Complacent, or trusting? Warriors roll into trade deadline with plenty of questions
No Luka Doncic tonight, Golden State could use a win real bad
They say that the best way to tell if a negotiation was a true negotiation is if neither side is completely satisfied. The Golden State Warriors have negotiated their way to a .500 record. With five days until the NBA trade deadline, it’s hard to tell if they’re on the right path. Neither of the “two timelines” has been fully served. The veterans are stretched to the breaking point, carrying heavy minutes and a heavy usage. The young guns are mostly gathering dust on the shelf, Jonathan Kuminga the one exception that has managed to crack coach Steve Kerr’s rotation.
Like a stoner lusting for tacos, it seems like NBA fans are constantly moments away from losing themselves in dream trade scenarios. Surely, if we could just exchange our spare parts for something more useful, this team could be fixed! Kyrie Irving is demanding out of New Jersey, maybe it opens the floodgates to some major roster upheavals?
I mean… I could go for a taco right now. Or a stretch big… maybe another big wing that can rebound well…
Anyways, for tonight’s game, the Warriors are going to be without Draymond Green for sure (and of course old man Iguodala), and maybe Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry too. But it’s somewhat offset by the Dallas Mavericks missing their main guy, Luka Doncic - who is out with a not-too-serious heel injury.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (26-26) vs. Dallas Mavericks (28-25)
WHEN: Saturday, February 5th 2023 // 5:30pm PDT
For now, the Warriors are sticking to their guns - for better or worse.
The trade deadline is less than a week away, and many of the same issues that were detectable early in the season are still present. The revamped roster has been hamstrung by injuries and a lack of internal development. James Wiseman is back to full health again and just got his first playing time of 2023 with mixed results.
Meanwhile, Damion Lee is shooting nearly 47% from deep, Gary Payton is back on the court and has quickly become the team leader in on/off (the NBA’s most Schrödinger's cat-like paradox of quantum superposition that may or may not tell us anything and/or everything). Now, Kyrie Irving isn’t anything close to an answer for the Warriors, but for a team with so many problems currently, it’s getting harder to believe that there’s no trades or roster moves out there that could improve the current state of the team - especially given that the team is still sitting on a completely unused open roster spot for financial reasons.
The tricky part isn’t just making some sort of trade. I’m sure Bob Myers has a number of potential options on his desk as my fingers bang out these individual letters to assemble words. But the question is whether it moves the proverbial needle. Having a slightly improved 11th man on the roster doesn’t seem to solve any of the most pressing problems in Golden State.
Maybe they just need to play better?
“We’re not good enough to win without execution,” Kerr said. “We might’ve been a few years ago. We’re not good enough now.”
It’s a valid approach. This core just proved they were good enough less than a year ago. The problems this season are about consistency as much as raw talent on the court. And if they can lean on their top seven players, eight if we count Kuminga, then that there is a playoff rotation.
My concern right now is mostly about whether or not it’s a regular season rotation. Can the team survive another few months of running on such thin margins? I wrote about this in my last article, but one of the difficulties of judging this team is that if the starting premise is “they can play better when needed” then we can’t know if it’s going to all come together in the end or not. One thing is clear though: the veterans are giving it their all right now. Chasing wins - but not catching them often enough.
Moses Moody and James Wiseman have had disappointing seasons, but there’s an unsteady state of improvement that needs to be honored. Progress on the basketball court isn’t a steadily climbing line. There will be fits and stops. Times where it all looks like it’s coming together, and then some times where it doesn’t. With the team clinging to playoff relevance, there’s little room remaining for experimentation - and yet that’s precisely what the back end of the roster seems to need.
Presuming that no trade is coming - and likewise presuming that the open roster spot remains unused - it puts the onus on internal development to fix the team’s woes. Can they manage to improve? So far, there have been plenty of opportunities to reassess, stabilize, and improve; but it hasn’t all come together.
Late game meltdowns, end of quarter meltdowns, you name it, this team has found a way to lose a game because of it. So as they sit watching the trade deadline tick slowly towards them, let’s all try and remember that patience and belief can look exactly like complacency.
It’s cold and rainy here in Oakland today. I predict a cozy fire, and maybe baking a cake before tonight’s game. A Warriors win would also be pretty sweet.