Construction concerns: Can Kerr, Warriors figure the rest of it out?
Preview: Warriors to bring full force against ailing Clippers
The Golden State Warriors are off to a start that is somewhere in the middle. Not exactly disastrous, and yet far from ideal. With about one quarter of the regular season complete, the one clear answer is that Stephen Curry is still good enough to carry a team to another championship. Unfortunately, the other questions all have that one truth greatly outnumbered. There’s still plenty of time yet to figure it out (or at least enough of it to matter) but the clock is ticking.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (8-10) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (11-7)
WHEN: Wednesday, November 23rd 2022 // 7pm PDT
WATCH: NBCSBA, ESPN
What’s ailing the Warriors? More importantly, can it be fixed?
After picking up their first road win of the season, the Warriors followed it up with an absolute stinker in New Orleans. Sure, they rested all four All Stars, but that doesn’t make the newest loss count any less. With the scoreboard debauchery in New Orleans, it raises Curry’s on/off net impact to a league leading +29.5 points per 100 possessions. That the team is bleeding out in so many different ways whenever Curry leaves the court is one of those problems that has stuck with the team throughout the years.
This season, it’s more pronounced than ever. Part of the reason is structural. The franchise watched about a third of the team’s minutes walk away with their championship rings. Personnel impacts aside, it’s a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge to lose over the course of one single offseason.
Playing without Curry and the other All Stars in the previous game, the remaining roster struggled mightily to run the offense. 15 turnovers in the first half; 26 overall. The team has the third worst turnover percentage in the NBA. It’s always been a high octane, pass-happy offense under Kerr, but it only stays out of “Achilles heel” territory when the team is firing off a bunch of assists to each other. Against the Pelicans, they only managed 17 assists.
Jordan Poole is one of the players that was forecast to step further into a starring role this season, but has instead struggled mostly. Along with Klay Thompson, most of the discussion has been about Poole’s shooting struggles, but playing a ball dominant role for 27 minutes of court time last night and coming away with not even a single assist is an anachronism in Kerr’s Warriors.
It’s not an indictment on Poole’s career or anything - it should be noted here that he’s assisting at a slightly higher rate than last season - but there’s much more to carrying an offense than just shooting shot (especially in Golden State).
Back to the structural aspect of all of this: Golden State rebuilt the back of their rotation with young, developing players and minimum salary journeymen. While I’m not ready to label any of the young projects as busts, neither can I say with any certainty how quickly they’ll be ready to contribute. With the playoffs still many months away, there’s time yet. More immediately, it’s up to Kerr and his coaching staff to figure out what adjustments to make in the near term. A basic depth chart is emerging:
The general framework is there, but unfortunately, there’s too many problems with the overall impact. There are options in there that Kerr is working with, but each one comes with their own set of tradeoffs. Balancing the development of this roster against it’s championship aspirations has been a struggle, and it’s not going away soon.
Golden State’s defense is in the bottom five of the league, allowing around 114 points per 100 possessions. They also have a number of problems when it comes to the Four Factors. Look at how badly the team is getting worked on the boards: 24th in offensive rebound rate, and 26th on the defensive side.
Andre Iguodala has yet to play a game. Klay Thompson’s offense has just now started to come around. Same with Poole. All in all, the core of this team is suitably strong for a chase to repeat. All the other details around the edges are supposed to come into focus at some point, and that’s what is most concerning: not that they won’t; but they haven’t yet. As Kerr tinkers with rotations and coaching strategies, so too is each player trying to find how to best fit within this evolving ecosystem.
The Los Angeles Clippers have plenty of problems of their own. Coming into the season, they were often cited as a team to watch - but always with the caveat of “if they can stay healthy.” Well, let’s take a look at tonight’s injury report:
Paul George - Out: right hamstring tendon strain
Luke Kennard - Out: right calf strain
Kawhi Leonard - Out: right ankle sprain
Against the full might of a Warriors roster that is back at full strength and ready to chase wins, the Clippers are going to be hard pressed tonight.
It’s a home game for the Warriors? It’s got to be a win then!