Dubs preview: Looking for that next gear
Warriors host Timberwolves seeking an elusive rhythm
I woke up real sore this morning. The thing about mosh pits is that if can go from “haha weeeeee!” to “omg, please don’t let me go down in this chaos.” There’s something there that relates to this Golden State Warriors team. Still out: Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton, and of course Andre Iguodala. Draymond Green is questionable with a knee contusion. But also, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with this weird squad that the Warriors are trotting out.
We were just treated to a treat of one of those Klay Thompson explosion games, and the team is still hanging around, despite all the bad injury luck and difficult roster issues. Depending on perspective, I can certainly understand why some fans are white knuckling and laughing while others are throwing up their hands in surrender.
In looking for a pattern with this team, it’s the maddingly chaotic nature of this season that stands out. Fittingly stuck right at .500 once again, this is a team that can go either way on any given night. I’m looking forward to tuning in this afternoon to see what shakes out of the game.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (30-30) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (31-31)
WHEN: Sunday, February 26th, 2023 // 4:30 pm PDT
WATCH: NBCSBA; ESPN
What are the biggest differences this year, compared to last season?
On paper, it’s mostly the same roster. An intact, proven core with an odd assemblage of hired guns won the championship last year - but the same formula is producing dramatically different results this time around.
Last season’s team finished with the fifth best net rating, according to basketball reference; a tidy +5.6 point advantage per 100 possessions (good enough for 5th of the 30 NBA teams). That value this year is a suitably balanced +0.1 point semi-advantage (19th of 30). Health is the number one difference.
Key reserve, Iguodala has been emphasizing his “reserve” aspect of that role - only managing three brief appearances before dunking his janky hip back into retirement. Wiggins has only played 37 of the team’s 60 games. Curry only 38. Both players are important because they’re good - but doubly so in a Warriors scheme that is reliant on both of them to do heavy lifting to make the machine here work.
That they’re holding on to a .500 record is a small miracle. We haven’t even gotten into the roster construction and the difficulties that it has led to. After keeping a critical center position unfilled in the hopes that James Wiseman could step in and contribute, the Warriors are instead left with a noticeable gap that the eventual trade of the youngster only further emphasized. Thankfully, Green has been magical on defense.
But with all of the other concerns around the edges of this roster, even Green’s big lift hasn’t been enough to save the defense. According to Cleaning the Glass (which excludes garbage time), there’s been an enormous drop off in the overall team defense. Sure, this is mostly explainable via the roster construction differences and injuries, but it’s still staggering to look at this season’s stats stacked over those of last year.
Here’s the defensive metrics. Remember that the base value are shown in the right of each column, and the relative percentile rank is the highlighted box. The top row is this season, bottom row is last year.
So, defensively, the team is giving up 114.8 points per 100 possessions (in the lowly 18th percentile), and opponents are hitting at a favorable efficiency of 54.7 eFG% (placing the warriors again way down at the 17th percentile.
Compared to last year, you can see the the Warriors’ rank in points went from a 2nd percentile in both categories (meaning they were better than 98% of the other teams in this regard). If you’re ever watching the team and wondering about substitution patterns and/or why certain players are getting playing time over others, it’s probably this troublesome defense.
We’ve talked a lot about the two timelines plan, but it really is a tricky balance between the need to win now, and the desire to develop young players - made even more impossible because of how threadbare the edges of the fabric of the dynasty has become over the years.
Anyways, life is hard. It can be challenging in so many different ways, both big and small - and for Golden State this has been a real tricky path to navigate. I tend to find it easy to give this team some grace while they stagger through this season, but that there’s so much to forgive right now is a concern.
It’s the Warriors, I give this one a 50-50 shot.
Whew. A was nervous, not gonna lie. Here's our postgame
Dame up to 58 and 11 threes. 6:20 left in a close game... o_O