan Poole, or the “do a bit of everything” Damion Lee?
And then there’s the question of the Warriors’ final roster spot, which appears to be a anyone’s for the taking.
Finally, Andrew Wiggins’ temporaty solipsistic stonewalling has ended, clearing the wing player to fill the starting small forward slot and showing once again that two-way Wiggs cares deeply about this team. Huzzah!
So let’s dig in and get ready for the first real glimpse of the 2021-2022 Golden State Warriors!
WHO: Golden State Warriors (0-0) at Portland Trail Blazers (0-0)
WHEN: 7pm PST
WATCH: NBA TV
Also, so you can plan accordingly, here’s the full preseason schedule.
Looks nice in here, did you redecorate?
For the Warriors, barring a fundamental shift, they don’t have a ton of space to move around in. With four huge contracts clogging up their salary sheet, the team’s identity is pretty well established. Give the ball to Stephen Curry, and listen to whatever Draymond Green is yelling at you about. It’s a plan that works.
But around that core identity, Golden State seems to have reinvented themselves on the fly, adding two promising rookies (alongside a soon-to-return James Wiseman), as well as a couple of floor-stretching veterans in Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica. Though both arrived with their suitcases stuffed full of question marks, both are intriguing players that could thrive in the Warriors’ ecosystem.
As reported by the inimitable Monte Poole, “[o]nly 10 active players with more than 200 games of NBA experience have made a higher percentage of 3-point shots than Porter’s 40.2, and two of them are Stephen Curry (43.3) and Klay Thompson (41.9).”
And they needed the infusion of shooting. As coach Steve Kerr said recently:
“We’ve got to have better balance to our team. The goal going in is to maintain our defensive identity, but hopefully rebuild our offensive identity with better balance and better spacing.”
After running through last season with a defensively minded supporting cast, it was clear that while Curry can carry a heavy offensive burden, it’s far from ideal. Though Curry turned in an impressive season - leading the entire league in scoring and doing so with the NBA’s best halfcourt scoring efficiency - the team fell off a cliff without him. With Curry on the court, the Warriors had a top-ten offense: 114.2 points per 100 possessions. Without Curry though, the Warriors had what would have been the league’s worst production, managing just a meager 101.8 points.
So what changed?
It’s not just the two 19 year-old rookies, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. After watching Kelly Oubre bump around in the offense for most of the previous season, the Warriors will be simplifying their system - a process that began last season with an increased use of Wiseman in pick-and-roll plays.
So this slate of preseason games will help everyone watching understand how exactly these new tweaks will look. With stalwart veteran Andre Iguodala back in the mix, the Warriors already have the institutional knowledge needed to facilitate the Curry and Green engine - now it’s just a matter of getting the newly added bells and whistles to all harmonize.
Aside from the stars, rookies, and new hires, the Warriors have a few returning rotation players that will be extremely important. Jordan Poole rocketed to prominence as the Warriors’ missing shot creator over the past season and-a-half and it’s widely presumed that the starting two guard spot is his for the taking.
With Kevon Looney starting at center, and some healthy doses of Juan Toscano-Anderson, the Warriors have the top end talent, the mid-tier glue guys, and some developing players that can hopefully shine through and contribute to winning basketball right away.
In this preseason, we will of course see a whole lot of the tail end of the depth chart, but coach Kerr has lots of tinkering to do and should provide an extremely entertaining window into the inner machinations as he throws various roster combinations together looking for magic.
I am unironically excited for this. And it all starts tonight!
Catching up with the Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have decided - yet again - to run it back with their backcourt. Filling in the rest of the roster though continues to be a fishing expedition in the shallow end of the NBA talent pool. Here is a list of players, take a look and let us know in the comments if there’s any names in here that seem like needle movers:
Dub Nation will get a bittersweet reunion with Marquese Chriss, a fan favorite that was left by the wayside of a Warriors roster that intentionally went small this season. Larry Nance jr. is an intriguing addition as well. After gaining notoriety with the Cleveland Cavaliers on the strength of his athleticism, he comes to Portland hoping to prove he can be a major rotation player on a winning team.
Together, those two may provide a run and gun front court that meshes well with the Blazers’ high octane backcourt.
I’m going with Jordan Poole as the starter alongside Curry. Beyond that? I have no idea what what we are going to get tonight. Mostly, I’m hopeful that all the new additions find some traction; and I'm bursting with gratitude that Warriors basketball is back.