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Warriors back to where it all started as they visit the Timberwolves
Looks like Oubre may be out again, but Warriors expect Bazemore to return (and start)
There’s always going to be a link between the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves as long as Stephen Curry plays. Right now, that bond is especially strong. It’s not just the looming draft pick - though that dangles like an ice cream cone from one of those tricky Turkish vendors. Andrew Wiggins has been a revelation for the Warriors (or at least to the non-believers), and likewise is D’Angelo Russell finally healthy and helping a shockingly hot Minnesota team that has won three straight, and five of their last seven games.
The Warriors’ “thread the needle” dance is mostly done now, as it would take a pretty epic run for Golden State to play themselves out of their draft pick - though as Eric Apricot wrote yesterday, the final seeding is contingent on the outcome of the play-in tournament. But barring a major run from somewhere, it looks like the Warriors will safely keep their pick and make the play-in tournament.
This should be a fun game, with each side having a players that is going to want to demonstrate to their opponents exactly what they lost when they traded them. Remember though, Minnesota has dealt with a lot of injuries this season, fully powered for the first time all year, and they are looking pretty decent - this won’t be an easy win for the Warriors.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (31-31) at Minnesota Timberwolves (19-44)
WHEN: Thursday, April 29, 2021 // 5:00 pm PST <— EARLY!
Bazemore is back! … but there goes Oubre : (
The big news coming in to tonight’s game is that there’s some roster movement!
Kelly Oubre is back out of action. After returning briefly, it looks like the wrist injury that has been bothering him for a while still isn’t right. Now word on how long of an absence this could be.
Oubre has had a bumpy year here, not too unexpected for a guy coming off a major knee surgery. But his length, energy, and defensive versatility have been a tremendous asset. Hopefully this is more precautionary than anything else, because it’s never great to see a guy come back from an injury and then be forced to go back to inactive because his body wasn’t all the way right.
Also gone indefinitely: Gary Payton II. He played decently but the Warriors seem to be leaning away and content to finish the season with Nico Mannion, and the rest of the Warriors’ reserve guards.
Part of that math may well be the imminent return of agent of chaos, Kent Bazemore, who appears poised to step right back into the starting lineup, and is currently expected to get the start, according to coach Steve Kerr. He’s a big part of the convivial atmosphere that seems to get Curry going, and his on-court impact has been sorely missed in his absence.
In that same media availability yesterday, Kerr also mentioned the forward/center Eric Paschall is nearing a return as well. Though further out, and with a much less certain return date overall, Paschall would be a great boost to a team that has been playing with a shortened rotation all season.
Finally, our guy Juanito got bumped up to a new pay grade. I actually completely missed this as a thing, but the astute fellow who runs the Warriors Reddit account caught it, and though it isn’t the full fledged contract fans want for Oakland’s own, it’s a testament to how important Toscano-Anderson has been to the team this year.
Are the Timberwolves good?
But they are no longer the worst team in the league. Unfortunately, the primary reason that’s a fact is because the Houston Rockets have out-tanked them. The Timberwolves are still a bottom five team, no matter how you slice it.
That said, this is a squad that can give this year’s Warriors some trouble. It will all start with Karl-Anthony Towns, a big man short on defense, but rich in pretty much every other aspect of basketball. He leads the team in scoring, rebounds, and blocked shots, and is second in assists. He’s a handful.
Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, and Juan Toscano-Anderson will get the primary assignment, but Towns is one of those players that demands a double team in most instances, but then is also dangerously adept at finding the open man.
Surrounding their adept big man, the Timberwolves have a triumvirate of young, athletic players running around causing trouble. Malik Beasley (19.6 points per game), D’Angelo Russell (19.4 PPG), and rookie Anthony Edwards (19.6 PPG) are going to be stretching the Warriors’ defense to the breaking point… or they would be if they could hit shots.
Which brings us to the Timberwolves main problem: scoring efficiency.
Here’s a screen capture from Cleaning the Glass. What I want you to look at here are two discrete categories, and how they inter-relate. This table is sorted by usage - so these are the players that tend to have the ball most frequently.
Remember that the uncolored numbers are the base value, and the colored blocks represent percentile ranks (blue is bad).
None of their main players are scoring efficiently this season, but the problem is extra pronounced because the roster is carrying some real heavy weight. Promising rookie, Anthony Edwards is an especially egregious violator. His usage is in the 92nd percentile for players at his position (which is saying something considering he’s listed as a wing), and yet his points scored per attempt (PSA) is all the way down at the 18th percentile.
Much like the Warriors, the Timberwolves are playing with an incomplete roster that needs both time to develop, as well as an infusion of additional talent. But unlike the Warriors, the TWolves don’t have that veteran core of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green to lead the youngsters to victory.
The Warriors got this. Bazemore will come back and infect Curry with his joie de vivre - leading to an infectious super spreader event of weaponized joy (patent filed by Daniel Hardee).
Post-publish edit (this wasn’t in your email)
Here at Let’s Go Warriors, we pride ourselves on being interactive, so when LGW member Ando asks, we answer!
Do you have similar usage/PSA data for the Warriors so we can compare?
Here’s the same table, sorted by usage, just like the one above associated with the Timberwolves, this is sorted by a category described as “how much of a team’s offense did the player use by shooting (including free throws), turning the ball over, or assisting. As always, these are from Cleaning the Glass - so it excludes garbage time and may differ from metrics on other sites.
Since it’s the Warriors, I clipped the entire team:
The big difference here is that the Warriors have Curry, one of the league’s most efficient players overall - and in even rarer company when you factor in the efficiency to usage rate.
Other important players to note are Damion Lee and JTA. Elite scoring on low usage. Lee is a pretty interesting case this season, and I think the team will miss him more than most fans realize. Remember that though Bazemore returns today, Lee is still out for longer (10-14 days) due to the league’s Covid protocols; Bazemore came back after 7 days - which is more in line with contact tracing (read into that what you will).
Hopefully Lee returns on the early end of that timeline, and doesn’t show too many ill effects of something that has slowed down a few of the affected players, even after their return to action.
Also to note: Wiggins, Oubre, and Green. Of those three, only Green is a net positive for the Warriors (+13.7 points per 100 possessions). Wiggins (-2) is 7th on the team, and Oubre (-9) has one of the worse net impacts by on/off scoring per 100 possessions.