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Do the Warriors need another big man? Like really need?
When it all comes together for Golden State, it will be because they lean into what they are - not who they aren't
The Golden State Warriors are back at home, and hope to build on their most recent short-handed win. As the trade deadline approaches, and the Western Conference standings remaining cloudy in the middle, there’s a lot of uncertainty in Golden State. Today, the Brooklyn Nets come to town - another team that is dealing with injuries and a weird roster.
Since Kevin Durant went down with an MCL sprain, the Nets lost four games in a row. The offense has been floundering without their primary engine, and it took a massive 48-point lift from Kyrie Irving on Saturday to finally win one without their best player.
These are both very good teams, and both are still searching for their identity, to an extent. It’s more about some recent adjustments and fine tuning more than an identity crisis, but however you draw the battle lines, this is going to be a high octane basketball game!
WHO: Golden State Warriors (23-23) vs. Brooklyn Nets (28-17)
WHEN: Sunday, January 22nd, 2023 // 5:30pm PDT
No Big man? Warriors move Poole into the starting lineup. Ha!
My good friend Javier once told me about a sales technique called “the reverse close.” It’s not really the first (or best) option, but more of a fall back contingency plan. If it’s not going your way, you take the reason of resistance and reframe it as actually being the solution. A sort of “when they zig, we zag,” method.
Large portions of the Warriors’ plans haven’t come to fruition so far this season. Player health being the first and most important, but not the only reason. The roster spot built for James Wiseman has been a concern. In his rookie season, he hurt his wrist just as the game was starting to come easier for him; then returned and blew out his knee - an injury that kept him out for the entirety of his sophomore year. He hasn’t appeared in the team’s first nine games of 2023, working his way back from an ankle injury sustained in practice.
The supposed backup contingency for Wiseman (who was expected to slot in somewhere behind Kevon Looney and Draymond Green) was Jamychal Green. He finally returned from a long convoluted battle against injuries too. The whole ordeal sounds pretty wild:
But if Golden State doesn’t feel like they’re urgently looking to make a move to acquire someone like Marquese Chriss or say, burning assets for a short term rental like Jakob Poeltl you’ll have to forgive them. Because Golden State has made a pattern of leaning harder into who they are rather than conforming to expectations of what a team should look like.
In the playoffs, it was sometimes benching Andrew Bogut and going with Andre Iguodala. More recently they benched Draymond Green in a critical series last year to play more Poole. Coach Steve Kerr may feel a bit more traditional, but he’s every bit as revolutionary as Don Nelson when it comes to embracing small ball.1
So Kevon Looney moves to the bench. Poole gets promoted to the starting lineup, where he’s been way better… almost weirdly better (though some of that is self correcting recently). It’s exactly the sort of self-embracing move that Kerr and the Warriors have leaned on so effectively in the past.
We’ve talked about this since early in the season, when some of the more disastrous bench combinations and early hiccups were more pronounced: the Warriors only need one or two non-core guys to emerge as potential playoff contributors. If you can’t find that person on the open market, the team’s view appears to be that patience and creative solutions will be enough.
They’ve been right about this sort of thing before. But even so, leaning on the balky back of Draymond Green for heavy regular season minutes isn’t an ideal long-term strategy. With Kuminga back in action, as well as JMG, there are some reinforcements on the way for the front court.
Golden State still has an open roster spot and can (and probably should) convert one of their two-way players into it. But that’s not happening until the last possible moment, for financial reasons. Until then, maybe the team is just going with the reverse close. Leaning into who they are.
With Poole amongst the starters and Looney off the bench, it gives Kerr a new rotation pattern to play with. Throw in some effective minutes from Kuminga and JMG, and maybe you’ll begin to drink the kool aid too.
I’m going to my second game of the season! This time, I predict that I’ll take the Ferry in from the East Bay. That new central subway is pretty cool, but it’s a little slow and crowded for me.
If we are giving out credit, I'd strongly point a bunch of fingers at Draymond Green as an underrecognized architect of the NBA small ball revolution too.