Here come the Grizzlies! Ooh, second place. Scary.
Golden State looks to the return of James Wiseman as they focus on getting themselves right
You can’t quite call it a rivalry, but the matchup tonight between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies will mean a little bit extra for both sides. Memphis is sitting pretty in second place in the West with a four-game lead over the next team. Of course, it was precisely the issue of coming in second place in last year’s playoffs that takes the wind out of the sails before the rivalry ship can leave the pier.
Every team in the NBA has to make it be beating the old generation, and the Grizzlies aren’t there yet. And no, this regular season game isn’t a place where you can prove that your team belongs in the playoffs.
Speaking of belonging, it looks like the ephemeral giant, James Wiseman is poised to return tonight! Still no Andre Iguodala though. For Memphis, they’re going to be without big man Steven Adams (knee) - which likely means that Golden State will have to contend with more Jaren Jackson jr., a guy who is the prototypical body type to give the Warriors trouble. Finally, Ja Morant is poised to return after missing a few. He’s rested up and coming back with extra intent for tonight’s game.
Whew. Strap in for this one because the Grizzlies are going to be talking sassy and playing hard. With a Warriors team still looking for their rhythm, it’s going to get messy out there.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (23-24) vs Memphis Grizzlies (31-16)
WHEN: Wednesday, January 25ht, 2023 // 7pm PDT
Knock the rust off!
Life is funny, because I was planning to write about how slow Andrew Wiggins and Stephen Curry have been to get back into the groove after returning from their injuries.
For a player as elite as Curry, it’s all too easy to expect them to waltz back and get right back to being elite as soon as they get the all clear note from the doctor. But Curry’s shoulder injury is a big deal - especially for a guy that makes a living doing insanely accurate things with a ball. Via Cleaning the Glass, take a look at some of the recent trends from Curry’s scoring. He’s not scoring very well on his return, and it’s related to bad shooting. Shocker, I know, but let’s unpack this a bit.
Here’s the points scored (per 100 attempts), the line shows the rolling average - better for indicating trends - but you can see the individual games as grey dots if you squint and put your nose close to your screen.
Curry missed 11 games, dating all the way back to mid-December. So even barring the injury issues, there’s some rust to deal with. But we are not, in fact, going to ignore the shoulder injury. If there’s one real concern about the success of Golden State, anything wrong with Curry is probably at the top of the list.
Now, not to say it won’t get better - and I’d reiterate that rust factor - but check out Curry’s shooting. Obviously directly related to shooting, but this is going to be especially important to watch because Curry probably isn’t going to be looking to bash his shoulder into post defenders trying to take it to the hole if his outside shot isn’t falling.
Here’s Curry’s effective field goal percentage, which accounts for the value of threes and weights it accordingly. Note again those little grey dots as well as the trend line. It’s not really shocking, but Curry has struggled shooting a bit since being back.
A final point here is that overall, Curry is still killing it this season. It’s sad for a bunch of reasons that he got hurt, but he’s still Steph Curry. His numbers are all pretty darn good overall, even compared to his previous excellence!
Moving on, Andrew Wiggins has had some of the same hiccups. As Anthony Slater points out, his shot has been really off since he came back from his extended absence. All told, there’s a lot of the primary moving parts that aren’t firing perfectly.
Playing in 22 of the Warriors' first 24 games, Wiggins averaged 19.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He was shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 45 percent from deep.
Those numbers have been nowhere to be found after returning on Jan. 7 in a loss to the Orlando Magic. In seven games since then, he has averaged 12.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
So why not? Let’s throw in a bit of James Wiseman into the mix!
Golden State has been running shortened rotations all season, and there’s an enormous amount of weight being carried by Draymond Green and Kevon Looney. The return of Jonathan Kuminga looks good so far, and now the frontcourt is going to (hopefully) be bolstered by the return of Wiseman.
The number 2 pick is coming up on a big stretch in his career. The Warriors will have to decide over the offseason if they are going to extend him or not, and as the clock ticks down on the season, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what to expect from Wiseman. Occasionally dominant, occasionally a step slow and foul happy, it’s easy to see this going right or wrong in a bunch of ways.
A simplified approach is mandatory at this point. Wiseman, once thought to slot in as high as the #2 center on the team, is now going to be fighting for any minutes.
Just like Curry and Wiggins, there’s going to certainly be some rust on Wiseman’s game. But these are games that the really wants to win. Part of the hand wringing about the early season struggles is that the Warriors consumed a lot of the slack for this season. The standing continue to be an absolute mess.
Look at three through twelve in the West:
So yeah, it’s not ideal to be struggling as much as the Warriors are right now. But the priority is to get the components working right, and working together. For now, it doesn’t really matter who’s in second place. Golden State just needs to knock the rust off and get right.
This isn’t going to be easy, but if the Warriors can keep their head on straight, they’ve got nothing to be afraid of. Let the second place team bring their best shot. Dubs victory at home to avenge the late meltdown against the Nets feels right.
Post game space: https://dubnationhq.com/p/post-game-thread-steph-ejected-mysteriously?sd=pf
The games with Memphis are becoming more and more a 'The Godfather'-like feud. Who will the first one to receive a horse's head?