Know pick-and-roll, know peace. Warriors enter a new era as they welcome Wizards to town
Plus: fans back in Chase soon, Warriors fill out roster, and one hell of a podcast with KD and Draymond
Maybe it’s the vaccine shot, maybe it’s the recent solid win over the Milwaukee Bucks, but I am suddenly feeling optimistic about the Golden State Warriors. Though the season has been about as smooth as sandpaper, it feels like the Warriors have stuck it to a skateboard and just pulled off an impressive ollie.
With a team replete with works in progress, the season has been mostly a story of how far Stephen Curry and Draymond Green can carry a team. Though they haven’t cleared any major hurdles, that ollie they pulled off by transitioning to a simpler offense with more pick-and-rolls seems like a good middle ground within coach Steve Kerr’s preference for off-ball movement.
Now the Warriors enter one of those heralded “soft” spots in the schedule. The lowly Washington Wizards tonight, followed quickly by the tanking Houston Rockets tomorrow. Both winnable games for a Warriors team that is hoping to pass a couple of other fringe playoff teams like it’s the closing race in Days of Thunder (that’s right, we are passing on the outside!).
WHO: Golden State Warriors (24-27) vs. Washington Wizards (18-32)
WHEN: Friday, April 8th, 2021 // 7:00 pm PST
BEHOLD! An adjustment has occurred!
A big part of what made Steve Kerr’s entrance into the league as a coach so impactful was his philosophy. In stark contrast to Mark Jackson’s “ground and pound” basic approach, Kerr borrowed elements from “pace and space” football, some of the best teams in the NBA, and came up with a hybrid motion offense. It launched the Warriors from a ho-hum offense into a stratosphere that earner star Stephen Curry an R-Rated nickname because of how thoroughly he broke the ceiling.
But times change.
As those times change, there are frequent debates about whether it’s better to change with the times, or stick to the traditions that have worked before. Like blowing out a big breath, the Warriors franchise has expended assets, changed players, and is now breathing in for another push towards the highest levels.
Kerr’s coaching philosophy is one that prioritizes the long-term value of ball movement. From concepts like keeping players engaged defensively, to introducing non-predictability, there is a lot of very strong argument that support Kerr’s basketball worldview. And the record of success in his coaching career should be beyond reproach. Or at least… it was. With reduced star power, and a bench that has increasingly shown the effects of a reduced budget, the Warriors have gone all all in on a few core players in a way that we haven’t seen before. And it does not help one single bit that Klay Thompson has been out for two straight seasons. So what to do?
Right now the Warriors lead the NBA in assists (27.3 per game) and have the 21st ranked offense. There’s a disconnect. Most notably, your most lethal offensive weapon, Curry, thrives in a play type that your philosophy de-prioritizes; and now he’s been paired with an extremely raw rookie that shows the most promise in that same play type. The dreaded pick-and-roll (PnR). The play that Mike D’Antonio and James Harden spammed down everyone’s throats for years. Not the delicious wasubi either, this was the worst spam. Gross.
As Connor Letourneau recently reported, there’s been a sea change. Steve Kerr has accepted a little bit more pick-and-roll into his lifestyle.
…[A]fter watching Golden State lose seven of eight games as rookie center James Wiseman struggled to find open looks, Kerr was desperate for something — anything — to help his team. Pabail Sidhu, the Warriors’ director of analytics and innovation, showed Kerr numbers reinforcing that Wiseman was at his best in pick-and-rolls with guard Stephen Curry.
In Tuesday night’s 122-121 win over the Bucks at Chase Center, Kerr ran a season-high-tying 71 pick-and-rolls. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the nuances of the Warriors’ read-and-react system, Wiseman (13 points, 10 rebounds) kept things simple…
According to my count, using Synergy data over the past four games: Curry shot as a ball handler out of the PnR 12 times against the Bucks, 14 times against the Hawks, 12 times against the Bulls, and just 7 against the Heat.
The Warriors may not be making a big change, but it’s a fundamental one.
At our old site, corporate would have pushed us to write short form (250 word) articles about all of this. But that’s the Rockets’ level of spam. We will however tastefully run it all here for you, dear reader, in case you missed any of this - because these are all pretty big deals.
Fans to be welcomed back to Chase
The Warriors announced yesterday that they’ve recieved approval from regional and local authorities to re-open to in-person attendees starting two weeks from today. Approved at 35% capacity, fans will be able to get into the lower bowl - pending restrictions and vaccine/testing.
I don’t know that I’m ready to go to Chase - an arena that I have yet to visit - but seeing this important step towards a return to normal is extremely gratifying.
Warriors round out roster
Because the Warriors salary dumped Marquese Chriss and Brad Wanamaker, they were below the mandatory roster limit. To correct this ahead of tomorrow’s deadline to set rosters, they brought in Gary Payton jr., former G League defensive players of the year.
It doesn’t seem likely that he’ll factor into the Warriors’s rotations, but they’ll give him some looks. A defensive powerhouse without much offense, Payton could conceivably slot in as a high energy defensive mood-shifter, if the situation calls for it.
Rick Welts retiring
One of the very first new hires of the Lacob ownership group, team President Rick Welts is retiring at the end of the season. Since joining the team in 2011, Welts is probably best well known as the front man for the Warriors’ push into downtown San Francisco.
He’s been in the league for 46 years, and was the first openly gay executive in the NBA. A true gentlemen and trail blazer, it’s going to be a huge hole for the Warriors to fill, but a legacy that will endure and be remembered.
Kevin Durant and Draymond Green podcast
I listened to it, and there’s no real bombshells in here or anything, but man.. it’s great to hear Durant and Green chatting about basketball. It’s been a bittersweet ending to the story, but any Warriors fan that got the privilege of watching this dynasty run will always remember the highest of highs. When Durant came here, there was a giddiness that was equally as satisfying as the championship payoff(s).
This will be the first meeting between Golden State and the Wizards this season, and it looks like Bradley Beal is back, and mostly healthy after missing four consecutive games.
With just 18 wins on the season, Washington is one of the league’s worst teams. Though star Beal has been attached to the Warriors via numerous rumors, it feels like more smoke than fire.
With a bottom ten offense and defense, the Wizards are a soft target that the Warriors should be able to capitalize on. But given the Warriors struggles (both teams are 3-7 over their last 10 games), nothing is a given.
Statistically, the only elite aspect of this Wizards team is that they don’t foul a lot.
Warriors roll to a tough victory 117 - 121. On the front end of a back-to-back, it would be real nice if they could open enough of a lead to give Curry and the other primary players an easy night. But if the rest of the season is any indication, this one will come down to the wire.
Happy Friday everyone!
Fabulous Disaster is one of my all-time favorite punk bands. Short lived, they only put out a few albums on bay area label Pink and Black Records (an offshoot of Fat Wreck). This is sort of the second or third wave of Riot Grrl bands (think Bikini Kill).
It’s a really good album, but this song in particular always pops into my head for some reason. I just got my vaccine, and I cannot wait to get back into a mosh pit.