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Broken clipboards and recurring problems - Warriors have some stuff to work on
Damion Lee (shoulder), Toscano-Anderson (ankle) are questionable against OKC - but maybe we see Kuminga!
The Golden State Warriors are a work in progress.
With three young players still in the infancy of their careers, some new personnel playing key rotation minutes, and a superstar Splash Brother still working his way back, it was expected that this team wouldn’t be perfect.
Which is why the strong 4-0 start was so awesome. Coming in hot off an excellent preseason, the Warriors punked a couple of LA teams and fended off some rising challengers before succumbing to Ja Morant and the upstart Memphis Grizzlies. But that one loss carries a lot of weight for an internet that’s always eager to overreact to news - be it good or bad.
So let’s take a look at what’s been going on for the Warriors in the first five games, with an eye towards what corrections to prioritize.
Also, there is some injury buzz for the Warriors coming in.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (4-1) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (1-3)
WHEN: Saturday, October 30th, 2021 // 5:30pm PST (← early!)
Do the Dubs have a turnover problem?
Bottom line up front: maybe. But take it in the context of the massive amount of passing this team does.
Basketball is a team sport, and we are just five games into an 82-game schedule - and that’s just when the regular season ends. Just 6% of the season has passed, so it’s important to lay out the warning first that there’s a huge error band here, and all numbers should be taken as whatever the opposite of gospel is.
But coach Steve Kerr has a type. There’s a system here - and it has its strengths and its weaknesses. After watching the Warriors so far this season, it’s fair to say that the problems that plagued the team during their late collapse against Memphis are indicative of Golden State’s list of concerns (after the little checkbox next to “health” of course).
Let’s talk turnovers first since it is what made me remember that Kerr graphic I was messing around with in the offseason. You see, the turnovers are an inherent part of the way the Warriors run their offense. Ever since Kerr took over and turned Mark Jackson’s caterpillar of stagnant isolation basketball into the butterfly of whizzing passes and high octane off-ball movement, turnovers have plagued the Warriors.
But is it a problem?
It sure feels like a problem, especially when the team is handing over 20+ of them in a loss - many because of unforced errors. Golden State has the 7th-worst turnover rate, coughing it up at a rate of around 16% which is objectively not a good thing.
But basketball is complicated, and there have been some early issues that exacerbate the problem, like some of Jordan Poole’s early yips (more on that later), and rusty decision-making from a number of players. So sure, the Warriors have the 7th worst turnover percentage, but they also have the 14th-ranked offense, and are the 7th best team by overall net rating. They could be better, sure, but it’s not just the turnovers that are killing them - especially in light of how they play, and who is coughing the ball up.
Overall, Golden State has ONE of the league’s league’s best assist to turnover ratio, generating 1.71 assists per turnover. So I understand why the coach and players (and fans) are upset about 20+ turnovers, but I also get why coach Kerr didn’t murder any clipboards. A big part of who’s getting the turnovers are just the same ones being relied on to create stuff and fling the ball everywhere.
Okay, well, also yes - but Golden State will not be getting 20 turnovers every night.
Bottom line is that it’s something to tighten up, but given how inextricably linked the offense is with tons of passing, I’ve learned to live with it. Like Spare the Air days, as long as they don’t come too often, or at the wrong time, it’s mostly ok.
The Warriors had five more turnovers (including OT), and the game was this close to being another W for Golden State. I’m not too worried about turnovers being a critical path flaw. We’ve also got years and years of evidence of this offense working while turning the ball over a lot.
So…about those non-Curry minutes
Now, back to Anthony Slater’s other bullet point in the last loss: the team went -15 in the small amount of time Curry sat. This is a recurring problem that matters, in my opinion.
I hate to do it, so I’m going to bring out my most lovingly softened nerf bat to verbally hammer on Jordan Poole for a moment because I think that’s where the solution may lie (at least until the return of Klay Thompson).
In the preseason, Poole shot 36% on 44 attempts from deep. But so far this season, he’s shooting just 22.5% (on 31 attempts). The hard part here is that this is all small sample size warning territory. Whether you are a believer crafting an unassailable suit of emotional power armor because you know what he can do; or a “hater” reluctant to put a ton of stock into a player with limited historical inertia - it doesn’t matter, there’s enough for anyone! The season is five game old.
One way or another though, it might be time to jiggle the handle here. Here’s what coach Kerr had to say about this, via Anthony Slater:
“Probably get into more calls,” Kerr said. “We got into some random situations too often. Maybe we need to control the tempo. We obviously don’t have a true point guard out there on the second unit. Jordan is more of a scoring guard, which is one of the reasons we like to play Andre out there with him, to help him manage the game.
“But I think we need to examine what we’re running with that group and what we can do to settle them down,” Kerr continued. “We’re too scattered. We’ve always been a team that thrives in chaos, but we’re a little too chaotic right now. I think we need to settle down and trust the next guy can make a play. We have a lot of good passers and shooters.”
Kerr may have to accelerate his tinkering if Lee and Toscano-Anderson can’t go tonight. Remember that Lee was biggest +/- of the game last time the Warriors faced OKC, and he’s been one of the team’s most reliable shooting threats (46% from deep on the season).
If Lee can’t go, and/or Toscano-Anderson is unavailable, it’s a perfect time for Kerr to put on his lab coat and go to work. As they say, there’s no such thing as a failed experiment. At this point, the team has gathered plenty of information on what hasn’t worked while Curry sits - now it’s time to apply that knowledge with some adjustments.
Otto Porter and Nemanja Bjelica are sitting there, both could use more minutes. But regardless, Lee is 4th on the team in total minutes played, could be a perfect time to get funky with those bench rotations!
Despite knocking off the geriatric Lakers, the Thunder are years away still. For a team like Golden State that is sniffing at the upper echelons of the power rankings, this should be a very winnable game.
Also, I do have one real prediction this time. I think Curry is going to go off in the final frame. He barely missed that game winner, and he’s the sort of perfectionist that is going to take a trend like this seriously.
Also, we’ll have updates for you later today on Moody, Kuminga,and whether or not JTA and Lee are cleared to play.